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To make the wait for Anakin Skywalker* a tiny bit more bearable (players will get their hands on the hero of the Galactic Republic on February 27**), Mattias Kirsten, Animator on Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II, was kind enough to give us a peek on how the animations of the powerhouse Jedi were made.
And later, if you want to learn even more, make sure to digest our rundown on how a hero is created and the interview with Matt Lanter, voicing Anakin Skywalker.
Now, taking point on the animation work on the Chosen One is a task which, of course, requires a certain type of preparation.
Researching The Chosen One
“First, I re-watched The Clone Wars series and the prequels to get in the right state of mind and mood for Anakin,” Mattias says. “Specifically, I watched the Anakin versus Obi-Wan Kenobi fight a bunch of times. Not to get the exact movements, necessarily, but more to understand his intention and attitude, so I could start incorporating that in our animation system.”
Studying Anakin up close, Mattias realized small, but important, details that he hadn’t noticed before.
“It was interesting to see that Anakin is so good with a lightsaber that he seems to forego certain basic fighting practices. For example, he actually doesn’t use a lot of footwork, he’s more planted at a certain spot, while moving his lightsaber in a very skilled manner.”
“When I thought about Anakin, I pictured him as spinning around a lot while fighting. But watching more closely, I saw that he himself doesn’t spin around that much. Rather, his lightsaber movements are so quick and precise due to his advanced fighting style. That’s an interesting little detail that I didn’t think about before,” Mattias says.
Motion capture data later serve as a base for Anakin’s animations.
Capturing the Personality of Anakin Through Movement
The fantasy that Anakin’s design revolves around is one of raw power and being a passionate Jedi who cares about others. But it also tells of someone learning how to control his raw talent during a difficult time in the galaxy.
“The Anakin we’re bringing to Star Wars Battlefront II is still on the light side, meaning that we don’t want his anger to show explicitly in the lightsaber combat animation. We rather want to give hints on how it lingers just below the surface,” Mattias explains.
“One way of doing that is having his attacks being slightly wide. In some cases, his lightsaber is even hitting the floor, making sparks fly. So, he performs this very practiced and controlled move, but it’s slightly off-balanced, giving us a peek into how his passion and emotions affect his style.”
A work-in-progress look at one of Anakin’s attack sequences.
Body language can really define an individual. Sometimes, you can tell who someone is from afar by simply looking at the way the person is walking. Mattias elaborates about how the team is incorporating Anakin’s personality and posture to Star Wars Battlefront II, saying, “Anakin is confident in his own abilities, so we’re having him standing with his back straight, even while attacking and dodging. We want to convey that Anakin never really loses that control, because he’s so good, and he can see exactly what’s going on.”
A unique thing to Anakin is that some animations tie into who he’s eventually about to become. “For example, Anakin has Darth Vader’s walk. You might not notice it if you’re not looking for it specifically. But it’s there.”
Animating Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Battlefront II
“Since the game was released over a year ago, the entire animation system is already finished. Making a new character such as Anakin for the live service is pretty much about having the Hero Designer creating a new slot for you in that system, where I can add the animations. When you look at the specifics it’s more complicated than that of course, but that’s the high-level process,” Mattias says.
“For example, when we started on Anakin, we built upon a ready-made-character with default attacks, movement, and abilities. As we progress, those animations are replaced with the new ones.”
Mattias works closely with the Hero Designer to get the animations right. While it’s important to study the traits of the character by looking at reference materials, it’s equally important to understand how the character’s abilities are intended to work in the game.
“Say that I’m about to animate a guard-breaking move. If I would only care about the animation, I could think, ‘yeah, making this long and advanced move, where the hero is slowly wearing down the other character’s block, is going to look amazing!’”
“But that doesn’t work, because it needs to be triggered by the press of a button and be much faster because of gameplay flow. There are always these kinds of limitations to consider.”
Anakin Skywalker will be deployed on the battlefront on February 27 with The Chosen One Update. Keep an eye on this space in the near future for more details.
–Daniel Steinholtz (Follow Daniel on Twitter @dsteinholtz)
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*New heroes are available for Credits earned in-game.
**All updates require Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II on applicable platform (sold separately), all game updates, internet connection, EA account, and, for console players, Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus membership (each sold separately).