Complex Character Interactions in Shadow of War

Animating complex character interactions is hard.

In Shadow of War there are a lot of takedowns and finishers that required characters to be in sync while delivering satisfying motion.

Here is the pipeline that Monolith uses to create them:

First let's compare raw mocap data from final animation.

You can notice first the timing pass, to make the animation flow better. At the same time the sword stays in place which sells the impact better.

Let's look at how all of this is accomplished:

One of the first surprising things are the mocap actors.

Contrary to what one would thing the animators themselves are the actors. Who would know more about how to do your shots that the same people who are going to work with that data.

Another surprising fact is that there are no Maya or other 3D software package sources.

The data is always kept in-engine.
This allows for some interesting things.
    1. Animators are always up to date with the changes.
    2. If a combat designers do a timing pass → they already have that change.
    3. Someone trims the animations → Also up to date

All departments have instant access to the animations all the time.

The workflow is optimized for motion capture and the focus is:
   • Speed
   • Control
   • Direct Interactions

To achieve this they allow animators to use any tool they need.
However, as a byproduct, this means that you have to be okay baking your keys.

This is a workflow similar that that used at Bungie for Destiny
Often cited as "destructive" workflow, but really powerfull when used well.

What allows this to work well is the use of little tools that help animators such as:
    • Animated Center of Mass
    • Mirror Animation
    • Flatten Fingers to Surface
    • IK from Knees
    • Cross-fade animations
and more....

Having good tools helps animators a ton.

With all this the workflow would become:

    1. Perform motion capture
    2. Line up actors in Maya
    3. Adjust timing to give rythm
    4. Add animation layers to improve posing and contact points
    5. Start using IK rig and the tools to improve the animation
    6. Finalize the animation

And there you have it.

This is only a glimpse of a very complex process to create incredible animations in games.

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