Flexible fish feelings!

Contrary to what my previous posts might’ve indicated, I don’t just go around thinking about design problems all the time when working on Slumber. I’m also the makeshift Unity guy, responsible for implementing stuff, animating, building levels and generally being the link between the artists and programmers.

So let’s talk about something NOT design related for a change, like fish animations! As the team’s makeshift Unity animator, it was my job to animate and implement the fish animations used in Slumber.

This was a bit of a challenge, considering the fishes don’t just swim. They also have quite a range of emotions going from fear, to happiness, to love, to disgust. What I got from the graphics team to work with were 3D fish meshes, all using the same rig. Evelina, one of our graphical artists, also supplied a swim animation that can be used for traversal.

OK! So how do we make this fish emote and feel like a person?

Obviously, the first step is adding eyes. We also thought about throwing a mouth on it – but mouths are complicated in that they sort of loop around the face and often create a silhouette – pretty much forcing them to be built into the 3D model.

Without a mouth, the eyes must be able to express emotion on their own. Considering this, I quickly decided to not create 3D eyes, as that would limit the possibilites and add more time required to create individual expressions. Instead, I decided to make 2D eyes for each fish where each part of the eye is layered independently and then animated in Unity, alloiwng me a lot of flexibility.

just by scaling the pupil and eyeball, moving the parts around, and sometimes switching the sprite of the eyeball, I was able to partially achieve the required emotions.

Of course,the eyes were only the first step! Add fin animations, body laungage, and context and you’ve got a pretty expressive fish. Some testers do find the human-ness of the eyes slightly creepy, which I get. Perhaps that’s something to iterate upon when given more time:)

Until next time!


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  1. Ping: Watercolour fish | Foxberg Art


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