Hellblade, the upcoming PC and PS4 action title from Ninja Theory, has a lot of high expectations attached to it. And that’s not just because it promises a macabre world full of Celtic lore and supernatural beasts, either. Ninja Theory is also using the game to show that AAA games can be made by independent studios on a budget.
To give us an inside look on how a triple-A indie gets made, Ninja Theory has been releasing Hellblade development diaries on a semi-regular basis. In previous updates the developer has shown off performance capture as well as the art of the game, and in the latest dev diary we get to see the difficulties they faced in creating (lead character) Senua’s movement.
How Ninja Theory Developed Hellblade‘s Movement and Control
Putting together Senua’s movement was not an easy task for Ninja Theory. While the team had Senua’s basic walk down, they wanted to add “more layers”; different movement styles for different areas and even different emotions. The problem with that is that Hellblade is being put together by a very small team and all of the animations in the game (including Senua and all of the enemies she faces) are being animated by just two people.
As a solution, Ninja Theory used motion capture to give them a sort of foundation for what the animators would do. In the beginning it wasn’t pretty, and the dev diary shows how Senua’s feet and toes look broken and unsightly. Though, this messy look is easy enough for the animators to clean up.
While colours haven’t been put onto the character in the footage, the dev diary also shows Senua having remarkably different walks as she goes through water and as she goes through smoke. The animators have also introduced a variety of random, looping actions (such as Senua coughing during the smoky section) which ensures that players aren’t just seeing the same thing (the randomness adds “unlimited variety”).
And though Hellblade does seem to have benefitted massively from the decision to use mo-cap as well, Tameem Antoniades, the co-founder of Ninja Theory, stresses that motion capture “isn’t a silver bullet that replaces animators”. Instead, “it’s an empowering tool” allowing the animators to shape a character and mould them into “who they want the character to be”.
Hellblade will be released in 2016 on PC and PS4.