GDC: Overwatch animation talk summary

Long time no see!

This post is for once not related to any classes but rather to my recent trip to another continent during which I attended a mixture of various talks, took some photos and scribbled down some notes, all which will be featured here in a pseudo-orderly fashion eventually.

One of my favorite talks was given at the animation bootcamp by David Gibson who spoke about approaching character animation in Overwatch, using the hero Mei as an example:


The first part of the talk was about nailing down the movement for a character based on their personality type and how that is not always directly translated from the initial concept and how he would approach gathering references.


Especially that third point, that references don’t have to be exact. It could be anything, from direct looks to movement style, posture, personality traits, anything that would capture some aspect of the character that was being created. Inspiration for Mei (who firmly sits in the “young, awkward and adorkable”-category) for example came from, amongst others Zoey Deschanel, Rapunzel from Tangled and Giselle from Enchanted.


Also taking input from everyone! It’s highly unlikely that the entire team share the exact same set of references so there’s always new input to be found from speaking to others and seeing what gets them excited about the character.

And then to the practical stuff. Mei’s initial concept art did not reflect her archetype. Gibson showed concept art for other heroes like Tracer and Widowmaker who are firmly planted in an A-pose, feet apart, head up, exuding confidence. Mei was not supposed to be like that. She was younger, less confident and shy (feet together, slightly off-balance, body angled a little away from camera and weapon), which segways into the next part:


(Would love to see the bone structure under that rig. Really need to learn to create better rig controls for the next animation project).


In Overwatch, Gibson said, the idle of the characters needs to convey their personality on top of their movement speed and function in-game. In Tracer’s case that means wide stance, facing the camera head on, leaned back, peppy and ready to go.


He showed some other stills from the game which shows how they break their rigs (McCree’s arm, D.Va’s leg) to achieve more snappy timing and enhance the movement arcs with smear frames in a 2D-style.


It all looked absolutely gorgeous and definitely got my interest up for learning more about rigging to be able to achieve try out these kinds of animations for myself.

Unfortunately I can’t insert videos here but Gibson mentioned other animation principles they were making heavy use to achieve that snappy timing like always overshooting the extreme pose and then holding the key poses a little longer than usual as well as having slightly different timing on arms (total symmetry looks stiff). Tracer’s reloading animation on youtube is a good example of this.

But also: Mariel Cartwright who animated for Skullgirls gave a presentation in 2014 which covers pretty much the same principles (overshooting, holding keys).


Again, can’t upload the video but we got a look at the first pass of Mei’s run cycle. Gibson’s explanation of his process for creating a run/walk cycle was that if you get the full extension keys and passing pose to really match the character, the rest of the animation is pretty much just adjustments.



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