We asked our animator on Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Paul 'Pietepiet' Veer, to write a bit about his work on the game. After scolding us for giving him even more work, he agreed. This is the result. Hey, this is Paul, the animator on Serious Sam: The Random Encounter. Rami sort of tricked me into writing this blog post because both him and JW are too busy developing the game (as if I don't have to do stuff for it!), so I'm here to tell you a little about the work that goes into animating the sprites in Serious Sam: The Random Encounter.
To start things off, I'd first like to thank the other artist on the team, Roy Nathan de Groot, for his amazing work on the still sprites. Animating his work is always a pleasure, and I don't think The Random Encounter would've looked as good as it does if it wasn't for him. His style is so nice and clean, which makes animating the sprites a ton easier.
Serious Sam: The Random Encounter is a bit different than what you'd expect from an RPG, and this is especially true for the animations. While in most RPGs characters and monsters would be static or have only a very low amount of frames, all characters and monsters in The Random Encounter are fully animated. This gives the game more of an action-vibe (which is important to the Serious Sam franchise) and makes the characters feel like they're actually part of a living, breathing world.
However, this also results in all characters having a ton of frames. And because this is 2D animation, I have to redraw every frame instead of just moving limbs around like you would in 3D animation. This takes up a lot of time per character. But, because the three playable characters are all very similar in shapes and use the same weapons throughout the game, I was able to recycle a lot of Sam's animations for the other two characters, Bam and Bim, by recolouring them to the proper colours. This saves me time, but it does result in characters that sort of look like clones. So to make them more unique, I've added extra touches and altered certain animations slightly to make them fit the characters. For example, when Bam (the afro character) swaps out his weapon, he puts his hands into his afro and pulls a weapon out from there, instead of reaching for his back like Sam does. A unique winning animation for each character is the finishing touch, giving them all a unique personality.
The most fun in a project like this, however, comes from animating the enemies. Serious Sam: The Random Encounter (and the Serious Sam franchise in general) has a ton of really diverse and cool enemies. As an animator, this makes my job that much more fun, because I get to work on a lot of different and (to me at least) new stuff during a single project. Animating a Beheaded Rocketeer, for example, isn't much different from animating Sam himself, but the six-legged Arachnoid is a whole 'nother story. As an animator it makes you think differently about how things move around, and it can be a very cool and educating experience to try out new things like that. The Arachnoid I just mentioned is a perfect example of that. Before this project, I'd never animated a creature with six legs before, so I had to do a bunch of studying to make it look believable. This can be very frustrating (as both JW and Rami could probably tell by my swearing and bitching when animating more difficult enemies), but it's also a very exciting and rewarding experience in the end, because it teaches me something new about animation that I can apply to future projects.
Last but not least, there's effects. Animating effects is something I like to do when I'm fed up with characters and I want to relax a little. Since they fade away pretty fast and mostly consist of big clusters of a single colour, these can be animated pretty fast without having to pay a lot of attention to keeping the forms the same. Making these is a ton of fun and yields really cool results in pretty short time. Effects in games should never be underestimated, I think. Adding a little dust cloud to a dash or when a character lands on the ground makes your game world so much more believable. It makes your game feel more alive and gives the player more cool looking visual feedback. Also, I probably shouldn't have to explain that every game needs big explosions.
I guess this about wraps it up. As you can see, a lot more work goes into animating a game like this than you'd expect and it can be a very frustrating experience, but it's all totally worth it once you see Sam fire some missiles and blow up that Arachnoid (that you've slaved over for hours to get it to look just right) in a glorious ball of fire, after it's been on screen for barely a second.
Thanks, Paul. You are a true inspiration to all of humanity.