March 3, 2018

Devblog #4: Animating chains and drawbridges.

Greetings Legends!
This week, we are hearing from Christi Clausen, who is here to talk a little bit about animating a chain drawbridge!

Chain Drawbridge:

The drawbridge, while relatively simple, provided me with some interesting situations. I don’t have a ton of rigging experience under my belt, so I get kind of excited when I can get my hands on this part. It’s nice to have this kind of control over an asset. I can include or exclude exactly what I want as an animator. Whether it’s for an animation or a rig, I spend a lot of time looking over and finding references. Sometimes the answer is straightforward and I can find someone who has tackled this situation before. No need to reinvent the wheel all the time, right?

In this situation, it wasn’t quite as straight forward. While there are many solutions to rigging a string of chain links, like using hair dynamics, I as an animator wanted more control than that. I wanted to be able to manipulate each chain link as opposed to letting Maya do all that for me. So, when I can’t find exactly what I have in mind for a rig I try to think outside the box and look at the basic movements. What else moves and kinda wiggles like length of chain? Hair is one example but obviously I didn’t want to use that. A tail, perhaps? Well, that’s what I went with this time! I knew I would be able to find rigs for tails/animals. So I applied that information to my chains on the drawbridge and it worked great!

The next obstacle came when I was exporting my finished animation to an fbx for Unity. When my team imported the file into our game and placed it where it needed to go the chains started behaving odd. Once the bridge had fully been lowered, the chains no longer stayed stationary where I had keyed them to be stationary in Maya. They began to float on their own and not line up properly with the pillars they were supposed to be housed in. I went back into Maya and tried to make sure I had covered all of my bases. I double checked all of my settings for exporting my animation to an fbx, maybe I had changed something and forgotten to change it back. I changed the animation, adding and subtracting keys, manipulating the curves; maybe there was something about how I animated the chains was not being transferred to the fbx. I even rebuilt the rig thinking perhaps it had something to do with that. No matter what I changed in Maya, Unity interpreted the animation the same.

At this point I was somewhat confident that the problem didn’t have to do with Maya. So I moved onto searching the web for ways to change how unity interpreted animation files. Unfortunately, I don't have as good of an understanding of Unity as I do with Maya. I made a few suggestions to the team about what could possibly be changed on the Unity end and thankfully, we were able to find a setting that could be changed that made Unity interpret the animation file correctly.

That's it for this week's post. Next week, we will be hearing from Eric Boosman about successfully building a profit share project with a team.

Thanks for tuning in! 

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