In my spare time I love dedicating some energy to Unreal Engine 4. Today, I’m releasing my first UE4 plugin, Simple Procedural Walk.
I’ve had an idea for a game for quite a while (on Steam, Subtype Grounds), which basically takes you in a cooperative journey to destroy the A.I. responsible for robots taking over the world. That’s another story, but while I was animating the killer robots for this game, I found out about how procedural animations can really help in making their movement realistic and interesting, so I decided to give that a try. But… What is procedural animation?
“Standard” animations are generally the result of pre-saved animations, whether these are designed by hand with tools such as Blender, or recorded by using motion capture systems. These animations are then applied to your models and played back, bringing your characters to life.
“Procedural” animations, on the contrary, are not pre-made or pre-recorded: everything is computed in real time based on the character position and their environment. This has numerous advantages. For instance in a walking cycle, the feet of your character will perfectly adapt to the terrain, and they will not slide in unexpected ways. They can even move apart to avoid holes in the ground, or look for places were they can properly get a foothold. The body can be moved so that it gets the proper inclination, and so on.
These two techniques (pre-saved and procedural) are often combined, for instance a motion-captured human walking cycle might be coupled with procedural elements so that, for instance, the feet adapt to the terrain. This gives the advantage of a more natural, organic looking cycle, while supporting the character adaptation to their surroundings. However, pre-saved animations can only be modified up to a certain point while, on the other hand, procedural animations have their own limitations (for instance, it is difficult to achieve properly looking organic movements).
For my robots, procedural animation is a perfect fit, since it is particularly good looking for robotic or insectoid creatures.
Here’s Simple Procedural Walk trailer video:
It is interesting to see how much control you can have on the movement itself with procedural animations.
For example, it is possible to considerably change the overall feel of the movement by having the character unplant its feet at different times. This video demonstrates how a single parameter in the plugin can change the look of a walk cycle:
If you are interested, you may check Simple Procedural Walk out on the Unreal Engine 4 marketplace.