Those Bioware animations and models

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DarkbeatDK

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#1  Edited By DarkbeatDK

I'm playing Dragon Age Inquisition at the moment and having a good time with it, but I feel like Bioware is stuck in the past with their modelling and animation.

Apart from the added effects and benefits of the Frostbyte Engine, it doesn't feel like things have evolved dramatically since the first Dragon Age and I've spend hours staring at Bioware models and canned animations through the Dragon Age games, the Mass Effect games and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

While their new character creator has depth, wrestling with it to produce decent results feels like a chore. I spend 3 hours starting over, since my character looked alright when I made her, but like a total spaz once she started animating in the game. I did manage to make something I'm somewhat pleased with, but it could have been so much better.

I wish they'd stick to writing and game design and then outsource animation and modelling to someone like this Korean studio who is doing this action MMO. Look at this thing! It's gorgeous!

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tuxfool

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#2  Edited By tuxfool

How do conversations and non gameplay animations work in the korean MMO? They don't have to animate action scenes or talking, just combat. While I think that example you posted is really nice, the combat animations in DA:I are also fine too.

The animations have to also work within their content system and scripting system. Outsourcing that is going to be a pain in the ass; I can't think of any example off the top of my head where any game has outsourced such a fundamental component of their game.

So yes I agree this game totally has "Bioware Style Animation", I also don't think other large freeform RPGs have anything significantly better. The Witcher 2 has similar jank (we'll see what W3 does), not to mention Skyrim.

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Deathstriker

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Bioware is still miles ahead of Bethesda in that department. Playing Elder Scrolls or Fallout (without mods) in 3rd person is laughable and the enemies often move weird. The video you embed does have good animation, especially for a MMO, but like @tuxfool mentions, is is combat only? DA has to account for cutscenes with player created characters and the powers in this game aren't so over the top. Hopefully the next Mass Effect is current gen only and we can see what Bioware does with the hardware. I had no problems with the graphics or animation though. No new game plus is the only thing that bugs me.

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tuxfool

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@deathstriker: I don't think being next gen only is going to fix animation. As we have seen being next gen only hasn't made NBA2K15, AC:U better in the animation department.

In those games the animation is a visible source of the Uncanny Valley.

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Yummylee

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I think the combat animations are really well done and smooth, but yeah all of the animations during conversations I can recognise from as far back as the first Mass Effect.

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CJduke

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I remember all the animations in Dragon Age Origins seemed to come straight out of Knights of the Old Republic. Made the game feel old to me.

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bargainben

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#7  Edited By bargainben

Faces definitely feel dated playing the game at the same time as Farcry 4. And for all the queues this game took from the Assassin's Creed franchise, on-foot traversal could be a bit smoother. I don't need to be able to climb buildings but a small rock shouldn't inhibit my path as it does

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MEATBALL

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I'm mostly fine with Bioware's models, but yeah, their animations leave a lot to be desired. It's really rough returning to Bioware cutscene and dialogue animation after playing so many games with excellent mo-capped animation. Bioware's characters animate like muppets comparatively, and the stark comparison with it and other high profile releases is worse than ever.

I'm okay with the combat animations, though.

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Veektarius

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I feel like I had fewer problems with ME3's animation than I do with DA:I's.

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probablytuna

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There's a lot of recycled animations and stiff facial expressions to be sure, and it can't be helped that I've grown accustomed to motion-captured animations from other games, but I feel like I can forgive Bioware for it since there is such an astounding amount of conversations, cutscenes and general interactions with the characters in Inquisition. I think the models themselves look very nice though.

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Deathstriker

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@tuxfool: 2K14 had pretty good animation, I'm not sure how they made 2K15 worse in most ways. I avoided it, so I can't say myself. It sounded like Unity barely ran to begin with. I'll wait to see what Naughty Dog, Rockstar, etc do when they make fully current gen games. 2K and AC are both annual games that were just going through the motions.

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Sackmanjones

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#12  Edited By Sackmanjones

Yeah I have some issues with it too but nothing serious. What's crazy is I remmeber being blown away by Mass Effect 1s facial animation and while the game certainly looks gorgeous, the older animations make it feel a bit dated. Still a pretty awesome game though

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bushpusherr

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Yeah the animations do feel a little stiff in conversations, but the thing that really seems the most out of place is when one character cuts off another in the middle of speaking. The dialogue is setup to allow for this cutoff, but there is such a long pause between when the first person stops talking and the second person starts. It creates really awkward and unnatural pauses.

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Basm321

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Bioware's mass effects and dragon ages always have this dollhouse feeling. The character models feel a bit separate from the world around them, as though the character models were made separately from the world

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bargainben

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#15  Edited By bargainben
@bushpusherr said:

Yeah the animations do feel a little stiff in conversations, but the thing that really seems the most out of place is when one character cuts off another in the middle of speaking. The dialogue is setup to allow for this cutoff, but there is such a long pause between when the first person stops talking and the second person starts. It creates really awkward and unnatural pauses.

That's definitely noticeable, but also the quick cuts where "you didn't do enough to unlock the full conversation" so there's a jump in the animation because instead of the character model naturalistically skipping dialog, its a cutscene skipping forward in time. It just makes the whole thing feel a bit clumsy.

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kindgineer

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#16  Edited By kindgineer

I can only imagine its a matter of resources and time right now. That seems like a hell of a lot of work to create animations for each and every conversation or movement. Not that it can't be done, but I doubt its as easy as creating a detailed set of movements and animations and just making them work over the entire world.

You're right, though. They are a bit stagnant. That video is cool, too, but that involves combat. I find that a lot of games do combat pretty well.

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Supa_Kappa

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What I've really noticed is that the mage AI will start shooting at the exact same time as each other if you attack first. They look like a ridiculous synchronized dance squad. It would be nice if they could have one or two alternate sets of staff waving animations.

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GERALTITUDE

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I do think it is hilarious that if you try to walk your character your party just flips out between running and standing still.

Come on already.

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SoldierG654342

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Bioware's characters have always looked like greasy puppets to me, which made the sex scenes extra unsettling.

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tuxfool

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#20  Edited By tuxfool

I think it is unfair to expect the same out of this as a game from Rockstar or Naughty Dog. They have really different scopes, they can get away with motion capture as models are crafted and tuned by them, their cut scenes and conversations are static and do not change once they're pressed on the disc.

Also for all the props Naughty Dog gets, all their cinematics are prerendered in engine, allowing them to use different animation jigs so they can perfect the neck, eye and hand motions etc. Imagine you now have to animate Nathan Drake with 4 different body types, get decent framing on the scene; if that were the case Naughty Dog would never finish games.

I don't really have any confidence that animations will get massively better this generation simply because the new consoles are CPU anemic. Robust animation systems require a robust CPU and I'm not entirely certain how it you could make an animation system multithreaded.

Animation is also very human resource intensive and there are very few systemic frameworks that enable the rapid iteration to get something amazing in a large RPG.

But man it does annoy me in DA:I when I see my female elf momentarily do an ape walk...

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GaspoweR

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#21  Edited By GaspoweR

Yeah, despite the fact that the game is being built in a new engine and the environments look fantastic, it is kinda disappointing that the models and animations look pretty dated.

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ll_Exile_ll

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@tuxfool said:

I think it is unfair to expect the same out of this as a game from Rockstar or Naughty Dog. They have really different scopes, they can get away with motion capture as models are crafted and tuned by them, their cut scenes and conversations are static and do not change once they're pressed on the disc.

Also for all the props Naughty Dog gets, all their cinematics are prerendered in engine, allowing them to use different animation jigs so they can perfect the neck, eye and hand motions etc. Imagine you now have to animate Nathan Drake with 4 different body types, get decent framing on the scene; if that were the case Naughty Dog would never finish games.

I don't really have any confidence that animations will get massively better this generation simply because the new consoles are CPU anemic. Robust animation systems require a robust CPU and I'm not entirely certain how it you could make an animation system multithreaded.

Animation is also very human resource intensive and there are very few systemic frameworks that enable the rapid iteration to get something amazing in a large RPG.

But man it does annoy me in DA:I when I see my female elf momentarily do an ape walk...

Yeah, it would take like 10 years to develop a game with the scope and amount of conversing in Bioware games with the animation quality of Naughty Dog. It's a shame, but with Bioware games there's no real way to realistically implement mocap or hand animated scenes with the huge of amount of conversations in these games.

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bargainben

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#23  Edited By bargainben

@redefaulted said:

I can only imagine its a matter of resources and time right now. That seems like a hell of a lot of work to create animations for each and every conversation or movement. Not that it can't be done, but I doubt its as easy as creating a detailed set of movements and animations and just making them work over the entire world.

You're right, though. They are a bit stagnant. That video is cool, too, but that involves combat. I find that a lot of games do combat pretty well.

I would say the conversations being an integral part of the experience is all the more reason to get it right. LA Noire is practically all talking, so they invented a new technology to make those conversations more dynamic and full of expression. They don't need to go that far certainly, but as it is the characters look like dolls by default, slightly annoyed when mad, and straight goofy when sad. The more they get the face movements right, the less it matters that the body is just cycling through "idle movement 4" or whatever, because the viewers focus will be set on the face just like in real life.

People suggesting this game is of a much larger scope than games that get face animation right, I just have to disagree. Ubisoft open world games are of a comparable scope to this, as is GTA. Just among its peers, AAA open world games, this game leaves a bit to be desired in this way. Skyrim was nearly 4 years ago and this game's faces are about on par. DAI does a lot of reacting in its improvements, but there's no reason why Bioware game shouldn't be the industry standard in facial animation when dialogue choices and personalities are such a core part of the experience.

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Johnny_Sailor

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The models are pretty poor. The beards don't even fit the faces. They float above them. Seriously, go make a character with a beard, rotate it, and you can't miss it. You can't unsee it when you notice it.

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tuxfool

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#25  Edited By tuxfool

@bargainben: Ubisoft or GTA games have monumental budgets. Also as I explained earlier the character models are fixed. Here they have configurable models, and configurable body types. I think the ability to do mocap is a lot more limited.

LA noir used a load of hired actors and imported their faces into the game. People would revolt if that were done in a Bioware game. The dialogue options are a bit more limited, LA noir has 30,000 lines of dialogue; DA:I has 80,000 lines.

You'd have to be blind to consider the Skyrim characters to be on par with DA:I. It isn't as slight against it as Skyrim is a product of its time, but lets not stoop to hyperbole.

You can always make things better, however I'm not one to say it will be easy.

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mosdl

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Its a cross-gen game and its being held back by that, no surprise.

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ThunderSlash

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Does the game still have that thing where the characters would turn their heads to the side and walk off screen whenever a conversation ends? That one is probably the most overused BioWare animation.

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Steadying

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#28  Edited By Steadying

I still remember laughing my ass off when I had a drink in DA2 and Hawke did the exact same animation as Shepard does when you drink in ME2. It's just such a stupid animation.

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bargainben

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#29  Edited By bargainben

@tuxfool said:

@bargainben: Ubisoft or GTA games have monumental budgets. Also as I explained earlier the character models are fixed. Here they have configurable models, and configurable body types. I think the ability to do mocap is a lot more limited.

LA noir used a load of hired actors and imported their faces into the game. People would revolt if that were done in a Bioware game. The dialogue options are a bit more limited, LA noir has 30,000 lines of dialogue; DA:I has 80,000 lines.

You'd have to be blind to consider the Skyrim characters to be on par with DA:I. It isn't as slight against it as Skyrim is a product of its time, but lets not stoop to hyperbole.

You can always make things better, however I'm not one to say it will be easy.

Only your main character is configurable so that doesn't really explain the rest of the characters. This game is big enough to get these things right, and being in the Frostbite engine there's integration of technologies that could have occurred and didnt. Skyrim faces are comparable to these in that the rigs are equally complex/simple. Simple controls on the eyebrows and mouth, nothing on the nose or forehead (I rig for a living). Nuance isnt possible, so you either get a stone faced doll or something goofy and unnatural looking. I'm not willing to make excuses for a company this large. They didn't bother with better faces because their priorities are elsewhere. You having excuses for them doesn't make their relative poor standing in facial animation in 2014 compared to other games of a similar budget and scale defensible or negate them.

Mass Effect, hopefully, will be of a big enough priority that they'll upgrade the tech and throw some of those ancient animation cycles out.

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Random45

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This is the one thing I noticed when I was watching gameplay for the game - the animations during conversations looks like they haven't updated them since the first Dragon Age. I don't remember Mass Effect 3 looking quite so robotic, so maybe it's because they're working in a new engine?

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hassun

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#31  Edited By hassun

The funniest/saddest thing was how animations actually got worse from ME2 to ME3.

Remember that running animation? Holy shit. ME3 was such a terrible rush job.

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tuxfool

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@bargainben: I agree it isn't as good as many other games, but I think having the expectation of it being the best is really unrealistic especially when comparing the budgets of other large game studios (as in 50+ hours of content).

You have to remember that this game does not sell in the quantities that something like GTA or AssCreed. We'll see what Mass Effect looks like, but I'm not entirely convinced it will be amazing.

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Marz

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#34  Edited By Marz

what was that game again? Jade Empire? i thought it had some pretty decent animation for it's time.

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golguin

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@darkbeatdk: What's the name of that game? The animations, graphics, and character customization looks insane.

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tuxfool

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#36  Edited By tuxfool
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Brendan

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I'm not sure on this but it seems to me that animations are one of those brute force money problems that simply requires more time, people, and money to produce stellar results. Given how expensive it is to make games I don't know if wanting that kind of stuff to be top notch is really healthy for the industry. I could just be talking out of my ass.

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rethla

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@brendan: you are totally right.

Industry leading animation is always nice for sure but just make a quick comparison of the amount of content in Unchartered vs DAI and you get the idea. It would take Naughty dog 10 years to finish an Skyrim or Dragon Age game.

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ll_Exile_ll

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@tuxfool said:

@bargainben: Ubisoft or GTA games have monumental budgets. Also as I explained earlier the character models are fixed. Here they have configurable models, and configurable body types. I think the ability to do mocap is a lot more limited.

LA noir used a load of hired actors and imported their faces into the game. People would revolt if that were done in a Bioware game. The dialogue options are a bit more limited, LA noir has 30,000 lines of dialogue; DA:I has 80,000 lines.

You'd have to be blind to consider the Skyrim characters to be on par with DA:I. It isn't as slight against it as Skyrim is a product of its time, but lets not stoop to hyperbole.

You can always make things better, however I'm not one to say it will be easy.

Only your main character is configurable so that doesn't really explain the rest of the characters. This game is big enough to get these things right, and being in the Frostbite engine there's integration of technologies that could have occurred and didnt. Skyrim faces are comparable to these in that the rigs are equally complex/simple. Simple controls on the eyebrows and mouth, nothing on the nose or forehead (I rig for a living). Nuance isnt possible, so you either get a stone faced doll or something goofy and unnatural looking. I'm not willing to make excuses for a company this large. They didn't bother with better faces because their priorities are elsewhere. You having excuses for them doesn't make their relative poor standing in facial animation in 2014 compared to other games of a similar budget and scale defensible or negate them.

Mass Effect, hopefully, will be of a big enough priority that they'll upgrade the tech and throw some of those ancient animation cycles out.

Assassin's Creed and GTA are on par with Dragon Age in terms of the breadth of the world, but nowhere near as big in terms of dialogue and story. GTA and Assassin's Creed have a set number of specifically designed cutscenes that are the same every time. Dragon Age has hours upon hours of conversations that can go any number of ways. They would not only have to animate the options you'll see on your playthrough, but the two or more options you didn't choose for every single conversation. Even if dialogue trees weren't part of the equation, Dragon Age still has astronomically more dialogue than GTA or Assassin's Creed.

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DarkbeatDK

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#40  Edited By DarkbeatDK

Never mind the amount of dialogue in the game. Facial animations are one thing and I'm totally okay with them having a system of stock animations for that. It's all the things they do or don't do with their hands that seems a bit off. I will give them that they've upped themselves from previous games by adding some variety, like an early conversation you can have with Cassandra while she is swinging her sword against a training dummy.

My inquisitor does have a slight bit of range with facial animations, but it does feel very stiff in motion... I think a bigger problem was found in a cutscene, where she was sitting down and resting her hand by clipping it through her leg in game where you can't change the height and size of the player model.

Jeff highlighted another slight issue during the podcast, where he mentioned that your main character is very clearly modelled to be male, judging from the animations and it feels like it's been that way forever in games as well, as illustrated in the Mass Effect 3 running gif further up on the site. Sure, I could tweak my character as much as I liked in the Saint's Row games, but she still moves in a very masculine manner. I know it would be a ridiculously huge undertaking to make every cutscene multiple times to accommodate that kind of thing, in a game of this size, but I do hope that it's something that the likes of Bioware would consider in the future.

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InsidiousTuna

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Everyone in Dragon Age walks like they're carrying a suitcase.

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DarkbeatDK

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gerrid

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The animations really shocked me when I started playing. Female elf's legs clip through each other on the basic walk and run animation. How does that animation even ever get approved? It's a lilting, hip swaying walk, which is fine and adds some character, but the ankles clip through each other. What?

In general I find the animations to be pretty terrible, and the way you can get yourself stuck on rocks on flat surfaces or how your character will start jigging wildly if you have them stand on anything remotely uneven during a talking scene. I had a conversation with Varric at camp where he was just ... bobbing... up and down. Pretty bizarre.

That jumping though. Like a frog on jupiter.

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DarkbeatDK

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@gerrid: Oh yeah. Don't forget running uphill and stumbling over small rocks and things. I don't really feel like a Dalish elf bounding through the forest...

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cikame

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I did notice the animations during the quick look, they could use a few new animators. Everything works for sure but it all looks a little uncoordinated, like everyone barely has control of their limbs.

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Ravelle

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#46  Edited By Ravelle

@insidioustuna said:

Everyone in Dragon Age walks like they're carrying a suitcase.

Dragon Age: Treasure Tracker.

Animations are hard, and they're fine for the most part and it's fine since everything else is pretty great. I just wish Bioware would hire a designer that can design smiling faces, everything besides the neutral or frown turns in to something disturbing.

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bargainben

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#47  Edited By bargainben

that's horrifying lol

I don't even blame the animators for that. You can only do so much with limited rig controls, when you've got nothing on the chin, nose, upper cheekbones and forehead you end up with mutant Sheperd when he's trying to look suave. Probably doesnt help that lips don't get thin to such an extent when real people smile and your cheeks puff out a bit. This isn't super complex stuff, this is like undergrad 101 and bioware knows. They had system limitations last gen, limited polygons is probably a big factor in the faces being as they were. But that doesn't really hold up now.

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s4ndm4n2006

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@deathstriker: While I agree that they are ahead of the ES and Fallout games' animation, is it really a good comparison to make with games that are 4 (Skyrim) and 7 (Fallout) years old now? The comparison to make would be with the origins and DA2 games and that would be fair but to compare a game in 2015 with those of that many years ago to justify their advancement is just not a good one. A better comparison would be DA:I with Mordor of today's generation and in that area, Mordor wins by miles. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore the game right now and in every possible way DA:I blows away other RPG games, for me. But in the animation department I will agree with many that wish Bioware improved it.

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discomposure

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#49  Edited By discomposure

Eh I dunno, I thought Inquisition was notably better than the previous Dragon Ages and the Mass Effects particularly when it came to faces. I can't recall any cases where facial expression/body movement were dodgy enough to actually make me laugh or cringe (well, apart from glitches) whereas I know this happened /at least/ a couple times in each of the previous bioware games, especially in the Mass Effects

Sure it'd be nice if the animations were more natural but I think it's something bioware has been gradually improving on and considering how different you can make the herald look and the tonnes of dialogue options I actually think they've done a pretty good job with it. I also don't have a problem at all with the models (apart from long hair/beards being a bit poo). I dunno, maybe I just have lower standards for these kind of things

There should definitely be some way to test out the appearance of your character 'in action' before committing to it though, those unexpected fish lips and hollow cheeks get me every time

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hollitz

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Hear hear. That's always been a sticking point for me with Bioware games. They nail the writing and characterizations, but the presentation is just so poor. I think that's why the Mass Effect games don't hit me the way they do most people.

There's also the inverse problem with Square Enix last gen where the presentation is phenomenal but everything else is garbage.

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