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Gameplay Animator

What does a gameplay animator do?

Gameplay animators use key-framing and motion capture to give life to digital characters, creatures, props, and vehicles in a game engine. They focus on character performance and gameplay, ensuring that the movements and behaviors are seamless and realistic. Additionally, they are responsible for implementing AI-controlled NPC movement, performances, and behaviors.

To maximize gameplay and interactivity, a gameplay animator must utilize the game engine's technology to its fullest potential.

Gameplay animator job description

Gameplay animators work closely with game programmers and designers to generate character movement and implement final animation.

Game developers must ensure that their games utilize a game engine's technology to its fullest potential, while also maximizing opportunities for gameplay and interactivity. They must take into consideration that the animation can change depending on how the character is moved by a player and how camera angles are controlled, whether by the player or through AI.

Because of the cyclical nature of a lot of game character movements, game animators also maintain large libraries of all the movements they create, so they can be reused as animation cycles for each character.

Role & responsibilities of a gameplay animator in the video game industry:

  • Use animation fundamentals to craft game motions ranging from stylized to hyper-realistic using both motion capture and hand-keyed techniques

  • Work with game designers to ensure that they achieve responsive and immersive gameplay that feels rewarding to players

  • Design animation systems with gameplay team members

  • Coordinate and direct motion capture shoots

  • Edit and clean up motion capture data 

  • Work with other depts. to improve character visuals, such as mesh deformation, facial animation, and cloth and hair dynamics.

  • Work together with other animators and riggers to establish both core and secondary functionality of a game's characters

  • Contribute to efficient pipelines and procedures across the animation team

Skills required to become a gameplay animator

Gameplay animators will need to have excellent 3D animation skills as well as some game development and programming knowledge.

Video game studios may look for the following skills in gameplay animators:

  • A great understanding of realistic body mechanics as well as animation principles.

  • Ability to execute hand-keyed animation

  • Highly proficient in Maya

  • Demonstrate a strong understanding of camera animation and cinematic framing, as well as shot continuity and facial animation

  • Familiarity with the animation integration process and animation state machines

  • Knowledge of cinematic and motion capture editing and cleanup

  • An interest in participating in live previs shoots to help clarify tone, choreography, and pacing for mocap actors

  • Familiar with the game production pipeline process

  • Knowledge of animation implementation and debugging techniques

  • In-depth knowledge of human and animal anatomy, body language, and emotions

  • Experience with combat system animations

What software and tools do gameplay animators use?

Along with having proficiency in a 3D animation program like Maya, gameplay animators must be able to work within a game engine. Scripting experience is also useful.

Gameplay animators may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Maya

  • Unreal Engine

  • Unity

  • 3DS Max

  • Experience with scripting languages (Mel, Python, Lua)

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