Animating the Old Republic

Combat animation in The Old Republic

Combat animation in The Old Republic

Like any computer-graphics oriented program, SWTOR relies heavily on convincing animation to make things rum smoothly. There are many human and near-human characters in the universe of The Old Republic, and all of us are very used to watching humans move, and the ways in which they do so.

Early in the gaming industry, animations of humanoid characters doing even simple tasks like walking were incredibly difficult, and rarely looked natural to players. Animation has been steadily improving since these early times however, so today there are many techniques to make scenes in games run flawlessly, and have characters move about the set without looking awkward.

Star Wars the Old Republic will be no exception to the woes of natural animation, so the developers have spent many man hours making characters move seamlessly in all situations. There are a number of different things they must do to master this.

First of all cut scenes, short films within the game, must have a very high quality of animation as that will be all the player is focusing on. For these normal techniques used in the film industry can be used, and we should be able to feel like the motion is fluid and continuous.

The other major implementation of animation comes in general player movement around the virtual world. Players have to walk, run, jump, dive and who knows what else, and these should transition from one to another without too many problems. There will always be some issues with this, as in the virtual world there are infinite combinations of different movements, as well as ones which would be impossible in real life to take into account. However, if developers focus on the common movements they should be able to make the game look convincing, and we should not see issues such as rubber banding, running on the spot, and super speedy character spinning which are the hallmark of many MMORPGs, such as Star Wars Galaxies.

Recently a SWTOR devleoper released this blog post, which shows that they are currently well and truly on top of most of these issues, and from the sample videos character movement looks very appealing.