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Professional animators comment on weird faces in 'Mass Effect Andromeda'

Why it matters to you

Mass Effect Andromeda facial animations may be weird, but it's not because its artists aren't talented -- there's just too much dialogue to handcraft.

Professional animators have started to weigh in on just why some of the animations within Mass Effect Andromeda look so weird, and they think it’s because some of them simply haven’t been animated by hand. Some have suggested that it could be the fault of “procedural solutions” rather than the developers themselves.

Mass Effect Andromeda has more dialogue than any of its predecessors. With more than 1,200 characters you can interact with through in-depth dialogue wheels and many more NPCs with shallower conversational options besides, it’s perhaps understandable why not every line of dialogue in the game was animated by hand. But that could be why we’re seeing some bizarre facial movements from certain characters.

Jonathan Cooper is an animator at Uncharted developer, Naughty Dog who previously worked on Mass Effect 1 and 2. He weighed in on the conversation on Twitter (via PCGamesN), stating that: “RPGs offer a magnitude more volume of content and importantly, player/story choice. It’s simply a quantity vs quality tradeoff.”

Because of that, as the quantity rises, especially for a game with as many vocal characters as the latest Mass Effect, they may have used “pre-created animations together,” in a sequence, he said. “Like DJs with samples and tracks.”

Other professionals like Simon Ugner, who currently works at Phoenix Labs and has experience at EA and Square Enix, said (via Gamasutra) that “procedural solutions,” are a necessity for such games, utilizing audio waveforms to automate the creation of facial animations. Unfortunately, he said, that can sometimes lead to a “robotic performance.”

Flame in the Flood creator Gwen Fry suggested that the problem with Andromeda animations may not be to do with artistry, but bugs in the automated animation system.

“I suspect that a lot of the implementation was not even done by an animator. Frequently you will have an intern or junior simply copy-paste the written script into FaceFX as a starting point,” she said.

Their talk also highlighted how often, on projects of this size, there is simply no way for lead animators or even anyone on the art team to get a good look at the small-time cut scenes. Those aspects of the game will only be experienced by a minority of players, so receive much less of a personal touch.

When you throw in the fact that the game needs to be localized to several different languages, on top of having tens of thousands of lines of dialogue, it’s perhaps understandable why certain parts may go awry, they said.

Have you guys run into any examples of the bugs people have been seeing in Mass Effect Andromeda?