Our first decision was to make all the main characters in 3D to have a cool mix of 2D and 3D in the game to give them more value. After having worked like that on Nosferacula, we realized that it was a huge amount of work and, above all, that it neglected important things like interaction between the aliens (players) and these 3D characters.
So considering these different issues, we had to find a solution to:
1. Allow interaction between characters and players
As the players are in 2D, the only solution to allow them to interact with other characters was to have them in 2D also.
That’s why we then decided to create the characters in 2D and to animate them thanks to Spine which allows you to put bones on a sprite and then animate them as if it’s a 3D character.
2. Quickly create the characters
For the creation of Nosferacula in 3D, it took:
So a total of 1 business week of work for this character.
On the other hand, for Alien the Hitchhiker in 2D, we accomplished it in only 1 day.
There was no comparison! 2D was the solution and the rendering is even better with 2D. With 2D, we only need to do what we need, not necessarily the whole character.
But our lead animator had to be familiar with Spine, so he experimented with it for one week and then was able to create very cool stuff because it ended up being very close to the way he worked on 3D animations.
First, you create a skeleton with bones for your sprite.
After this step, you define a mesh on the sprite. So when you do the skinning, you’ll have good deformations of your sprite.
Then you create your keyframes directly on the timeline.
Finally, you create the poses on each keyframe to make the animation.
Here is a full animation session timelapse: