Former BioWare animator explains why animations in Mass Effect: Andromeda are the way they are

By Sherif Saed, Friday, 24 March 2017 09:24 GMT

To really understand why facial animations in Mass Effect: Andromeda are of a lower-than-expected quality, you need to take a few things into consideration.

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It’s no secret that many of the animations in Mass Effect: Andromeda are sub-par. Though people turned the worst ones into memes, nobody actually had any idea why they turned out the way they did.

That’s because most people are not animators working for game studios. Which is why this Twitter thread from Jonathan Cooper, an animator for Uncharted 4 developer Naughty Dog who previously worked on Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, is worth your attention. Right off the bat, Cooper said that comparing animations in scripted games like Uncharted with what you get in a big RPG is unfair.

This quantity over quality approach necessitates that “designers, not animators” sequence pre-created animations “like DJs with samples and tracks.” Cooper then shared an example of the cinematic tools used for Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3. Although different, they both allow designers to assemble animations in the scene from a pool of pre-made ones.

When you consider the amount of content a game like Andromeda has, even allowing designers to use this method for scene creation will take too much time. So what happens, according to Cooper, is that all dialogues are split into tiers based on importance and likelihood of the player seeing them. This is possibly the reason story scenes look more polished than some random conversation with a quest giver.

According to Cooper, what’s likely responsible for the state of the animations in the final game, and why the algorithm quality was lowered, is perhaps because BioWare planned to hit every line by hand, which would have taken enormous amounts of time.

Cooper added that part of why fans have received Andromeda’s animations so poorly is because they’re more discerning, which in turn makes developers’ jobs more difficult.

Hit the link above for the full thread. While this may not improve your time with the game, it’s definitely an eyeopener, providing a perspective we rarely get.

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