Greetings variably adorable readers. My name is Juan Andrés Pérez, senior artist and character animator at Freaky Creations. So, today I’m writing about the difficulties I’ve experienced in animating in 2D for a video-game rather than a 2D cartoon.

Well, I’m a self-taught animator, I’ve been animating for about three/ four years now, mainly focusing on 2D frame to frame animation, before that, I did illustration, mainly comics.

I started learning animation when a small audiovisual club at college came up with the idea of making a short pilot of a cartoon, with quality enough to sell it to a foreign network (Cartoon network, nickelodeon, FX kids, you name it), it sounded like a nice dream, but then and there nobody knew how to animate in 2D for real.

So over the course of six months the club diminished, and another six months later the project was cancelled, as only two people remained (myself included), with roughly eight minutes of animation almost completed (it was a 13 minutes pilot).

 

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Learning while making a big project was a revealing experience, by the end of the project I had drawn so much of the same character that I drew him way better than when I started, not to mention the difference in animation quality, whereas at the end of the project all characters moved more fluently than at the beginning where they hardly moved.
I also had to grew to really love animation, ‘frame to frame’ is really hard, it takes a lot of time and most of it you are drawing and redrawing the same character over and over.

By that time I started working with the Freaky group, who was also learning how to make games and, dude, the difference was huge.
When working on a cartoon you:

  1. Write the script.
  2. Draw a storyboard.
  3. Plan the whole project.
  4. Make an animatic (preferably), which is a slightly animated storyboard that helps with timings and that stuff.
  5. Find the voice actors and record the lines (some people record themselves ’cause of lack of time and voice actors, but then it’s harder to re-sync the character’s lips).
  6. Finally, hands on to animate until the end of the project (and then obviously post-process, edit and rendering).

But it’s best to change as little as possible ’cause too many changes mean repeating work and with almost zero budget, a lot of things can go wrong.
 
Sort of like a movie, just way smaller. Sounds neat and all, but in the gaming industry (at least in my short experience) you have to animate during weeks possibly, and be prepared for your work to be tossed away. Maybe for many of you this is normal, but for me it was a big shock (as for the other artists as well) to have to repeat work because it didn’t work on the game, the process of iteration then became one of my new friendly enemies.

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If you are like me, you would paint a piece, give it your best, finish it, and never touch it again. So it’s hard to let your work go when you’ve poured so much of yourself into it like that.

One of the first things I had to learn the bad way was that a game is, in the end, a piece of software, sure there are artistic ways of looking at it, but nevertheless you click on an executable file, the program opens, and you begin playing. I think that knowing that fact and to keep it in your head while developing can make some things easier, especially if you have no background in programming and that stuff.

As we are making a 2D platformer, sometimes the character is pretty far away and sometimes, nastily close. So I had to animate Harm (To Leave’s main character), with very little pixel space (256×512), trying to fix the face was a nightmare (lol).

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In a TV show you just pose and draw the character for specific actions, if you take in account future episodes you draw some poses and animate clips that can be reused in the future (like Ash from Pokémon choosing Pikachu the same way each time). In a 2D video-game you have to animate every possible action a player can make, in every direction, that costs a bit for the brain to process.

In conclusion Changing from animating a TV directed cartoon to a videogame can be bit overwhelming at the beginning but overall, I think that being able to touch and interact with some of the work you’ve done, is one of the best experiences I’ve had.
¿What have I done with my life?