Archive for June, 2010

The Importance of Joint Orientation

Joint Orientation is critical when preparing characters for animation, and especially so when developing animations for game development. It is an integral part of the character animation skeleton. Beyond mere joint placement, which acts as a pivot for the joint or limb, joint orientation contains information as to the direction/angle of the X, Y, Z axes, and their ranges of motion.

For example, you create a skeleton with the correct joint placement, and do not consider joint orientation. When the animator takes a hold of the skeleton to animate (Forward Kinematics), a common occurrence is that the animations will not transition correctly (most likely horribly) between key frame poses, thus creating a lot more work for the animator to modify/clean up the animation curves: highly inefficient. This is particularly due to the fact they don’t have defined ranges of motions to base their movements on, and will have to animate based on camera perspective, which is not very efficient or effective.

Animating joints via Inverse Kinematics with Pole Vectors can simplify some of the work for the animator for certain animations, however, visible gimbal rotation malfunctions are common, and are more complicated to adjust via animation curves because the object being animated is the IK controller, not the joint.

If you are building a character skeleton for game development, and not just for working within your 3D software package, poor joint orientation can cause some major integration issues since game engines import skeleton/joint information differently.

For now, here are some example screens of a clean joint oriented skeleton. As I expected, integration into Unreal Development Kit was clean, simple, and uneventful.

Tip: Orient joints with the X axis pointing down the joint, have the Z axis be a pivot for the joint. Consistency is key!


Defining World/Local/Object axes.

World: the world’s default axis, Go to and expand/enable “Display >> Heads Up Display >> Origin Axis” to view.

To view the axis of an object, select desired objects and press the “F8” key, this is the object/component mode toggle button and then click on the question mark icon/button next to the “lock/unlock” icon in the Status Line menu (directly underneath the main menu by default, and the same line where the drop down menu for different modes ie. Animation/Polygon/Dynamics/Rendering etc is located on).

Local: Based on the parent objects’ axis, notice that if there is a single object in a scene, the Local axis of this object is the same as the world axis because the parent of the object IS the world.

Object: the objects’ axis.

ICO + Shadow of the Colossus in HD

The most animation-impressive games I have ever played look even more impressive emulated in HD. For me, Shadow of the Colossus in particular is the pinnacle of “epicness”, efficiency, effectiveness, and beauty in games thus far. These two titles hold a special place in my heart, and in my game collection.

I remember seeing ICO in the video game bargain bin at the local Superstore… it was only $7.99! The game was in my hands, pass the checkout counter, and out of the store so fast, you’d have expected a security guard to come chasing after me believing I had shoplifted it. Never underestimate the bargain bin, for jewels they hold.

Check out the Eurogamer post here for videos of both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus being emulated in HD.

One can only hope that Sony gives them the God of War Collection-style treatment… and soon.

Play! A Video Game Symphony – Coming to Vancouver in December

For those that managed to attend the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert here in Vancouver back in October in 2009, it was quite the experience. Performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by Arnie Roth, the concert performance brought tears to many a person’s eye (I know, people were crying tears of joy all around me).

For any Final Fantasy and video game enthusiast that missed out on it, you get another opportunity coming in December. Play! A Video Game Symphony is coming to Vancouver on Monday, December 6th, 2010 at the Orpheum Theatre. Click here for more details.

Performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and a full choir, Play! A Video Game Symphony features award-winning music from a catalogue of bluckbuster video game titles, including Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, and many more. Stunning graphics on large screens above the orchestra accompany the exciting scores, highlighting memorable moments from the video games (let’s hope better choice of visuals this time).

If you are a VSO subscriber, you can get your tickets now. If not, make sure to bookmark Monday, August 23rd, 2010 at 10:am on your calendars, because that’s when single concert tickets for the season will be open to the public. See you there.


So it was a fantastic night, the music was great, along with the extra encore of “One-Winged Angel” (but of course), and experiencing the show with some fellow colleagues/friends from the game industry made it much more enjoyable.

The biggest disappointment was that the synchronized video for the Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross piece failed to show (what I was most looking forward to)… and there are many better fan-made music videos out there for the majority of the pieces. All in all, I will do this again, every time if I can!

Return top