I recently downloaded a game for iOS called Clumsy Ninja, I was initially intrigued about the style and how the animations would look. After playing it for a little bit I was really impressed with the overall aesthetic style and the animations, I decided to look into how the animation was created and found out that it is actually AI based.
"Normally, game designers have to create painstaking animations that model every possible kind of behavior. They predefine what a game character will do based on certain inputs. But with Clumsy Ninja, NaturalMotion’s designers don’t do that. Rather, they create the character from the bones up. They do that just once. They imbue the body with physics, based on the Euphoria engine. So the arms will move like arms and limbs will behave in a realistic fashion. They marry that to artificial intelligence, which tells the character what to do in a given situation. Then they essentially let the character loose in a game world and see what happens.
With canned animations, all you can do is play back an animation in response to something the gamer does. Clumsy Ninja can generate procedural, or on-the-fly, animations, based on actions taken by the A.I."The standard of the animation is something you could see within short animations or even feature length films. There are some places where you can tell that it's based on physics simulation, however the majority of it I was very impressed by. It's interesting to see that this high standard can be achieved with AI and physics and that each animation is calculated in realtime. Seeing how far this can go in the near future will be great to see and what it can be expanded to from just a mobile game. As great as it is to see this technology, the animator inside of me is a bit sad that this wasn't keyframed. With the type of interaction that it entails, I can understand why it made sense to go for more physics an AI, but it would have been great to see even small sections or movements that were keyframed.