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News & Features Discussion  » General: Dana Massey: Why Not Well Animated MMOs?

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  someforumguy

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/25/07
Posts: 3517

5/18/09 12:18:12 AM#101
Originally posted by kittenbot

one MMO that did have pretty nice animations was tabula rasa, they added lotsw of little attention to detail anims, such as if you run into gradually deepening water at a ertain point your character would actually jump into a racing dive rather than suddenly starting to float, and jumping from a high place would cause you to land in a roll, was nice stuff....

Anyway lots of people seem to be talking about the computing resources taken up by animation, but thats bollocks, what the article mainly asked for was variation of animations, the only additional resource more animations would take up is a little hard drive space, the real actual issue however is that most MMOs are animated like SHIT, I can't really think of an MMO that's even as well animated as Half life 1, it's an attention to detail issue to be honest, good graphical work is often pushed to the back on games that have a lot of other stuff required in them, it's an area to be addressed....that said, Global agenda looks quite nicely animated insofar, though if you ask me it doesn't look as good as it SHOULD for an unreal engine 3 game.

 

The more detailed the model is (polygons), the more calculated effects its influenced by (lightsources etc) and the more movement in the surroundings (more detailed animations and amount of animated models), the more performance you need. Its not like loading a wmv file from the harddrive like you think.

Two other posters gave two good reasons. First one was to comment about WoW animation, where the subtle animations make the characters appear more alive. You really need talented animators and a lot of time for that.

The other person comment was about the number of characters that your client has to render. There is a reason why FPS games didnt allow loads of characters on a single map untill recently.

Furthermore, MMOs are way longer in production then singleplayer games and need human resources in a lot of other fields then just graphics. For this reason alone, it is not surprising that the animation quality and variation is lacking in MMO land.

You could have everything in one MMO, you only need to convince the investors that you really need all that manpower :p

I find these 'why not?' articles a bit shallow. Why not put everything in MMO's and hand out supercomputers when people subscribe?

  Loke666

Elite Member

Joined: 10/29/07
Posts: 16835

5/18/09 12:32:18 AM#102
Originally posted by someforumguy

You could have everything in one MMO, you only need to convince the investors that you really need all that manpower :p

 

And companies like Blizzard and Bioware can't do that? I can understand why smaller companies like Cryptic can' t afford good animations bt there are some giants that makes MMO too.

Just a single MMO with good animations is enough for me. Yes, it will use resources but computers are a lot better now than 10 years ago, at least some good animations is a must.

Funcom put at least in some quite good animations in AoC and if they can, why can't Turbine, SOE and Blizz?

  Kainis

Novice Member

Joined: 9/10/08
Posts: 450

5/18/09 12:58:49 AM#103
Originally posted by Loke666
Originally posted by someforumguy

You could have everything in one MMO, you only need to convince the investors that you really need all that manpower :p

 

And companies like Blizzard and Bioware can't do that? I can understand why smaller companies like Cryptic can' t afford good animations bt there are some giants that makes MMO too.

Just a single MMO with good animations is enough for me. Yes, it will use resources but computers are a lot better now than 10 years ago, at least some good animations is a must.

Funcom put at least in some quite good animations in AoC and if they can, why can't Turbine, SOE and Blizz?


 

Well, there are a couple of things to consider. First and foremost, is when was the production phase started with the games you are thinking of. AoC was started after LotRO, many of SOE's games, and even Blizzard's million pound baby gorilla. However Blizzard's problem is not animations, as much as character modeling. It worked, though, for the time it was released and to fit the lore. I will say that Blizzard pioneered quite a bit in the animation/ modeling side of games before WoW, so they already had a great foundation.

Also, aside from the time that those games went into production, each had particular focuses. AoC wanted as close to photorealistic as possible, automatically taking their in house machines to the farthest reaches and still be somewhat playable. Ok, well playable.... NOW. Turbine's Lotro wanted very nice screenshots of vistas. Why? While Tolkien wrote great characters, he birthed an even greater world, with his explicite detail to scenery. Turbine wanted to bring this into their game, therefore giving more of the budget to environmental artists and programmers, than character artists. Expect Blizz next mmo to have all the yummy goodness you are asking for, or at least something close to it, chiefly because they have reputations within the computer graphics industry to protect.

As for SOE... two words: John Smedley. As long as he and his crew are around, expect to see a lot of headless chickens.

-----------------------
Tried- L2, Ryzom, WAR, DDO, PWI, Tab Rasa, Requiem, Champs, AA, JD, PWI, SUN, Dawntide

Played- SWG (pre-cu), AoC, VG, WoW, LoTRO,CoX, EQ2, DAOC, GW, PotBS, Aion, MO,APB, NASA, Fallen Earth, DCUO, Rift

Playing- EVE, Black Prophecy, TOR

Waiting for- Tera, Jumpgate Evo, WH40K, WWE, WOD, TSW
--
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"Hey, if Activision liked it, then they should have put a ring on it," Double Fine President Tim Schafer said. "Oh great, now Beyonce is going to sue me too."

  someforumguy

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/25/07
Posts: 3517

5/18/09 1:16:34 AM#104
Originally posted by Loke666
Originally posted by someforumguy

You could have everything in one MMO, you only need to convince the investors that you really need all that manpower :p

 

And companies like Blizzard and Bioware can't do that? I can understand why smaller companies like Cryptic can' t afford good animations bt there are some giants that makes MMO too.

Just a single MMO with good animations is enough for me. Yes, it will use resources but computers are a lot better now than 10 years ago, at least some good animations is a must.

Funcom put at least in some quite good animations in AoC and if they can, why can't Turbine, SOE and Blizz?

 

Doesnt AoC have good animations? WoW has good animations. But if you are not interested in playing those, then there is maybe more that you want besides good animations.

Apparently there seems to be a lack of talented animators in the MMO industry or maybe it is a lack of vision? But I think its about priority and/or technical issues. In a FPS , animations are relatively more important then in a MMO. A MMO is a far more complex games that requires knowledge and manpower in way more different fields. A company that is awesome in managing a budget for a FPS, could be completely fail in managing a budget for a MMO. This results into having to cut costs, so they need to prioritize just a part of the features that they had in mind at start.

Its not that they wouldnt like to have awesome animations, but that the reality is that they cant afford it. I also dont want to rule out performance issues that easily. Those companies dont like to rule out a large part of potential playerbase because of pc requirements.

Adding them afterwards can also lead to unpredictable (and very costly) problems. All kinds of problems like latency issues, graphical performance or How good can the client scale down pc requirements in the options etc.

This topic is like asking 'why not add awesomeness to a MMO?'

  godpuppet

Novice Member

Joined: 12/06/05
Posts: 1428

5/18/09 4:56:12 AM#105

Very valid point.. Animation to me is as, if not more, important as graphics.. It is a major deciding factor when I decide to play a game.. Combat animation is probably the most paramount, especcially in 3rd person MMO's..

---

  matthewf978

Novice Member

Joined: 6/20/08
Posts: 287

5/18/09 9:03:19 AM#106

I think it isn't asking too much considering that secondary models could be swapped in for the "living" toon at death impact. Also,  you are correct that it sums up to about an extra int variable on the server side for passing around to any other clients who come into the viewing range of the "dead" toon. All of the rest of the work is client side, meaning that a client could choose to disable that feature and experience close-to-no performance penalty.

  shoziku

Novice Member

Joined: 8/01/06
Posts: 95

5/18/09 10:17:42 AM#107

Well believe it or not, most players care more for the dance and hug animations than the death one.  Much of the time players like to hang out and just chat and play with all the animations and emotes available to them.  In games of any death consequence the player is (or should be) concentrating on how and why he died and not what it looked like.  Besides, if the death was grueling and entertaining and realistic, just how many times are you going to relive it just to see it again?  Probably not many.  My son thought it was cool to jump off a bridge over and over.  Didn't play the actual game a lot, but loved jumping off the cliff.  He was 7 years old.  He also plays Nascar Racing just to crash the cars.

The combat itself is more important to me.  Games such as WoW and EQ use the "magnetic roller skates" animations which are really tiresome.  You aggro a monster, it comes sliding full speed up to you and slams into you then proceeds to hop around in a predetermined flailing animation until you clutch your chest or it does a flip and falls into a heap.

City of Heroes has a much better combat model where the AI has to think and path around obstacles but is not as predictable as the WoW and EQ models.  Character motion is also much higher advanced in CoH, but yes they still ahve the same clutch chest, apply gravity death scene.

 

  Quale

Novice Member

Joined: 3/16/09
Posts: 108

5/18/09 11:09:46 AM#108

Not only do we need better animations, we also need the e-motes to be voice activated.

It's the only way I can think of that would make player controlled body language fluent. Pressing different buttons for dozens of e-motes or making scripts to chain them doesn't really work.

Think of how cool it would be if you could actually communicate effectively by body language! The MMO genre would take a huge step towards really coming alive.

  hanshotfirst

Novice Member

Joined: 11/13/07
Posts: 727

5/18/09 1:31:12 PM#109

A few things to bear in mind:

Realism isn't all it's cracked up to be.

There comes a point where realism meets diminishing returns and believe it or not, can undermine itself. What I mean by this is, the closer you start to approximate photorealism, the more even the slightest imperfections can glaringly standout and interfere with the suspension of disbelief.

Furthermore, and perhaps most relevant to animation, sometimes (often) the exaggerated looks more authentic/believable/pleasing than the real thing. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but this is something Disney animators have known and put into practice for years. Techniques such as rotoscoping and motion capture are great, but by no means a substitute for real talent. All the best technology only gets you so far; taking it to the next level requires true artistry.

The best looking visuals happen in a closed/controlled system.

Ask any magician or someone adept at slight of hand. You're at your best when you know where your audience is, what they're looking at, and you're in control of your environment. In short, the fewer variables, the better.

Even with a fixed camera, scripted events, and predetermined characters, good animation is a challenge. Now enter the world of a typical game or MMO. Seldom are you in control of the camera, what or even how many characters are interacting, or the behavior(s) they might attempt. The number of variables can be exhaustive, and that's before even accounting for performance differences in hardware or bandwidth.

Is any of this an excuse for some of the more rudimentary, unimaginative, or crude animations that can (and often do) appear in MMOs? Not necessarily. But if you're hoping for something along the lines of the best choreographed, wire-fu visuals Hollywood has to offer, good luck. It might be time to re-evaluate your expectations.

  Dana

Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

 
OP  5/18/09 1:51:03 PM#110

Sometimes my articles likely go too far being clever and thus lose the core point, so I wanted to chime in and note a couple things.

I am not suggesting as some have that they have console level quality, as the poster above says, in many consoles games they can predict all the variables and thus it looks better. I am also not talking about huge upgrades in technology or millions of more animations. It's just common sense stuff.

Let me give a practical example:

Most MMOs have a knockback and prone state. Players can be flung across the screen and they can be "rooted" to the ground when they land for a few seconds.

If your game has these two elements, there is no excuse for sending the player up in their air and landing while standing vertically, then making them unable to move until the root wears off.

Many, if not most, MMOs do exactly this. If you're lucky, they'll toss in a small particle effect around your feet to tell you you're rooted.

I am not saying I need the monster's club to connect perfectly with my head and my head to snap back like Fight Night Round 3, or something. I am saying, if you have a call in there for "knock back" you should have an animation that looks like someone... getting knocked back. If you have a call for "prone," then the player should have an animation where he lays on the ground and gets up. It's simple stuff. Knock back ends in prone. Prone remains until 1 second before root ends, at which point player stands up and can move when root ends/he gets back to feet. Then run back into battle. Voila, a logical outcome.

My riff on clutching the chest was mostly meant to illustrate this point. Of course, there are a million places people can die and getting them all is impossible (thus I am pro rag doll), but there are situations where companies just blatantly don't bother doing the animations and it only serves to remind people that they're playing a graphical representation of a bunch of dice rolls. It dampens the impact of the event. You don't go "Oh god, I just got thrown thirty feet through the air," you say "Knockback, curses, I am going to lose 3 seconds of DPS on that mob."

And that to me is the biggest problem in many current MMOs. They feel very artificial. The system is the focus, not fun and to truly be "fun" they need to heighten the emotional impact.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  smaklaga

Novice Member

Joined: 12/12/05
Posts: 50

5/18/09 1:58:10 PM#111

Amen, Dana!

Good article!

  dalestaines1

Novice Member

Joined: 9/29/06
Posts: 108

Don''t cry if you don''t like a game. Find another and have fun!
It''s a more healthy tactic :)

5/18/09 2:25:01 PM#112

Great read.  I have thought about the same thing and I feel exactly the same about it.

  User Deleted
5/18/09 2:44:48 PM#113
Originally posted by Dana

Sometimes my articles likely go too far being clever and thus lose the core point, so I wanted to chime in and note a couple things.

I am not suggesting as some have that they have console level quality, as the poster above says, in many consoles games they can predict all the variables and thus it looks better. I am also not talking about huge upgrades in technology or millions of more animations. It's just common sense stuff.

Let me give a practical example:

Most MMOs have a knockback and prone state. Players can be flung across the screen and they can be "rooted" to the ground when they land for a few seconds.

If your game has these two elements, there is no excuse for sending the player up in their air and landing while standing vertically, then making them unable to move until the root wears off.

Many, if not most, MMOs do exactly this. If you're lucky, they'll toss in a small particle effect around your feet to tell you you're rooted.

I am not saying I need the monster's club to connect perfectly with my head and my head to snap back like Fight Night Round 3, or something. I am saying, if you have a call in there for "knock back" you should have an animation that looks like someone... getting knocked back. If you have a call for "prone," then the player should have an animation where he lays on the ground and gets up. It's simple stuff. Knock back ends in prone. Prone remains until 1 second before root ends, at which point player stands up and can move when root ends/he gets back to feet. Then run back into battle. Voila, a logical outcome.

My riff on clutching the chest was mostly meant to illustrate this point. Of course, there are a million places people can die and getting them all is impossible (thus I am pro rag doll), but there are situations where companies just blatantly don't bother doing the animations and it only serves to remind people that they're playing a graphical representation of a bunch of dice rolls. It dampens the impact of the event. You don't go "Oh god, I just got thrown thirty feet through the air," you say "Knockback, curses, I am going to lose 3 seconds of DPS on that mob."

And that to me is the biggest problem in many current MMOs. They feel very artificial. The system is the focus, not fun and to truly be "fun" they need to heighten the emotional impact.

 

Well, there are some that have approached animations with more variety. Some games, use one animation for just about every ability. Some (like LOTRO) there is a unique animation for every ability, they also have gone the extra mile and animated the faces for the extremely long list of emotes.

 

However, the largest limitation for animations in the MMO space, is the number of transforms on verts, and streaming of the animation data off the Hard drive, all of this are considerations that are made agent performance. Wile having rag dolls would be nice, and is independently rendered on each client. Its somewhat worse than canned animations simply because of its nature, that's procedural animation ( of course not replicated across the visible clients, they all see something different) that are ALL unique, run time transforms. This hurts performance in the area of batching. Considering all mmos are held back in terms of fidelity, because developers simply do not know HOW MANY people will be on the screen, this is all most a Recipe for disaster.

The main reason that such things are limited, again, are because there is noway to control how many people will be in a spot at one time, sure animation culling and frame skips lesson this worry (ALA LOTRO, this is why some complaing about the animations, when its thier machine specs, and the frame skiping and culling kicking in), but the animations are canned, rag doll is not, its dynamic, frame reduction (ETC) is not applicable.

Of course its all a game of give and take.

 

 

  appel

Novice Member

Joined: 4/23/04
Posts: 53

5/18/09 2:48:47 PM#114

Age of Conan, yeah has great graphics and pretty good animation, not ragdoll though, played that for the month before it got boring. Requiem yeah tried that, ragdoll was pretty cool., tried that for about a week, got boring. Although not MMORPG tried spore for a few weeks, easily beat it, got bored.

 

Although EQ had pretty blocky graphics, I played that for a couple of years because it had content, so yeah, graphics and animations are nice, but content is still king. 

 

  Books

Novice Member

Joined: 8/25/07
Posts: 81

5/19/09 12:25:43 AM#115

 Amen MMO developers need to take their heads out of the statistical analysis box and stick it into the suspension of disbelief box for awhile. I think they've nailed down how to make an MMORPG. Now they need to make an MMO that feels alive, has character and actually makes the player give a damn about the world they're paying to be in. 

  trogwolf

Novice Member

Joined: 11/22/06
Posts: 7

If you want something, really want it, you have to go where it is and grab it.

5/19/09 3:46:11 AM#116

I have a feeling that most people are currently satisfied with the level of sophistication in animation, given that interaction has steadily improved.  You can now walk between and crouch under environmental obstacles you once had to walk around.  And as for jumping up on top of, what used to be Forget about it, is now taken for granted.

There is an image on the communities page of the new PvP MMO Darkfall that intrigues me.

http://www.darkfallonline.com/community/

An Ork female (I believe) is lifting a human female with her (the Ork) left hand around the throat of the smaller female.  She is poised to bash the human's brains in with a right cross to the skull with a fist as big the human's head.  Meanwhile the human has her right leg over the left shoulder of the Ork as her left hand grips the wrist of the Ork hand clutching her throat and her  (the Human) right hand is drawing back to strike at the Ork's unprotected head with a 1H sword.

Forget about better animation and the graphics capability needed for that, I wonder how long it will be before we are able to have this level of close quarters hand to hand combat in a game.  I mean, after ten years of hacking or bashing an enemy and watching a health meter drop with each succesful blow or strike, I want to see a sword glance off a piece of armor or have to be wrenched out of a deep wound.  I want to see the KIND and Quality of contact affect the health and stamina and agility of the opponent.  You hit me in the eye or chest with an arrow, and I will probably be incapacitated, not just lose 20 points of health.  But you hit me in the fleshy part of my shield arm with the same arrow as I am rushing towards you, and I may still be able to cut off your bow hand at the wrist.

Is there anyone else interested in this sort of combat realism?

No one can protect you from what you desire, or from what you fear.

  hanshotfirst

Novice Member

Joined: 11/13/07
Posts: 727

5/19/09 1:29:45 PM#117
Originally posted by trogwolf

Is there anyone else interested in this sort of combat realism?

 

Have you seen the teasers for NCsoft's Blade & Soul Online?

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCsmuMDXXcU)

Supposedly, those aren't pre-rendered cutscenes, but rather in-game examples.

Granted, even if true that's no indication whether or not the game will be worth a damn to play. But the visuals certainly are compelling.

  trogwolf

Novice Member

Joined: 11/22/06
Posts: 7

If you want something, really want it, you have to go where it is and grab it.

5/19/09 3:43:54 PM#118

I've never gotten into any of the Anime style games, Final fantasy or any of the others, but Compelling is a very good word for what I just saw.  Even without the mandatory abundance of breasts.

No one can protect you from what you desire, or from what you fear.

  Ossot

Novice Member

Joined: 3/27/07
Posts: 10

5/19/09 9:00:35 PM#119

Dana, you really wont mind soon anymore. Once you see the girls in 9th grade.. wowowow.

 

 

Seriously.. is this guy 14 or am I just a horrible judge of age?

  nekollx

Novice Member

Joined: 11/17/08
Posts: 573

5/20/09 12:30:21 AM#120

 I play city of heroes/villians

 

*clutches chest and falls backward*

*clutches chest and falls to kneels, THEN falls forward*

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