Sims 4: Principles of Animation


Social Circles

Now, this next bit stuck in our heads. There's a science behind Social Circles that I had never considered, but the Animations team did, in a big way!

Knowing there was a social gathering coming up, the team hid a camera in the Atrium at EA Redwood Shores to capture the crowd and then study the way social groups behaved. The results were fascinating. We saw that a group of 4 people formed a circle facing each other to talk. If one of them left, after around 10 seconds the remaining 3 subconsciously adjusted sideways to form a triangle, closing the circle. If someone came over and joined them, the group opened up to allow them to slowly (but by no means immediately) integrate into the group. Interestingly, during this filming we saw one of the team telling a story and getting quite animated with his arms as he did so. This is the exact same animation that we saw during the storytelling demo earlier, as we then saw both the animation and the real video played side by side, we could see they used this actual footage to create one of the storytelling animations in game!

It was also clear that as different people in the group spoke, people didn't adjust their feet to face them as Sims do currently, they just turn their body slightly to face the person 'shoulder on'.

And so Sims in TS4 will act in exactly the same way, just turning the upper part of their body keeping their feet firmly on the ground. I created these mock-ups in TS3 for you to see. A group of 4 Sims will socially interact in a circle in Sims 4, but if one of the Sims leaves you can watch as the group shuffles around very slightly to close the social circle.

New animations also mean that if a Sim is sitting while interacting with a standing Sim they will actually look up or down to face the other

After this session I went out to the show floor at Gamescom to meet some of the fans at the Sims 4 booth. While standing there we found ourselves analysing our social circle and watching the way people joined and left, and how the group adjusted when that happened. And that’s exactly what we saw EA studying at their campus in Redwood Shores.

Multi Tasking is something I have touched on already and Marion was keen to show us many of the ways this enhances the game. We saw a Sim running on a treadmill while still continuing a conversation with another Sim, and looking at others as they entered the room. These slight and seemingly insignificant changes all come together to make everything look and feel more lifelike, breaking away from the restrictions in realism we see in game today. I started asking myself whether or not I wanted the game to get too much like real life but actually, these are things that I find myself criticising about games today. I think we only notice it because in real life we expect things to be this way. In game, our senses are thrown by Sims not reacting the way we expect them to from our everyday lives. I think it's something you miss because it’s not there, and might not even notice when it is (had I not pointed it out to you).

Lip Flap (stop sniggering at the back!) is the technical term used for the lip-synching process in game. EA claim to have put a lot of work into this area as well in an attempt to make the speech look less 'dubbed', as though Sims are talking a different language to what we are hearing. What we saw was impressive but this build of the game was far from complete where sound files were concerned!

So what isn't any better? Well, Marion did touch on a few issues they had and one of them is a popular question in the community that I've been biting my tongue on for weeks, due to the information embargo! Variable Sim height is greatly requested, as people get tired of seeing every adult Sim the exact same height. The reason for this is very much an animation issue we are told, with boundaries being very precisely measured for animations so that they don't 'clip' or 'bleed' into other game elements. Stretching and reducing Sim sizes breaks animations and although this is something the team really wanted to see (and still do in future) it was outside the boundaries this time around. It was explained that simulating physics on other things like hair have a massive negative impact with a complex simulation running in the background and it's really a resource trade-off.

Well I know this article was a bit geekier than others and I thank you for reading it all, I hope you found it interesting. That's the last of my Sims 4 hands-on articles in which I've told pretty much everything I saw and learned about the game while at Sims Camp. I'm sure there will be more information released in good time and I look forward to attending future events where we get to share more juicy details with our community on the build up to release next year.

As always, feel free to comment here, post in our Sims 4 Forums and please also share this article with your friends and communities on Facebook etc.

Hope you enjoyed it.

/Steve

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