Animation Tips: Switching Direction in 2D sidescrollers

 Animation

The simpler the better!

– A story of realism vs gameplay, and how useless maths can be –

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A problem that always haunted me when designing and doing animation for characters in sidescrollers games, was the constant struggle in having to make a decision over having a purely symmetrical animation left or right, with a disregard about which hand holds which weapon. the problem is even greater when a character holds two different weapons/shields in each hand.

Animating asymmetrically, respecting realism and the fact that a right handed swordsman shall keep his sword in his favored hand, also means a lot of work for both the programmer and myself. Let me explain; Not only would I have to draw animation for each side, for EVERY character in the game, but the programmer would have to adjust the hit boxes, origin points as well as handling different attack timings due to the fact that perspective would show the weapon at a different angle and distance from the main character. In other words, it would have a negative impact on gameplay, as attacking an enemy from his left might end up being easier than on his right and vice versa  .As the game will have the player coming from either side of enemies, unlike for a linear sidescroller/schmup. This also would lead to extra work for a feature that wouldn’t be welcomed. Just gotta find a way around

So what’s all the fuss about? Just flip it already!

Indeed, flipping the animation when changing direction is a time saver, it helps us to keep game play consistent and all and all, but how about transitions now? How do you transition from left to right and “hide” the fact that weapons change hands as you switch direction? One solution, the SHIELD FORMULA.

Yep, it’s all a lie, the smeared shield hides it all during that frame and the sword reappears on the other hand. Notice in the animation that we try to bring the attention on other details , like the dust at the character’s feet, the goblin reaction, etc. All these help getting the attention away from the main thing you are trying to hide.

And that is how we saved ourselves hours of development time! I hope it helps other animators struggling with that process.

Art comes from “Silence of Boots, a game I am working on with BannockBurn_

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