Ideas and Thoughts: Real-Time Animation

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18-Jan-98

Real-time animation has many advantages over FMV.  But first, what is real-time animation?  Well, it's when the in-game graphics are used to show a scene, as opposed to, say FMV, like FF VII uses.  The first big advantage is how much space it takes.  Remember how FF VII's FMV took 1200 MB!?!  Well, in comparison RTA takes up about nothing at all...

A good example is an instant replay.  Mario Kart 64 is a good example of this.  You can save your ghost racers onto a controller pak.  It saves the moves you made exactly, and just plays it with the character and track.  You can save 2 ghosts on a controller pak, right?  Let's just say we use the first track (one of the shorter) for both, and have a total of about 4 minutes.  A controller pak has 32k (1/250 SM64).  In other words, using those numbers, using as much space as Super Mario 64, it could have 1000 minutes of MK64 data!  Yowza, huh!?!

Or here's another way to look at it space-wise.  Remember SNES games (RPGs are a good example) where the scenes were just people moving around on the screen?  Well, for polygons it'd take no more.  I mean, just having the preset commands of 'walk to the left 2 blocks, stand so long, walk up' etc. would be exactly the same.  But what about movements that aren't in the actual game?  Well, the SNES games had things like this too.  I mean, in the Final Fantasy games you'd often see people nodding, shaking their head, etc.  Same could go with polygonal people.  In other words, it'd take up no more than in an SNES game!

Of course, that's just considering generic movements.  I mean, just walking, etc.  But what about places where things happen that would nowhere else in the game?  A good example of this would be in Diddy Kong Racing, when you finally get all the Wizpig Amulet pieces, and the stone Wizpig transforms... (that piece looks amazing, BTW) well, it doesn't use the generic things used in other parts of the game, but it still takes up much, much less than it would if it were FMV.  Of course, if there are extra sounds/graphics not used in the normal game, that will take extra space, too.  But again, not near FMV...

So now we've talked of the advantages space-wise, what about the other advantages?  Well, there's the fact that it's customizable.  Things don't always have to be exactly the same.  For example, in StarFox 64, with the in-game scenes, sometimes you'd have a wing missing, group members would be gone, etc.  Or take FF III (but not mine).  Many of the scenes would be different with different people there.  Sometimes different things would be said by them, or sometimes the non-necessary people would just stand around.  For this to happen with FMV, there'd have to be a different video for every combination!  Or in SM64, how he does that little dance when he gets the key.  Or in Bomberman 64, the little end-of-stage twist he does.  Those can be set to go at any part of the game, instead of a different video for each.

Also, it can be viewed from different angles.  Whoopty doo, you say?  What difference does that make?  Well, say you're playing a game where there're multiple characters, but you are one throughout the entire game.  Whenever there's a scene, the camera could be from your person's perspective, and not always one generic one.  For instance, maybe you're at a different corner of the room.  Imagine how in a 4-player game 3 people could just sit at various places, and watch as the 4th person drives around.  You're getting 4 different views of the same scene.

And the last thing is that RTA still looks amazing!  Thus far my favorite example is DKR.  The bit with Wizpig, the ending, etc. are all great-looking.  Yes, there is a difference between how prerendered animation and RTA look, but with all the other advantages... and what about the future?  I mean future systems, where the difference between RTA and FMV is even smaller.  I see little reason to have FMV now, let alone then... it oughta be funny... FF IX (or whatever) could be on one CD and look much better than 3 CD FF VII.  :)

Joshua Slone , long ago, used to think he was playing Intendo.