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to the 1,245th
edition
of Loading...

Loading... is the premier daily
MMORPG news, coverage, and
commentary newsletter, only from Ten Ton Hammer.

Characters in MMORPGs might look "next-gen," but beauty is only pixel deep. Character movement and animation is one area where MMOGs consistently receive low marks. Is it the multitude of races, each with different strides and gaits? The fact that players spend hours upon hours in that third-person, "monkey in a tree" perspective, noting all the oddities? Or is it also an uncanny valley thing, something buried deep within our psyche? We'll examine the issue in today's Loading... Pinocchio's Revenge.

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The Pulse

You vote with what you
view at Ten Ton Hammer, and the
result is the Ten Ton Pulse ( href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/thepulse/" target="_blank">What
is The Pulse?).

Here
are today's top 5 Pulse results:

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow">World
    of Warcraft
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/lotro">Lord of the Rings Online (UP 4)
  3. href="http://tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/117">Dungeons
    and Dragons Online
  4. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eve">EVE Online

  5. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eq2">Aion style="text-decoration: underline;"> (UP 2)
  6. style="text-decoration: underline;">

Biggest
movers today
:

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/rom">Fallen Earth
    (UP 17 to #10)
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/34">Dragon Age: Origins (UP 8 to #7)
  3. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/117">Allods Online (UP 7 to #19)
size="-1">Recent Releases
  • size="-1">9/22
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/254">Aion
    (release date) size="-1">
  • size="-1">10/8
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2129">Cities
    XL (release date)
  • size="-1">11/3
    - Dragon
    Age:
    Origins
    (release date)
  • size="-1">11/10
    - Final
    Fantasy
    XI Ultimate
    Collection
    (release date)
  • size="-1">12/1
    - href="http://www.lotro.com/gameinfo/464-answer-the-call-of-war">LotRO:
    Siege of Mirkwood (expansion)
  • size="-1">12/1
    - href="http://www.eveonline.com/Dominion/">EVE
    Online: Dominion (expansion)
  • size="-1">12/2
    - DOFUS
    2.0

    (update)
  • size="-1">12/15
    - href="http://everquest.station.sony.com/everquest.vm">EverQuest:
    Underfoot (expansion)

size="-1">Upcoming
Releases

  • size="-1">1/26
    -
    href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2389">Mass
    Effect 2
    (release date)
  • size="-1">2/1
    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/926">Global
    Agenda
    (release date)
  • size="-1">2/2 size="-1">
    - Star
    Trek Online

    (release date)
  • size="-1">2/16
    - href="http://everquest2.station.sony.com/expansions/sentinelsfate/index.vm">EverQuest
    2: Sentinel's Fate (expansion)
  • size="-1">March
    2010

    - href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/998">APB



Loading... Daily

Pinocchio's story has interesting paralells to how graphics have evolved in computer and video games. In Carlo Lorenzini's original tale, Pinocchio started life as a block of firewood that cried out when a carpenter tried to shape it into a table leg. Geppetto won the block in a fistfight (no joke), wanting to fashion a marionette, and we all know the rest of the story of the luckless, inescapably honest puppet who wanted to become a boy.

In the early days, we were impressed with how chunky monochrome and 8-bit pixels could convince us that they had signs of life. We personified a pellet-munching PacMan, our pulse escalated as we swung in Pitfall, we somehow identified with a bloblike chef perilously slicing up sandwich ingredients in BurgerTime, and then the NES brought an Italian plumber to the mainstream. Geppetto plied his craft - pixel depth increased, video resolutions increased, and soon enough we were having discussions about the uncanny valley - that lonesome graphical vale where the virtually real seemed increasingly unreal.

In the process of ever increasing graphical quality, our imagination has become far less active than in the 8-bit days, where the game inside your head was much more fun than the game on the screen. Pinocchio, like the stories of the Golem of Prague or Frankenstein, has at its core the idea that we can create something as real and lifelike as we are. That we look for life where there is none and is convincing to the point that an imaginative escape starts to assume reality (and loses a lot of the original fun in the process) is how I think the Pinocchio story has subtly taken its revenge on our gaming perspective, making for a lot of jaded gamers upset that their games don't give them more.

Fortunately, the imagination-driven fun of MMORPGs has a built-in safety mechanism. The player community around you constantly reminds you that these are social games, not ultimately meaningless single-player (to recall a Woody Allen gem) orgasmatrons. But more than one person has told me that they can pick MMORPG winners and losers not so much from how characters look, but how they move. Pinocchio might have looked real enough; anyone that's been to a Madame Toussauds knows that waxform characters can be made to look stunningly realistic, but it's movement, or animation, that largely indicates life. The Latin root of words like animation and even animal, "anima," literally means life, the vital principle.

And animation is one category in which MMORPGs consistently receive low marks. "Wooden" animation (the term makes me wonder if I'm the first that has made the Pinocchio analogy) has been the bane of more than one game, perhaps the most notorious of which was the stumpy character motions in Auto Assault. Pirates of the Burning Sea, which relied much more on character animation than AA, had similar problems until a new art director smoothed things out a few months after launch. Even World of Warcraft isn't immune - people still feel Tauren and Gnomes move at different speeds (Tauren take fewer, longer strides while Gnomes' legs move faster to cover the same distance).

Most recently, The Lord of the Rings Online players were confused when animations were tuned to cue directly from actions rather than waiting for the previous animation to complete. So much so, in fact, that Turbine introduced settings to tweak combat animations to their previously lulling pace, even though the "Siege of Mirkwood" animation change made for snappier, more reactive combat.

Convincing animation a serious problem for not only MMORPGs, but any game that spends significant time in third-person perspective, where players spend a lot of time observing how their characters move. We're instinctively tuned to look for movement problems - a wounded animal is easier to track and hunt, a limping enemy can be knocked off balance more easily. "Next gen" console games have dodged this bullet by keeping their heroes humanoid, something that also weighs in favor of games like Aion and Champions Online, but fantasy MMORPGs typically don't have that luxury.

So what's the solution? Some problems, like the Tauren / Gnome disjunct mentioned above, can't be solved, they're just a matter of familiarizing the playerbase with how different sized characters would move in a mythical world. As for smoothing and perfecting character movement, I would hope that developers put just as much care into how characters look as how they move. After the character creation screen, you'll spend little time studying your cheekbone height and nose bridge width, but a lot of time observing how your character moves.

Has Pinocchio taken his revenge on your gaming perspective? What MMOs do the best job with character movement? Which are still the worst? Share your thoughts in the Loading... forum and have a great weekend!


Shayalyn's Epic Thread of
the Day




From our PC & Console Games (Non-MMO) forum



Disappointment sets in!


Khalus, our volunteer Final Fantasy XIV guru, is also following the
single-player console game, Final Fantasy XIII. Yesterday, he posted
his disappointment in finding that there would be no death penalty in
the game. "When you're defeated you can choose to continue, but instead
of being returned to your last save point and losing all progress since
then, you're re-spawned next to the enemy or boss that you lost to!" he
says.

Is a game without a death penalty too dumbed down? Do you
feel differently about death penalties in console titles as opposed to
MMOGs? Chat about it!



==============================

Awesome Quotes from the
Epic Thread




"I like that you get respawned next to the boss, that way you can easily get killed again seconds later. lol"



- kitsunegirl



==============================



Have you spotted an Epic Thread on our forums? Tell
us
!


3 new Ten Ton Hammer
features today! 28 in January! 28 in
2010!

Exclusive
Features and Original Guides Today at
Ten Ton
Hammer

  • Star Trek Online Closed Beta Giveaway
    http://www.tentonhammer.com/giveaways

    You've been asking for it and here it is! Be part of the final closed beta weekend playtest of Star Trek Online with a key from Ten Ton Hammer! This key also entitles you to participate in the open beta from January 12th to the 26th as well, but quantities are extremely limited. Act fast to get early testing access to the Final Frontier!

  • Three Kingdoms Online Gift Pack Giveaway
    http://www.tentonhammer.com/giveaways/TKO_giftpack

    Ten Ton Hammer and Koramgame are proud to present Three Kingdoms Online
    "newbie packs" for our viewers, each containing a variety of items to make your
    level up experience easier. Deeply rooted in the traditional culture, Three
    Kingdoms Online unfolds an epic warring era between different kingdoms of a
    divided China. It borrows from elements of RPG, strategy and management games
    and combines into a free-to-play browser game. Start your romance of Three
    Kingdoms Online with one of these special gift packs! 

  • Aion Spiritmaster Stigma List
    http://www.tentonhammer.com/aion/guides/spiritmaster/stigmalist

    Stigmas
    are Aion's way of diversifying and making your character a unique
    snowflake. Will you equip stigmas to debilitate? Stigmas to damage?
    Stigmas to make people log their friend's account, create a character,
    and get it to the appropriate level just to send you a series of tells
    that amounts to "Screw your fear spam" ? Take your pick from our list
    of Spiritmaster Stigmas!


Today's
Hottest Content

  1. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78752">Global
    Agenda
    href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78752">
    Mission Types Interview with Exec. Producer Todd Harris
  2. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78807">Star
    Trek Online
    Beta Journal #3 -
    Rising Through The Ranks
  3. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78791">The
    Anatomy of
    Fleets in EVE
    Online
  4. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78760">Dungeons
    & Dragons Online
    :
    Eberron Unlimited Review
  5. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78776">New
    Hopes - A
    First Look at style="font-weight: bold;">Allods
    Online
  6. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/co/editorial/endgameimpressions">Champions
    Online
    Impressions Part 3
    – End Game
  7. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/raids/icc/plagueworks">WoW
    - Guide to Ice Crown Citadel - The Plagueworks
  8. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/awards/2009/best_of">The
    Ten
    Ton Hammer Best of 2009 Awards
  9. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/aion/guides/new/dodgingpvp">Aion
    Carebear's Guide to Dodging
    PvP href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/editorial/2009yearinreview">
  10. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78574">Going
    Klingon -
    A href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78574">Star
    Trek
    Online
    href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/78574">
    Q&A
    with Zeke
    Sparkes

Thanks
for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer
network!

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle
and the Ten Ton Hammer team


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Pirates of the Burning Sea Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Jeff
Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.

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