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A Tale Of Two… I Can’t Do Puns Send Help

October 27, 2014

As work continues on the new medical system, vehicles, NPCs, project Nuke The End Game (not literally!), and all that other good stuff, we’ve also had the massive good fortune to bump into a couple of awesome developers who have each brought big things to the game to improve the overall playing experience. Sound and animation both having big impacts on the immersion of the game, and leading to new gameplay opportunities. So we’ve taken some time to chat with both Martin and NJ to find out a few tasty insights into the sound and animation in the game.

Sound Production

Especially with the new FMOD sound system being introduced in the near future, we want the sound in the game to be as immersive as possible. Thankfully we’ve had the help of sound maestro N.J Apostol, who has been producing some awesome effects for the game. Some in the game already, some are still to come. What’s most amazing of all is when we find out how these sounds were created! N.J explains.

Male Zombie Eating Flesh

“This sound is quite easy to recognize once you know, but is a bit of a spoiler so read at your own risk.

There is a layer of mouth chomping, and under that a layer of apples and tangerines being crushed and squished for the blood.

The sound of the flesh being torn is actually twigs bending and snapping.

After experimenting with chicken skin being ripped from the meat I decided I needed something more gritty. The skin actually sounded similar to the tangerines. I wanted the sound of sinew ripping from the bone so I chose the twigs.

All timed together to give the effect of biting in to the skin and then stripping it away with the teeth. ”

Alert Sound

“It took me a while to find an interesting sound that felt important but not too imposing.

It’s actually an effects pedal clicking, time stretched and reversed, and then with a timed delay to the animation. Is a simple sound but quite effective.

Then I added themed horror violin screeches to the ascending threat levels.

So the tension could be built upon with each new alert.  “

Female Death Sound

“The sound of the female characters death was a fun one. I used an actress called Nicola Smith, we sat for an hour making all kinds of different screaming and choking noises. I was acting the male part and screaming with her as we recorded, and at several points it got so ridiculous that we broke out laughing. Those are always the funnest recording sessions. But the final result is a very chilling and blood curdling scream.

The eating sound was actually the most pleasurable to make because I got to fry up sausages and eat biscuits and chips to make it.”

We’ll continue to add other great sounds that N.J has produced, and as we move over to the new sound system we should hopefully get the maximum possible out of them to provide a vastly improved sound design to the game. Thank you NJ for the awesome support!

Animaniac!

We asked Martin, our new animator extraordinaire, a few questions about what he’s been up to as well as where he came from and what is to come. He may have even made a little video? Exciting times ahead!

Hello Martin! What’s your name, what’ve you done before and what’s your exciting X-Men style origin story?

My name’s Martin Greenall and I’ve been working as an animator, mainly in the games industry, for the last 11 years or so. I’ve been playing games since my brother bought a ZX Spectrum (an advantage of having an older brother!) but never thought I’d get to work in the games industry because, you know, who ever gets to do their dream job?

But after doing my art degree and then a masters in Computer Animation at Teesside University I finally got my big break and from there its been about riding the ups and downs of working in the games industry.

How did you get into cahoots with The Indie Stone?

Well I know Captain Binky and Lemmy from my first job in games industry where they were working as an artist and programmer respectively and we became friends as we used to mix socially after work.

After a couple of years I changed jobs and we lost touch but I would keep up on what they were doing through facebook, twitter, LinkedIn etc. (not cyber stalking, honest!) and recently, when they moved into the new offices, it happened to be the same building where I was doing some contract work at another company. I dropped them a line, they mentioned they were looking to get some animation work done and asked if I was available, which I was, and so here I am!

I understand that your first mission is to polish existing in-game animations. How does that process work?

We are using the Biped skeleton system in 3ds max to animate the 3d characters, so the current animations exist individually as a .bip file, a format native to Biped. I can load this file onto the character in 3ds max and start to edit the keyframes.

Some animations require more work doing to them than others. This is in part because of the time constraints on Captain Binky’s time, as you can see, he can clearly animate but just hasn’t had the time to devote to it and some are place holder animations, they function but aren’t necessarily “visually pleasing.”

This is standard practice within the games industry and gives the programmer something to work with but at some point, time and budget allowing, they need swapping out for proper animations.

What do you think people will notice in-game when they’re integrated? Or do you think that it’ll be a subtle change?

Well, as I was saying, some animations require more work doing to them than others. Some only require minor tweaks, others just need the posing and/or the timing tightening up or in some cases re-done from scratch.

For example, the normal run and walk are perfectly fine and I’ve only done some minor tweaks to them in an attempt to minimise foot skate; that’s to say feet sliding.

You can never really eliminate feet sliding unless your game engine has some form of IK system and even then its not perfect. An IK system is not an option (or priority) in Project Zomboid so we can try to eliminate as much foot slide in the animations.

The movement animations for combat I have re-done from scratch, making them a bit more dynamic and distinct from the normal movement animations. In particular strafing left and right now have their own animations, originally it just one animation looped forward for right and reversed looped for left.

Overall I hope people will feel their characters are a bit more solid and grounded even if they can’t see much difference.

What’s next on the list, and how will you approach them?

Next on the list, is sneaky, stealth based movement. Talking with Lemmy and Captain Binky it was felt this would help give a greater impact on the players experience moving around the game world.

Currently its hard to distinguish between the different types of movement so I’ll need to change the posing and overall silhouette the player has during their time sneaking. Since we’re not making a Ninja or military style game there’s no better way than trying and acting out some of the movements involved. Luckily the Indie Stone offices have frosted glass and blinds!

Along with new, cover based movement the new sneaky animations will not only help distinguish movement, combat and stealth but also open up a new side to the game not only through how the player moves but also gameplay.

What animation are you most looking forward to that’s on the list? What will be trickiest to get right?

I don’t think there’s one particular animation I’m looking forward to, more a group of animations, and that’s to say the combat revamp animation set.

Whilst Lemmy and Captain Binky have briefly talked to me about what they’re hoping to achieve with the revamp we haven’t discussed the specifics yet but combat animations are always interesting to do.

Indeed, combat animations can be quite tricky to get right; mainly because you’re balancing what looks good and correct from a physical aspect but you’re juxtaposing it with what feels right when you’re playing the game. Add in the fact that combat is a core feature and something that will happen to some extent during a persons play time it’s definitely something you need to get right.

Once your work is complete – what’s the integration process?

Once the animations are signed off I’ll export them out of 3ds max into directX files (X files for short) which are then run through a tool designed by Captain Binky which makes them readable by the game code.

When the animations were initially created by Captain Binky it was with the old sprite system in mind so some of the animations are quite quick in their raw form and where slowed down game side. When I’ve revised the animations I’ve kept to about the same limits so they should fit in quite easily but any ones I’ve done from scratch, like the new strafing animations, will require some balancing and possibly new code to be written.

Balancing and codes tasks are handled by someone else but once the animations are in I’ll have a look and change anything that looks awkward, wrong or plainly just doesn’t work.

They say “an animation is never finished” and so whilst I’ll be cracking on with new animations, I’ll certainly keep revisiting old ones and updating any that don’t stand the test of time (schedule and budget allowing! ).

What’s a fascinating fact you can tell us about yourself? [doesn’t have to be fascinating]

Lulu (a famous British singer) once ruffled my hair when I went to see “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” at the Savoy theatre in London circa 1987. It’s made all the more poignant by the fact I no longer have any hair.

That bit at the end

Thanks muchly to both NJ and Martin for taking part in the Mondoid and of course for helping make Zomboid the game we all want it to be. We’re very excited at how much Zomboid will be improved by their work in future and how much more atmospheric and fluid to play the game can become. Big thanks and hugs, and that goes to everyone else who has contributed to the game or been part of the community. Lots of love,

Indie Stone

Today’s image courtesy of  Chrome Vagabond Be sure to check the upcoming version post and subscribe to our newsletter to be sure you won’t miss anything! That’s it for now. Thanks so much for living and dying in our game! Love y’all.

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