Game Animation: Deus Ex: Mannequins that Speak by Shannon Green

the following is an article written by my brother Shannon (aka GAMESWEWANT here on this very blog). He is currently studying Character Animation with the Animation Mentor.

Thats about enough movement and or emotion out of you thank you very much...

 Game Animation: Deus Ex: Mannequins that Speak

by Shannon “GamesWeWant” Green

Along with my love of character animation in feature film I also have a passion for it in interactive media, specifically video games. Over the years this field of animation has become much more important in the gaming space due to the fact that technology is finally catching up with the vision of game designers and thus realism in both movement and environments are paramount.

However, like feature film, games have both fantastic examples of these as well as poor or average examples. Some games nail the environment and narrative and yet fall down in the area of character animation. This can seriously affect the emersion the player has with the world. For myself, no matter how real the world is or how engaging the narrative is, watching a couple of mannequins move their jaw to a dialogue track seriously jars me from my emersion. Interactive entertainment, more than feature film, needs to nail all three key areas of narrative, environment and animation to successfully ground the player in the experience.

Now I understand that game development, while robust in their budgets (often rivalling Hollywood studios in size) don’t always have the time to develop character animation to the polish we see in AAA animated features, hence why we see them utilising allot of motion capture and more recently MotionScan. Even still, some studios still release games with stiff character animation, almost as though they don’t see it as important.

Motion capture tech – we’ve all had it explained 1000 times, we get it.


MotionScan tech - better heads, same bodies.

Case in point – Deus Ex Human Revolution. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the game allot (apart from the boss fights, but thats another blog). The developer adequately got the three key areas right; the worlds where okay in that they seemed real enough (although I’d argue that the realism came more from the infused narrative and set dressing rather than the actual city environments themselves), the narrative was convincing in that it stuck to a very real political and moral question through out the course of the game, but the character animation was, to put it politely, poor….. And this poor character animation spilled down from the lead characters all the way to the non playable characters (NPCs) who inhabited the environments thus making the environments little more than an interactive mission selector.

Certain interactions between Jensen and other characters just don’t ring true. No matter if he is speaking to a old friend or a despised enemy, you get the same monotone voice emitting from a lifeless corps utilising looped animations. Personally I found it boring to sit through the dialogue scenes, be they in game or cut scene not because the story was uninteresting but because of the B grade acting…. And lets face it, the animation sells the acting and the acting sells the story.

For the rest of the article and video examples please visit Shannons Animation blog on;

  1. Nice! 🙂

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