Workflow Automation for Video Games
Everyone can imagine a day where robots will serve us in checkout lanes at grocery stores, pour us our coffee and do our chores for us at home.
Automating workflow is becoming a game changer in many industries and is getting better and better every year.
But how about something as intricate and creative as game production?
We are taking notice of how automation of different processes could start to shake up the video game industry as we know it.
Designers, animators and programmers are starting to use automated workflow for Quality Assurance, Animation, Asset Creation and more. And we suspect that as graphics fidelity increases studios will need to find ways to create more assets, at a higher quality, in a shorter amount of time.
Today I will cover a few of the most common ways to automate production but this is by far not an exhaustive list:
Rigging characters for mo-cap and animation is very time consuming. And many studios create their own custom tools to help speed up the process. We have been exploring several auto rigging tools such as Advanced Skeleton, Mgear, Mixamo, Auto Character Setup, and others to help with internal workflow and by far the most impressive has been what we have seen from Toronto based firm JALI research which maps voice acting to facial rigs for performances. No doubt this is something that we would like to experiment with and potentially add to our workflows:
As games get larger they require more assets. Assets in the form of props, scenery (trees, etc) and more. The ability to automate asset creation is the holy grail of game producers. The technology is far from being useable for characters and monsters but the ability to create a number of weapons and props is getting closer and closer to being ready for prime time. And depending on graphic fidelity needed and the style of the game in some cases it is ready to go. An example of a few publicly available tools for unreal Engine would be the Procedural Asset Creator.
And the Interactive Tree Creator!
DEEP LEARNING & PROCEDURAL ANIMATIONS:
I came across this video on reddit a long long time ago. I was amazed by what I was seeing at the time and wanted to learn more about the process and the tech behind it. Unfortunately the author was likely overwhelmed and never did reply to my inquiries.
The video made me think about the possibilities of procedurally generated enemies as well as procedural animations. I am not sure what has come of this exact project but I have come across some tutorials by Unity3d that explain the workflow and these are techniques we would like to utilize in future projects:
Our local experts at Ubisoft created this masterpiece of technology that allows developers to automatically generate natural character animation reducing time costs for animators. I looked high and low and could not find the codebase but it is a good showcase of what is possible with the right amount of research and effort.
A more recent addition is the Unity3d Kinematica, a character animation system build around the concept of Motion Matching.
Motion Matching is an animation technique that does not require animation clips to be arranged in blend trees or state machines. Instead, given a skeletal pose and a desired trajectory movement it performs a nearest neighbor search in an unstructured library of related skeletal poses. The result of this search is now considered the continuation of the previous skeletal pose.
Here is a link to more information about it:
And a good overview of what the technology does:
QA & TESTING:
Automated testing is a great way to test games and progression. Typically this is easy to do and common with in-game AI running on a timer to look for issues and other problems with game balancing, etc. Luckily for developers, the tools for testing are becoming more sophisticated and some are also moving into the cloud to allow for rapid testing and simulations ina shorter amount of time. One such tool we have come across is Unity’s Game Simulation Tools.
These are a few automation examples that we think are promising and we are always on the lookout for new #automation tech. If you have a technology that you use to help you with workflow and think it should be added to my list please message me and i will be sure to add it to my list!