EIGHT Games THAT embraced THIS little-used ANIMATION TECHNIQUE
dragon’s lair (1983)
like much of the disney animation that inspired it, Dragon’s Lair used a lot of rotoscoping techniques to make sure that the flow of movement was as close to human as possible, while still adding plenty of flair and style to the overall experience. as a largely animated experience, there were a lot more frames to fill than in your usual game experience of the time and that meant an even bigger challenge.
an early fighting game and an early release from Jordan Mechner, whose work comes back to rotoscoped animation a few times as we’ll see shortly. For Karateka, it was largely about making sure that all of the martial arts moves, performed by Mechner’s karate instructor and then animated over the top. With only eight frames of animation the effect is particularly impressive.
prince of persia (1989)
Jordan Mechner was back and with an even more ambitious action experience in Prince Of Persia. Its use of rotoscoping to create the most realistic running and jumping animations possible (not to mention the climbing, which we’ve always rather liked) is probably one of the most famous examples of the form. some of it was captured from videos of Mechner’s brother as well as the movie The Adventures Of Robin Hood.
Before Another World there was Future Wars, a game on which eric Chahi was artist and paul Cuisset was designer and while Chahi made his adventure, Cuisset worked on Flashback. and like Chahi, he moved towards rotoscoping to give his fantastic adventure some realistic feeling animations and grounding. The final game is actually an interesting middle-ground between the sci-fi world building of Another World and the action of Prince Of Persia.
hotel dusk: room 215 (2007)
Ten years after The Last Express another adventure game finally came along and embraced rotoscoping for its animation, this time bringing a scratchy sketch aesthetic into the mix, which gave Hotel Dusk a unique feel. This was combined with 3d objects and more traditionally rendered backgrounds to give the whole game an interesting multimedia feel that combined nicely with the way it asked players to hold the ds like a book.
Another World (1991)
eric Chahi used rotoscoping largely in the small cutscenes of the game, such as recording the drifting of a toy car to create the scene of lester arriving at his lab or recording himself walking away from camera to create a similar action for the lead character. The walking, running and jumping animations all carry a similar realistic feel to Prince Of Persia too. It helped give the experience a grounding against the fantastical backdrop Chahi had created.
the last express (1997)
Mechner turned to rotoscoping again and with fantastic effect for this adventure game inspired by art Nouveau. a 22-day shoot was required with actors in full makeup and costume to help to capture every facet of movement and emotion for the game. Then a selection of frames were kept, desaturated, put through a line-drawing program and finally painted over. The final effect gives the whole game a very strange but engaging quality.
the Banner saga (2014)
probably our most recent example of really great implementation of rotoscoping, The Banner Saga created some wonderful transitional, attack and idling animations based on recordings. This gives every movement in the game a sense of weight, which plays brilliantly against the medieval setting and the weaponry being used. There’s an additional brutality that comes from each blow thanks in large part to the style of animation employed.