Inside PikPok: Animation

Animation done well is transparent to all but enthusiasts. An unnaturally weighted or timed movement can be jarring, and break immersion and enjoyment for the gamer, while well executed animation looks seamless and natural, and is barely noticed as a result. Our Lead Animator, Mark Cuthbert, has been with us for years, and has a lot of experience to share.

What was your background in terms of skills/qualifications and experience when you came to PikPok?

I joined the company at a time when there weren’t many (if any) computer art/animation courses. The closest animation related course I knew of at the time was a traditional 2d animation course. Any relevant skills I brought to the job were self-taught. The only industry-like experience I’d had was working with a modding group.

What types of animation techniques, tools, and processes are used in the PikPok animation team?

Pretty much all our animation is 3d, even characters that look 2d are actually 3d. We mostly use Autodesk Maya, utilising a mix of its standard features and our own proprietary tools. We cover a range of animation techniques, from realistic to cartoony, it depends on the needs of the project.

What are the advantages of animating apparently 2D assets in 3D?

The main advantage is it’s using methods and techniques we’re familiar with. Historically we’ve always used Maya for our animation, doing seemingly 2d animation in Maya means we’re not across applications and we can use the same tools.

How involved are you with the development of proprietary animation tools?

Very involved, if it’s something the animation team can’t do, we work closely with the tech-art team to design and iterate tools. We’re constantly looking for new ways to improve our production workflow.

How many animators do we have, and do they specialise in particular tasks/methods?

We currently have two animators. One focuses solely on animation and the other does a mix of character rigging and animation. We’re both capable animating in a variety of styles.

Which part of your role do you get the biggest kick out of?

I personally enjoy the challenge of character rigging, there’s something really satisfying about building something akin to a puppet and having it move and deform as you want it to.

Which PikPok title have you had the most fun animating for, and what about that project made it so enjoyable?

Probably Into The Dead. Mostly because I’ve always wanted to animate 1st person weapons and the theme of the game is more to my tastes. I also really enjoyed animating on Extinction Squad. It was fun to do something cartoony and cute.

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