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I am building a strategy game in 2.5D, similar to Age of Empires, but will be a bugs war instead of humans.

I am in the process of building animation, I hired a graphic designer and UI developer, the game will be built using HTML5. I have a graphic designer to build the animation in graphic designer and the UI developer will take this PSD work and convert it to HTML5/CSS3 animation.

As the game will be in 2.5D, then the characters movement animation is expected to be from different view (right/left/back/front/diagonal-left(back/front)/diagonal-right(back/front) as in Age of Empires. So, animation of walking, fighting, resource gathering, initiate modes should address all this views.

What I want is to correctly define the structure of drawing the character in Photoshop or Illustrator so it simplify the animation process for the UI developer.

So far, I have animation built on photoshop for right/left view for a bug walking, each part of character body has it's own body, and the graphic designer build multiple frames to create the animation in prototype.

What I see is that the amount of work to produce a walking animated photoshop design is huge/time-consuming. And now I also need the character graphics in different view (front/back .. etc), and that means lots and lots of layers.

Is this the only solution I can go with to build the animation? Or there is other solution? I was thinking of building 3D bug animation that can be rotated in different views and axes and UI developer is free then to generate images from the view they want, but I am not graphic designer and I don't know if this a valid solution.

Any idea?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've been involved with real time graphics in 2D and 3D, including developing Virtual Reality games. My own preference would be to invest in the 3D side as in the long run this will speed things up for you and give you more flexibility if you need to create and adjust for multiple views from different angles.

It should allow for easier control of continuity between frames when animating. You'll also be able to control lighting (eg flatter lighting to ironically get back to the 2D feel) and other environment factors in order to achieve the desired effects. Then in the future you can easily alter views or change the character in some way that allows for consistent results - eg if you needed a top down view for a game-map.

Also think about the possible side-benefits of having a 3D model - such as marketing, website graphics, media and print, etc.

Beware though that 3d modeler and 2D graphic designers typically encompass different skill sets. Don't necessarily expect one to be able to switch easily to the other!

Also - before you decide - trial the process and ensure that you have an efficient process pipeline from concept to modeler to developer to product.

[EDIT] Worth some consideration is whether you actually want to pre-animate all the characters and views up front or instead build an animation suite of some kind at point of interaction, ie animation/rendering on demand, which can then be applied to any character with the ability to change appearance, perspective etc as needed. Ultimately this is the route Age of Empires went down - incorporating a physics engine.

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Thanks for this excellent response! In regards to your Edit comment, what do you mean by "build animation suite ..etc" would you please provide more details or an article/resource about this subject? –  Ahmad Alkhawaja Jun 20 '11 at 19:31
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I was suggesting that in the same way that 3D games make use of the hardware to render a scene in real time with millions of triangles, that you find or develop a 2D games engine that takes account of character's location, distance, environment, phase of motion, user's view point etc and renders the scene real time in a suitable 2D format. In this way your designers can determine how characters look and behave and how they are drawn and animated, but the rendering engine actually draws the lines, shapes, fills at their relative position, scale and orientation - real time . –  Roger Attrill Jun 20 '11 at 20:32
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I know you said HTML5 and CSS3 - but see these questions: stackoverflow.com/questions/221710/… stackoverflow.com/questions/675602/… –  Roger Attrill Jun 20 '11 at 20:35
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