Inside Gaming - Fox3D Part 5

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In Inside Gaming, we invite Sketchfab game developers to talk about their work. We asked 5 members of the team from Fox3D Studios to talk about their upcoming project, “Subnautica.” Today’s insights are from Louis Karim, Animator at Fox3D Studios. Read previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Hi Everyone! My name is Louis Karim, and I love food, traveling and lazy afternoons. But above all, I love video games. While I’ve been an avid gamer for most of my life, Subnautica is my first experience on the other side of the fence. For roughly a year now, I’ve been part of the team, working as a full-time animator. That is, I work on some of the movements of the main character, as well as creatures (and plants!) that inhabit the world.

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Working on the Game

So what is Subnautica? In short, it is an underwater exploration, survival and adventure game, primarily developed by Unknown Worlds with many of the assets supplied by Fox3D.

I began work on this project as an animator on the Steam Early Access trailer. I was quite familiar with that kind of work, as in the past, I had mostly worked on movies, TV series and commercials. In those cases, the director has a clear idea of the specific set of events that are happening in every scene.

Warper
by Fox3D
on Sketchfab

Animating for a video game is a completely different beast. The first thing that I noticed when I moved on to work on the actual game was just how much technical knowledge and understanding of the whole pipeline was required. As a game animator, you cannot simply obtain a file with the assets, work on it and get it approved, then move on to the next task. You have to think about how your approach to the animation will affect the final result. You need to make sure that animations loop properly and mesh well with other animation loops. You have to be mindful of just how much movement is controlled by your animation, and how much is left to programming.

How do you make sure that a creature will look good during its turn animation? You need to keep in mind that the turn angle will be controlled by a parameter outside of your animation, so your actual, in place animation needs to match it in order for the end result to be realistic.

In a movie, your animation is a clear indicator of what the end result will look like. In a game, your animation is only one piece of the puzzle.

Even in cinematic “event” animations, a surprising amount of coordination between team members is required. In fact, these animations have proved to cause the most headache for everyone involved!

Many times this results in animations being changed even after they are approved, because they don’t work in-game as expected. This can sometimes prove frustrating, but mostly the process is fun and challenging, and when you see it all come together in the game, any minor frustrations give way to a feeling of huge satisfaction.

Many times this results in animations being changed even after they are approved, because they don’t work in-game as expected. This can sometimes prove frustrating, but mostly the process is fun and challenging, and when you see it all come together in the game, any minor frustrations give way to a feeling of huge satisfaction.

Tools and the Role of Sketchfab

While my job doesn’t require me to work with Sketchfab directly, I always get excited when the art director posts a link to the newest finished model of the creature that I would later animate. It is one thing to see a pretty piece of concept art, and quite another to discover the intricacies of the design right off the bat. It may not seem like a big difference, but in truth, as I rotate around the model, the creature’s behaviour becomes more and more fleshed out in my head, and before long I have a clear idea of how to tackle the task.

The bulk of my work, however, happens in Maya. For animators, 3D programs aren’t all that different, because there aren’t many tools to work with. I would say that knowledge of those tools constitutes about 10% of the job. The other 90% is all about the animator’s skill and experience. That said, Maya is the software that I have the most experience and am most comfortable with.

So You Want to Work in Games?

If I were to give one piece of advice, it would be to work your way into the industry slowly. Everybody wants to design gameplay mechanics and level layouts, but the truth is that nobody starts out as a game designer. Most game devs start out by contributing to a game through a specific skill, or set of skills. Find something specific about game development that you love, and get better at it. Animation, programming, concept art, what have you. Sending out to your favourite publisher/developer a design document that you have been working on since you were 15 is unlikely to work. The same goes for dropping a gameplay idea in a forum and hoping that someone “discovers” you. Good ol’ hard work is the way to go. Good luck!

Many thanks to the Unknown Worlds team for all their hard work and soul which they put into the Subnautica project, and for the goodwill and enthusiasm with which they lit up this project and continue to do so every day, creating new fabulous updates for the project.
See you in the dangerous, but so attracting world of Subnautica in Steam Early Access. Dare!

– Louis Karim

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