Design and Animation in Modern Games

By Uzair Mirza , Jun 23 2015
Feature Video Games

Featured Image: Pexels/Pixabay

Video games are now competitively played around the globe. Professional video gaming is a growing industry that will soon be generating billions of dollars in revenue. Gamers are already earning huge amounts through sponsorships, ad revenues, and prizes. The industry that gave us gamification is now, more than ever, using the same concepts for game design and development, outside the context of game-play.

Developers and publishers are pushing themselves for better video games. Yet, players demand improved and higher version of each game they play. With the modern competition added into the equation, the world of video games is seeing rapid advancement. True-to-life graphics, or even the revival of the classic old, is the new rage. We have selected a few games that were announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2015 to showcase the kind of design and animation that goes into the development of modern games.

Arcade Style and Cartoon Design

Arcade games, in the modern gaming industry, are the first cousins of platform games – where players traverse between different platforms. Cuphead by Studio MDHR is a run and gun platform game to be released in 2016. The graphics are based on cartoons and comics from 1930s. The design inspiration came from that era’s cartoon producers – Fleischer Studios, Disney, Willard Bowsky, Ub Iwerks, and Grim Natwick.

Cuphead developers, the Moldenhauer brothers, used the same animation techniques that were employed for making cartoons back in 1930s. Hand-drawn animations and painted backgrounds, imperfections to suggest the retro design of the game, make it wonderfully beautiful. The characters were colorized on Photoshop. Actual jazz music was included to complete the feel of that decade. Here’s the trailer:

Industrial Design

Most games, in particular those set in modern times or future, involve heavy structures, vehicles, tech and weaponry. Industrial design in games often surpass that of the real world. Batman: Arkham Knight by Rocksteady Studios, a game that was released today by Warner Bros., contains fantastic buildings, and industrial detail. The Batmobile is the most interesting feature with its customization, turrets, and armor plating of all the tech in the game. Characters’ armors, gadgets, tech, and from the most minute of details to the largest building, the game has perfect industrial graphic design. You can’t miss the game, but feast upon the trailer for now:

Game World Design

The environment and setting in which our characters are makes all the difference to game-play. It follows a simple rule – the more realistic, fun, and beautiful the world, the better the game. Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming out on the 10th of November this year, offers a breath-taking game play setting with plenty of interactions with the world.

Highly realistic details, such as sunlight reflecting from the snow, make the environment lifelike. Both animals and humans in the game feel weather changes. Tombs from all of Tomb Raider stories are included to create a larger world. Interactions with the environment will provide new game-play strategies and opportunities. Combat damage appears real – cuts and bruises will appear where they should. Trees, leaves, and other environmental objects will be affected by weather conditions, such as leaves blown by the wind. Watch the trailer here:

Combat Design

Most modern games revolve around fighting and combats with vile and vicious villains. However, the shooting or hacking style hasn’t changed much over the past couple of years. Sure, there are new types of weapons and crafts that you can use, but what about adjusting fighting positions mid combat as one would have to do in real life? That is exactly what Ubisoft’s For Honor, a multiplayer, mass combat game, has to offer – a new game design technique called the ‘Art of Battle’.

It is unique way of locking your opponents in a duel. The interesting bit is the anticipation of the fighting style chosen by your enemy, and then doing the same to block, adapting a different one to attack. This provides players with various ways in which to kill the enemies, and newer kills will unlock special kill animations. Players can also unlock a few abilities as they gain success in the game. Watch For Honor here:

Futuristic Design

Future, in games, has always been shown through these non-realistic vehicles and bizarrely dressed characters. Even though it was never hard to accept these anomalies in game design as early and futile attempts at depicting futuristic tech, science, and people, they were never truly satisfying. Mass Effect Andromeda offers an exciting look to the future gear and tech, and a scary view into world annihilation.

Set in a new galaxy, Andromeda, players can choose between a male or female character as they traverse between planets on Mako, the futuristic spaceship. Equipped with super-soldier abilities and techs, players take on enemies in a third-person shootout. Metallic and glass helmets, AI data on screen, crafty armors, and highly advanced scientific technology takes the users centuries ahead. Check this out:

Character Design

Without a doubt, one of the most important aspects of any video game design is the appearance and personality of the characters, in particular the protagonist. Modern games offer realistic characters – both humans and animals. The game I’ve chosen here is not popular for its graphics, even though they are great but only slightly lower than their contemporaries. We’re talking about Fallout 4. The game has been highly criticized for low resolutions and cartoon-like graphics, but they forgot about this huge range of customization that it allows you to do.

The game has an in-built character creator. You can simply click on the character’s face, drag, and change it whichever way you want to. Bethesda allows you to use the same tools they do to create NPCs. Not only that, you can choose between male and female character, and you future baby in the game will inherit traits from both. There is a cool way of allocating ability points, thus, customizing the personality of your character. Fallout 4 allows you to adapt your character as closely to your dream character as you want.

Rigorous competition in the video game industry has produced some remarkable results. New concept games have emerged. The gamification of the video game industry, with game developers competing for the major gaming platforms as well, is spurring the whole of game design into constant, fast-paced evolution. The gaming trends suggest that massively multiplayer online games are the most sold, most played games of our generation.

This progress in the video game industry is fascinating, and it certainly lures graphic designers towards itself. New opportunities have come up, new challenges have been set, and the bar has been set ever higher. Graphic designers and animators must now constantly question their own work, improve it, and then question it again. Explorations into new design and animation styles, higher graphics, and augmented game-play is a must.

The video game industry must feed the ever-hungry gamers!

About The Author

I am a jazz music and visual art enthusiast, with a deep-rooted passion for mountains and wildlife. My artistic pursuits spawned an intrigue to explore the world of graphic design, the fashionable digital art, and social media. I enjoy writing about and discussing the raging design trends and techniques, and contemporary visual content marketing for business start-ups and designers – often with a cup of coffee to share!

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