Most of the animations you create will rely heavily on animations you've created previously. Therefore, it's important to follow the structure of the animation list, which your lead animator and project designer will have compiled in advance.
You would think a list containing the animations a character performs in a game would be pretty straightforward. They walk, run, jump, maybe have some fight moves or shoot a gun. In actual fact, however, a lot more animations than these explicit ones are involved in getting your characters to move, most of which you may not even realize are separate animations.
The animation list will tell you what movements are required, but not how the character will perform them. A walk cycle, for example, can be one of the most difficult animations to create because it can be interpreted in any number of wayseach person has their own way of walking. So creating a unique animation that also has to loop is tricky. Since most animations are based upon it, the very first pose that needs to be defined is the rest pose.
Defining the Rest Pose
With any third-person-perspective game, the main character has to be interesting even when the player is not controlling him. Look at any game you play, and when you're not controlling the character, he will first adopt the idle animation before looping through any fidget animations he has. Before these animations can be created, a rest pose needs to be defined.
It's important to lock the rest pose early on, since changing it later will involve altering many of the animations based on it. For example, consider a crouching position. The animation would start with the character in the rest pose and end in the crouch position, which can be classed as another rest pose. Then when the character stands again, the rest pose is where the animation would end. So altering the rest pose would also mean editing all these other animations.
Initially, the rest pose need only be a single frame, just one pose. At this stage you don't need any animation, because this is the pose used as the starting point for many others.
You may find that you will need a number of rest poses, each depending on the character's state of health or current mood. For Kila, we might have the following (the first three are illustrated in Figure 16.1):
Figure 16.1. Examples of rest poses
Try viewing your character from an in-game view. This will help you to see if certain poses or animations, including the rest pose, read well at that distance. It may be that you have been too subtle, in which case you will need to exaggerate the pose more.
With the rest pose(s) defined and signed off by your manager, you can then proceed to generate all the animations that begin or end in this pose. The idle animations, for example, all need to start and end in the same place so that they can flow into each other smoothly.
Take a good look at your complete animations list and make sure you know which ones need to be done first. Before we look at creating an animation in Maya, let's examine some of the program's animation tools.