Meat and Potatoes of Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite

This series is not a repeat of Shawn Robertson’s awesome and thorough talk on creating Elizabeth at this past GDC, but is something more along the lines of fleshing out her animation systems to bring systemic Liz to life. When I say systemic I mean any moment with Liz that doesn’t involve a camera lock. The player has the freedom to look at Liz if the player decides to, and when the player does, the goal was to have Liz relate to the world and player at any moment, as well as obey her character arc through the game.
With that we’ll start with her emotion system.

At the most basic layer, Liz will be feeling or thinking something depending on the environment, trial, or dialog at any given moment. It is important that this emotion be communicated to the player so that Liz and the player can start to build a relationship. So the first thing was to create an additive animation to throw on top of her idle base pose. Some examples are below. The first being her generic idle base pose, then angry, determined, and after combat pose.

http://mangagil.com/images/IdleBases.jpg

As you can see, the main difference in the emotion besides the facial pose is her arms and head. Those were the restrictions we chose to adhere to in order to use the same transition animations across all of her emotions. Otherwise, the number of animations would jump tremendously.

The next thing was to add different fidgets to Liz. Fidgets acted as simple flavor animations that punctuated what emotion Liz was in. It could have been anything from looking at her fingernails in boredom to swinging her arms in excitement or looking around in fear. There were two different types of fidgets, upper body and full body, each having their own pros and cons. The upper body fidget was able to play while Liz was standing still, as well as walking around, but we were limited to only animating her arms and head. The full body fidget was only able to play while Liz was standing still. However, since it was a full body animation, we had the ability to make the fidget more expressive by allowing her to shift weight from one leg to another, move her feet, and animate her torso in addition to just the arms and head. The fidgets were weighted so that bigger ones played less but had a bigger impact and smaller ones played more to keep Liz engaged in the emotion she was supposed to be in. The more and longer Liz was in a particular emotion, we decided to add more fidgets than those that were only in small or short sections. The video below demonstrates these different fidgets working together on the beach in Boardwalk. Notice some of the fidgets are labeled generic, meaning they can be used across multiple emotions. Some are labeled pinky awareness. These were animations where we wanted the player to realize Liz was missing a pinky, for reasons explained at the end of the game. Some were labeled happy. In context of the game, Liz was freed from her tower and she now thinks she’s heading to Paris, which she has always dreamed of.

There were two cool things that grew out of fidgets in the emotion system. The first was the ability to have Liz look exhausted or relieved, as a transition out of combat, which made it less jarring to go back to her emotion. For example, if Liz was happy before combat was initiated and she needed to be happy after combat was over, it would look weird after the last enemy was killed for Liz to go immediately to a happy state without some type of acknowledgement of what had just previously happened. The after combat emotion allowed Liz to have a stepping stone back to her intended emotion. The second thing was the ability to put a lantern in Liz’s hand and use the fidgets as if she was using the lantern to look around Hall of Heroes in Boardwalk. The video below demonstrates the after combat emotion and Hall of Heroes emotion.

Keep in mind these emotional fidgets served as a subtle way to keep Liz alive and interesting, so that whenever the player happened to stumble upon them, they could appreciate her a little more and hopefully build an emotional connection with her.

Animation video reference fun

IG Animators video reference fun from Jonathan Mangagil on Vimeo.

It was an awesome experience to work with some amazing animators. While backing up my work I came across a bunch of video reference that needed to be shown so we can always remember these fun and crazy times. You might be able to recognize some seems, but I’ll upload another video with more reference and side by side comparisons if I can fraps them. Enjoy!