When I envisioned making an app of the card game Quirk! I had to think of a way to replace acting out characters and that came in the form of animation.
This isn't so much a problem for me as I studied 3D CGI Modelling and Animation at University, the problem came when I had to develop my characters for 2D animation and that meant learning how I would pull my frames together to create something convincing.
My plan for animation in the game was to get highly detailed and create some beautiful pieces that would bring our characters to life. However I quickly worked out that to produce that amount of artwork for this game would take me more months than the app was being developed in. It would leave me no time for working extremely lean by creating a lot of our other content in-house.
This is our balancing act between time and money. We have a small budget, enough to hire a developer and a few small pieces of commissioned work but nothing extravagant enough to pay for the "vision" I had in my head. That means getting to work with the skills and time we do have and working as efficiently as possible.
Making a Commitment
This means making a commitment to what our animation specifications actually are. To do this I had to do a fair bit of math before I started any of the work.
Originally, the scope started with a 2 second animation for each character. In UK standard animation that is 48 frames on ones or 24 frames on twos for each character.
If we were working on twos, we'd have to create 24 drawings and each drawing takes between 15/30 mins to create. That means one roughed out animation for one character would take 12 hours to create.
From there we would need to render every drawing for the final animation, increasing the workload up by 12 additional hours. Now we have to block out 24 hours in the diary for just one animation.
To work out our true hours of work, we take the number 24 and we times it against 13. That's how many characters are in one deck of Quirk!.
What we end up with is 312 hours to create one deck of animation for this app. Since there are 168 hours in a week (without sleeping and I won't do the maths on that) we'll round up our workload to 3 weeks of non-stop animation for one deck. That would maybe be okay if we were only producing one deck and no other animations in the app.
Our commitment to launching the game is to launch with 4 decks. Now we'd be working 12 weeks purely on animation and nothing else in the business. This is not ideal when you have limited human resources.
That's why I changed the scope for the animation brief from 24 frames down to just 4 frames that would have the ability to work on a loop. This does mean that our animations aren't as smooth as we like but for speed and efficiently of producing content, this was the best method.
And it's not the end either!
The best thing about working on an app and launching to an app store, is we have the ability to upgrade our work at a later date. When we can afford to hire the additional resources to make our game animation truly awesome.
How efficient can you really get?
Changing my scope was only the first step, secondly I had to work out the process I would use to develop all the characters.
The first deck took me 4 days to complete in it's entirety. That's not bad considering it could have been 3 weeks worth of work for the one deck and now we're down to just 16 days for 4 decks of animation.
However, I managed to find more ways I could speed up my work flow because for me, time is money (it's sort of a theme in this dev blog series).
First of all, I started working with an art intern who was going to help me work on the second deck of animation, this meant I only had 2 decks to animate (and also create all the new characters for). I knew I could give myself 4 days per deck to make this happen and added an additional day for contingency. This gave me 9 days to create 2 decks of animation, 26 characters, 4 frames a character, 104 drawings and 104 renderings, totalling 208 illustrations.
Unfortunately it didn't work out with my art intern and luckily she told me early, but now I needed to fit in 38 animations into my 9 day window of work. I had no choice but to find a way to become hyper focused and efficient within my work.
Luckily I only had 12 animations to do from that deck because I spent time creating a process video of how we make our animations. (see below)
Overall I managed to animate all 38 characters, 304 illustrations in a record 4 days.
I managed to increase my efficiency by making core decisions early on in the drawing process. Knowing exactly what I wanted to draw in my minds eye and sticking with that rough sketch all the way through to rendering the final illustrations.
I had freed up an additional 5 days in my schedule and allowed myself to work on other parts of the business that needed my time and energy.
At this stage, I am happy with the animations I've created for the app, they will be novel to all the new players of the app and eventually we could update them with proper animations and give the game even more life!
From the Creative Director,
If you got this far, why not join our mailing list and be notified about our next product launch:
Or interested in how I made the Quirk! card game concept popular; head over to Amazon to check out my book Emmerse Yourself: How to go it alone and break the mould. A story and business book about working alone in the toys and games industry.
A game full of sounds, actions and mischief to make your family roar with laughter. Great for children as young as 5 and adults of any age who love to unleash their inner child!