You would think its hard getting reference material for how to animate a whip, but not where I work. You see, my boss has a real whip at his desk and he’s fully trained to use it. Have I mentioned how much I love my job?
Hi, I’m Colin Brown, a Character Animator at Paragon Studios. I’ve been hooked on video games ever since my first Apple II GS. One of my recent projects was working with Nelson Tam (Animator), Chris Bruce (Lead Animator) and Keetsie Braz da Cunha (Visual FX) to help create the Demon Summoning Power Set for City of Heroes Going Rogue.
The most unique part about this new power set would be the Hellfire Whip. It’s an energy whip players can use to control their demons, or attack their enemies. To implement this Power Set, I started my research by watching action movies, playing fighting video games, and of course, filming Chris crack people into shape at the office with his whip.
It was still a tough challenge getting the Hellfire Whip to work just right. When we originally made the Power Set, it used a real whip. We found out pretty quick that although fighting with a whip is fun in a movie, it doesn’t work so well in an MMO.
Why? Because if you have a real whip, you have to uncoil it, crack it back, hit your target, coil the whip back into a loop and then hide it again. It works for Harrison Ford, but for a player, they’ll be dead by the time they get their first hit on a mob. So our solution was to turn it into a Hellfire Whip, made out of magical energy. It let the players focus on having fun instead of worrying about logistics.
The second challenge was making each Demon unique, so players could really see the differences between each one. We made the smallest Demonlings similar to gremlins, fast and ferocious. The larger Demons were the quarterbacks of the team – Nelson animated them running around on their knuckles, hunched over, supporting the other Demons. Finally, the Demon Prince was the largest of the group and needed to stand out as the commanding Demon with his large set of attack powers.
We filmed a lot of video reference of ourselves acting out using Chris’ whip and redoing whip attacks until we were sure they felt cool. We also filmed a lot of self-reference for the demons being summoned, attacking and reacting to hits. We even filmed ourselves running around, since the Demons needed to look like they always want to fight.
I’m most proud of how we created the Demon Summoning power set’s unique look, as well as the designs for the Demons themselves. We wanted to give the players a Power Set that was more amazing and fun than anything else they’ve seen. Luckily, working on Going Rogue means that we have access to advanced tools and techniques we didn’t have a couple years back.
Every detail on the demons is new and unique, whether it’s their fleshy skulled bodies or their evil roaring sound effects. Keetsie went out of her way to make sure the flames on these demons looked different than anything else we’ve done before.
Here’s an example. Players looking closely during demon summoning and buff casting will notice runes drawn in the air or on the ground. These are real letters from the “Alphabet of the Magi” which Keetsie pulled directly from to try and make the Demon Summoning ritual seem real. After all, no one wants to summon Demons using the letters “F” or “P.” That’s not very magical.
Everyone at Paragon Studios is really amped to get Going Rogue out the door and into our players’ hands so they can experience the new power sets, enemies and the brand new levels. Demon Summoning is just one piece of the larger expansion that I think our players are going to have a hell of a time playing it. Meanwhile, check out our Facebook page today to get more insight on the development of Going Rogue.