Charles Tinney, Animator on Halo Wars, talks about his work on some of the cool animations that went in for the Arbiter and Spartan.
There are two animations I want to focus on in this production diary. I want to highlight these because I took time to thumbnail and choreograph them; which is typically something I don’t have time to do at a video game studio. So, I really tried to get it right. Both of these are exploratory animations developed to have a loose visual guideline for what the fatality system would look like. Fatalities in Halo Wars happen when one awesome melee powerhouse, such as the Arbiter, kills one of the other infantry units.
The first exploratory animation I was tasked to do was the Arbiter taking out a squad of marines. I soon got the idea that I would portray the Arbiter as an unstoppable shocking killing machine. And the marines would be dumbfounded and unable to react because they were paralyzed by fear and the ferocity of the Arbiter.
I was going to do a lot of drawing/thumbnailing to plan out my shot and I wanted to make sure that I knew how to, at least, crudely and quickly draw the Arbiter. That’s where this first page comes in as it was my attempt to understand how to produce quick gestures that I could read.
The next set of drawings was a loose choreographing of the massacre. I had the Arbiter twirling, twisting, spinning, and all other sorts of acrobatic movements that would make him appear graceful and bloodthirsty.
As thumbnails go, they are just a guide, and as much as I adhered to the drawings I also strayed from them. The Arbiter is pretty much pose-to-pose animation, and the marines are all straight-ahead animation. Here is the result:
From this animation we learned that all fatalities will be done one on one: person killing person rather than person killing a squad or groups of people. It would have been too much unique work to animate the fatalities in such a way where multiple people are killed. The fatalities also locked the attacker and victim in game while they played their animations. And only once they finished could the attacker be selected and moved by the player. (Which is really the only way you’re going to see the animation.) So, on average, we limited fatalities to three seconds, but never going over five seconds. This gave us enough time to create something worth seeing, and thus, losing control over your character for 3-5 seconds.
The next task in fatality exploration was to pit hero against hero: Arbiter versus Spartan. I wanted to make the Arbiter as swift and savage as in the first animation, but this time, his foe would prevail. Portraying the Spartan as instinctual and reactionary rather than purely dexterous: he moves fast and hits hard.
Once again this first image was done to get to know the subject, and to be able to draw him to quickly plan out the fight sequence.
Again, these thumbnails were a loose choreography guide to follow while animating.
The attacker is pose-to-pose and the victim is straight-ahead reacting to the blows. Here’s the result of the planned work.
Unfortunately, the animation workload over the course of the project never allowed us to do special case (hero vs. hero) fatalities. Rather, we had to reuse the victim’s animation and copy it on to the different heroes. Though, if we did have the time, animating hero vs. hero would have been really cool to do!
Neither one of these exploratory animations was ever taken to a true final stage. I only took them to a certain quality level of animation; setting the bar as high as I knew I could reproduce under actual production deadlines.