Stargate Worlds, the massively multiplayer game, is now in full-on production in Phoenix, Arizona, and GateWorld continues to bring you insider looks and interviews with the team bringing the MMO to life! Recently Carl Coss, the head of the animation department, took time with GateWorld editor/Stargate Worlds community manager David Read to discuss where his team is currently in the project.
Carl tells us about the excitement of being involved in the decision-making of the project, leading a team of animators, and trying to find time to animate himself. From animating a Goa’uld symbiote to a rudimentary Asgard walk, it’s all a day at the office at Stargate Worlds!
GateWorld’s video interview with Carl runs 25 minutes. It’s also available in audio format for your listening pleasure, and transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read here at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, and I’m here with the lead animator of Stargate Worlds, Carl Coss. Carl, thank you for being with us today.
Carl Coss: No problem! My pleasure.
GW: What are you working on today, by chance?
CC: Today I’m working on the Jaffa female walk.
GW: Ah! How long does something like that take?
CC: The initial animation will take a couple days depending on what it is. Some of the smaller loops could take less than a day. But a movement cycle, you want it to be really nice and smooth and look good because that’s what you see all the time when you’re moving.
GW: So this is just one walk cycle?
CC: Yeah. So it can take a couple days. But then you have to give that to every other character. You also have to do all of the characters. So it exponentially grows off of that one fundamental animation that you do.
GW: So let’s say that she stops or turns right or turns around.
CC: Right. And just while the character’s running, if a character starts to go left or right it has to blend with the other animations. So they go all the different directions and everything, and it all blends together. It looks like their feet are sticking.
GW: How many different alternates are there?
CC: Well, there’s four directionals for every cycle, and then there’s walk and run, and we possibly might have a sprint. But that’s up to systems.
GW: That’s amazing. And so every different type of character in the game has to have a different walk.
CC: Yep! And then also there’s crouching, so there’s stance. If you’re doing a crouch walk it’s different than a standing walk. Just with movement, you’re talking, by the end maybe a couple hundred things just with —
GW: — the one character. And how many characters are you planning on animating?
CC: As far as overall the whole game? Playable and non-playable?
GW: The whole game. Characters, NPCs (non-player characters), robotic, human.
CC: Probably somewhere between 75 and a hundred. I mean, that’s a really hard guess at this point. Who knows. There’s each gender for the playable characters, except for the Asgard, of course.
GW: And each of these walks have to be approved based on the personality of the …
CC: Yeah. Just to save time we start with one walk and we transfer to another character so we have a fundamental movement there — one walk that we really like — or if it’s a female then we’ll transfer a female walk that we’ve already done. Then we tweak it for this new character. So it’s not starting from scratch every time, which helps save time.
Sometimes we will start from scratch if it’s really necessary, but if something’s close already we can transfer it over and just tweak it for the proportion changes or attitude change or whatever.
GW: Something like the Asgard walk — which has already been animated by the show — are you allowed to contact them and ask —
CC: — Well, the Asgard have never been seen in combat. That’s what’s going to be exciting. We get to do that. Now it’s going to be a challenge to make it so they don’t look kind of funny or awkward or stupid. But we actually have a bunch of cool ideas and I think we’re going to do real well in it. It’s going to be a challenge. We have some liberties.
You’ve seen them walk on the show, but really only around a laboratory on or a ship. If they’re out walking to get from point A to point B they’re probably going to go a little faster, or walk a little bit more.
But beyond walking, the Asgard have all their matter-beaming technology, so I don’t think they would exert themselves that much. We’re kind of going in that direction with a lot of their stuff. Anything that they’d really exert themselves, we’re going to do some cool Asgard in-character stuff.
GW: So it’s not just objects. You’ll also be responsible for animating the beaming effect?
CC: Well if an effect needs some heavy animation then, yeah, we can help out with it, but generally the art department is doing all the effects. Sometimes we’ll see an effect and we’ll be like, “To make it more real you should do this or this.” And that’ll help them out. But yeah, as far as the effects go, it’s mostly their bag.
GW: OK. Wow. How did you get involved with Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment?
CC: Well, the art director, Howard Lyon, is a really good friend of mine. I’ve actually worked with Howard at a few other companies, including a company that we had ourselves, which was Professor Fog’s Workshop. We made children’s games and some budget games. It was pretty fun. So I’ve known Howard for a long time, and when he got the Art Director position he referred me here.
I owe it to Howard. It’s awesome. It is a small valley here. There’s only been a few companies through Phoenix. There’s a good group of people here that all know each other. We hop around to the different companies. This is the best opportunity I’ve had and it’s really exciting that Howard got involved and then I could get involved.