The Last of Us: Part 2’s motion matching helps its animations feel good and look believable

By Sherif Saed, Monday, 30 September 2019 09:48 GMT

With The Last of Us: Part 2, developer Naughty Dog is debuting a new technology in the game’s animations.

Naughty Dog games are known for superb animation quality, whether you’re watching a cutscene or playing the game. The Last of Us: Part 2 will continue this longstanding tradition, but not without improving on it in a key way.

In the sequel, the studio is making use of a tech it called motion matching. The idea is that instead of blending together separate key animations, The Last of Us: Part 2 relies on hundreds of smaller ones that smartly keep up with player momentum.

“In all our previous games there’s been this really distinct state machine where we say, ‘Play a run animation. Then play a turn left animation. Then play a turn right animation,'” co-director Anthony Newman explained to Gamespot.

“The way motion matching works is it takes this massive bucket of animation, just hundreds and hundreds of animations, and chops them into little tiny bits.

“When you define the path that a player or an enemy wants to take, rather than saying, ‘Play this and then play that and then play that,’ the system actually looks at the bucket of animations, finds the ones that matches the path that you’re already taking, and blends them together frame-by-frame.”

This should create a more natural, and responsive character movement without scarifying the realistic look of the animations themselves, something games often struggle with.

“I think, as you play the game, you must have noticed just how fluid the player feels. With every foot plant, every turn, there’s as little blending as possible,” Newman added.

“That’s applied to our NPCs. That’s applied to the horses. That’s applied to the dogs. We even have these dogs and horses and mocap suits running around getting the data that we needed for this really intricate system.”

Although it may be hard to convey something like this without playing it, movement and game feel were among the elements Kirk praised in his hands-on preview, so Naughty Dog certainly appears to be on the right track.

The Last of Us: Part is out February 21 on PS4.

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