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 Post subject: Walk cycle frame rate
PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:57 pm 
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In this post, psycopathicteen wrote:
I think what is perceived as acceptable for an oldschool 2D platformer has changed a lot since it's heyday. Pixelized graphics and low color count were frowned upon back then, but now they are perfectly accepted for oldschool 2D fans, however choppy animation was perfectly acceptable back then, but not by today's standards.

Interesting.

So what should animators working on a platformer aim at? For a character roughly the size of Super Mario, how many frames do players expect for a walk or run cycle? And how many for a jump? SMB1, SMB3, and SMW have a three-frame run for each form of Mario. SMB1 and SMB3 have one frame for jump; SMW has one for rising and one for falling, with the cap resting noticeably more loosely on Mario's head in the falling frame. Cool Spot and Disney's Pinocchio for Game Boy and Super NES, on the other hand, have a lot more frames.

And what for top-down adventures and RPGs? Link's Awakening and Pokemon have about two frames for each direction.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:06 pm 
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I think the 3 frames : 1->2->1->3->1->2->1->.... sequences is what works best for walk cycles.
Games with only 2 fames that constantly alternate (such as dragon warrior) have their charm too, this looks incredibly unrealistic but for some reason this just looks cool.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:44 pm 
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A platformer game should strive for atleast SMB3 or SMW animation, which is in the 15 fps ballpark. A lot of games tend to animate characters in the 4-8 fps ballpark, with delayed controls to match. Super Castlevania 4 has that problem. I actually prefer Dracula X to Super Castlevania 4 because of it's tighter control.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:52 pm 
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Kirby's adventure may not be able to keep up with the graphics of games like Castlevania 3, Gimmick or Mega Man 6. That is, unless you stop staring at screenshots and watch actual gameplay.

Kirby's animations are pretty smooth although the game doesn't use a large amount of frames for any of them or at least recycles CHR tiles well.
But maybe that's just the impression I get because there is such a huge diversity of them, they show character and look very dynamic due to being so exaggerated/cartoon-y: You can really see the forces applied to Kirby, especially with particle effects helping in a few places.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 8:45 am 
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Quote:
Kirby's adventure may not be able to keep up with the graphics of games like Castlevania 3, Gimmick or Mega Man 6. That is, unless you stop staring at screenshots and watch actual gameplay.


Sparkster/MegaManX/WildGuns/DraculaX may not be able to keep up with the graphics of games like Demon's Crests and Actraiser. That is, unless you stop staring at screenshots and watch actual gameplay.

Quote:
Kirby's animations are pretty smooth although the game doesn't use a large amount of frames for any of them or at least recycles CHR tiles well.
But maybe that's just the impression I get because there is such a huge diversity of them, they show character and look very dynamic due to being so exaggerated/cartoon-y: You can really see the forces applied to Kirby, especially with particle effects helping in a few places.


That's because they used Nintendo's trick of looping animation really really fast. While other developers in the same time period used the display-the-same-frame-for-ten-frames-in-a-row method.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:41 pm 
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I think it's highly dependent on your game.

I'd probably try to get away with as few frames as possible. The key is picking the right ones and complementing your control, not having your control complement your animation. I mean, to me over animation is just as big a problem, if not more so, than under animation. When you play Moon Crystal and go to turn around while standing completely still looks wonderful, but takes WAY too long. Same goes for ducking.

On the contrary you want to avoid the 'walking with one leg' type of animation, where the enemy's non-lead foot drags limply behind them.

Reading up on cartoon animation, especially limited animation, would probably help out a lot. Bonus points if you can match you character's movement to the beat of your music!'


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 7:26 pm 
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Something video game animators never got right was punching animation. Too many games had fists popping out of nowhere. Sure it lets you attack your opponents faster, but it also gives you no twitch time to respond from your opponent before his fist appears out of nowhere.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 7:54 pm 
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psycopathicteen wrote:
Something video game animators never got right was punching animation.

Never is a strong word. Turn on any Street Fighter II game for Super NES. Press Y to jab and see the fist come out of nowhere, as you mentioned. The whole point of a jab is to deny a chance to react, just like "Quick Attack" in Pokemon. But press L for a smash attack and see the animation and the lag.

Beat matching will probably only happen in a game built around it, like Rez.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 8:53 pm 
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If you have 2+ animation frames before your fist hits the opponent animated at 30+ fps, the delay would be neglegible but you'd definately notice the fluidness.

There are 60 frames per second. USE THEM!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:22 am 
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Fluidity doesn't matter as much as looking natural.

For example, an eye blinking. Most people would think to themselves, "eyelid goes down, then the eyelid goes up," and animate two frames down to closed to two frames up. But it actually looks more natural to have the eye instantly closed and then animate it opening again. This is because in a typical blink we close our eyes quickly and then open them slower.

And of course that invites a lot of people saying "nuh uh I think it looks better with both closing and opening animation," and that's fine, but many animators do it the other way for a reason.

Same with punches, the thrust is quick and the pull back is slow. You don't want to have 3 frames going out, 3 frames going back.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:50 am 
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What you described is a better method than what was usually used in games. Most games have an instantaneous attack, then hold their fists solid for about a 5th of a second, then have an instantaneous release.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:18 am 
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I looked for a jab video on YouTube. I guess a two-frame jab could be played as [1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1].

One-frame jabs and three-frame walks were common in the NES era for two reasons: 1. limited space in the ROM, and 2. coarse CHR switching. Nowadays, SST39SF series flash is so cheap that one can plan on filling 448 KB and still have sixteen 4096-byte sectors left over for saved games. Coarse switching has a couple causes. In NES games using CHR ROM on an early mapper, the entire sprite side of the pattern table had to be switched as a unit. This usually meant that a copy of the player's cels had to share a page with each distinct set of enemies. CHR RAM, as seen in Game Boy, Super NES, and some NES games, allows for finer switching and more fluid animation, as seen in Battletoads. But on NES and Game Boy, that runs into memory bandwidth issues when changing out player and enemy cels as well as changing things on the background every frame, so a lot of games just loaded CHR RAM once and reloaded it only on area transitions.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:15 pm 
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What makes all the difference in amimation is the use of motion lines.
For the example of a punch, and let's admit you do it 3 frames like that : 1233333222211111
1) is the normal frame
2) has the punch in the midlle of the course
3) has the punch all the way to it's destination

it will look MUCH better if you replace frame 2 by a bunch of colors in the whole trajectory of the puch. The individual frame will look worse, but the overall animation will look better : The motion lines make up for the lack of frames when something is moving quickly.

This is especially notable if you're animating a rotating stick (not realistic, but simple examples shows well). If you just draw frames of a plain stick, and rotate them, it will never look good no matter how many frame you use. But if you draw some garbage lines where the stick has moved between frame, then it'll look good.

This is hard to apply to NES graphics because of the very limited CHR space, and limited palette.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:13 pm 
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As with anything else, it's all about good use of techniques when they are warranted. Motion lines are not always useful all the time. They're good in fighting games and for sword swipes and such, but I would be hesitant to say that you should use motion lines all the time every time.

Most recent example, I was playing Zelda Oracle of Seasons and noticed the windmill. It looks just fine rotating as it is, it doesn't need big dramatic lines or swooshes.

Generally motion lines are good for attacks or very fast, short animations. You don't want them on a cloud that's lazily floating by!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2010 1:12 pm 
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With actions like attacks, as long as the action has some sort of exaggeration going from either slow anticipation/wind up > fast motion or a quick swing > slow recoil/follow through, it's fine. I'm sure not many people would enjoy to play a game where you have to crouch and compress for almost a second before making a leap (not talking SMB2, but like every. single. jump..... Though Prince of Persia gets a pass, but that's an entirely different beast.)

I think if you plan on having lots of frames with the lead character, than you need to plan on giving almost as much love to common enemies and environments. I still love the wavy effects whenever a fight begins in NES Willow, and that was just 2 or 3 frames with very careful use of tiles. It gets the point across fairly well. Also with that game, like Zelda, you don't need nearly as many frames with a character to express a fluid sword swing as you might with the weapon - and even then motion lines can help simplify things if needed.

Get too happy with it and it can really slog everything. Remember that odd Strider "sequel" US Gold made on the Genesis with the optional WHOOOOAHS cypher swing effect? The old Strider games had a bunch of expressive frames, but was kinda choppy unless you were going down hill or somehow activated the cartwheel animation. The cypher was just instant like a shutter/snap and in that case it worked. When it was made into a fluid swinging newspaper it became jarring.

I think SMB3 is right around the sweet spot for a NES game. I guess the trick is having at least one or two pretty good inbetween frames that can be interchanged for various actions quickly. Since Mario had such a fast cartoony run animation

If you are interested in reading up on cartoon animation, be on the look out for The Illusion of Life (the Disney style,) as well as The Animator's Survival Kit (Richard William's fantastic text/classes on his methods.) I would suggest against doing fluid cartoon movements unless you're willing to spend the time to make sure the collisions are spot on as all that follow through can really obscure what needs to be a precision jump...


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