WildStar Wednesday: Metal Maw - Walking Cycle

Written by Loic "Atreid" Claveau on February 22, 2012

Hey everyone,

This week, we are resuming the feature dedicated to our favorite boss: Metal Maw. Last time, we promised to show you Metal Maw in motion, so we had to deliver. We asked Seth Kendall, Senior Animator at Carbine Studios, to drive you through the process, so read on for more!


My name is Seth Kendall, and I'm a Senior Animator here at Carbine Studios. I've been a professional animator and rigger for about 5 years. I actually started at Carbine building rigs, but these days I animate players, creatures, ships, cut scenes, and whatever we happen to need at the moment.

A CG animator's job is generally to take a 3D model, and by using handles and controls that the Rigger has built (like we showed you in our Metal Maw update for Rigging, Part One and Two) bring it to life by creating movement. On a project like WildStar, it is, more specifically, creating a series of short looping animations that are triggered by the game as needed.

For a boss creature like Metal Maw, we'll be looking to create idle, walk, run, combat-ready, birth (not what it sounds like), death (exactly what it sounds like), wounds, knockdowns, and all sorts of special attack animations. Today, we're going to show you Metal Maw's walk cycle, which I think is a great animation to start with. It reveals a lot about the movement style, weight, personality, and overall vibe we're trying to capture with Metal Maw.

Step 1 - Blocking

Animation is about creating various poses for a character to move through over time. The goal is to create movement that is both believable and appealing. To achieve believability, we're looking to convey things like weight, momentum, and balance. To make it appealing, we're thinking about things like line of action, variation in timing, and clear, communicative poses.

The whole process has to start somewhere, so when creating a walk cycle, the first thing I will do is rough out a few basic poses that define the walk. Two poses on each side is enough to start with, and these poses are generally referred to as the "contact" and "passing" positions. We always start with a passing position, because it blends well as the creature moves out of their idle animation. As I create these blocking poses, I start to picture how this creature moves, how it shifts its weight, and the kind of personality I want to convey.

In Metal Maw's case, his balance is a bit precarious, despite his beefy arms: imagine holding a handstand while being half dead, with a giant gun on your back to boot. Each time he takes a step, he almost falls over because his weight transfers so hard, and his big lifeless tail is just going to swing around from all that movement.

Because most of a walk cycle tends to get fleshed out in the layered animation phase, I don't sweat the details too much at this stage. My goal is really just to develop a starting point and very broadly define where his body and legs will go throughout the cycle, as well as his overall shape.

Step 2 - Layered Animation

Basically, this involves breaking down different parts of the body and animating them in stages. The first section I want to focus on is the main torso mass, Metal Maw's center of gravity. Because this is the most massive part of the creature, the torso movement is going to tend to drive all the other parts. After very roughly laying in some extra poses on the legs, so I can clearly define when he plants and lifts off his feet, and how fast he moves. My focus at this stage is the main body mass and how it shifts around.

You can probably already tell that his posing has changed somewhat from the blocking, and that's okay so long as the end poses are still strong and clear.

Step 3 - Polish and Finish

As I move through the different parts of the body, I'll first finish up the tail motion, then polish the leg and foot movement, followed by all the little fins, machinery, and dangly pieces, and then an overall polish pass to finish it up. In this case, given the way that Metal Maw was designed, I chose to push the whole "robotically-animated-corpse" theme a bit and had his leg rockets firing off in order to power each step.

Well, that's it for Metal Maw's walk cycle. The next time we show him, he will be doing something a bit more grandiose! Don't forget to check out our Facebook page for Metal Maw discussions with the WildStar community, and the WildStar community team!

Stay tuned for more!

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