Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ace Attorney's resourcefulness as an advantage

The Ace Attorney series of games lets you play as a lawyer/detective to investigate and solve mysteries, usually murders. The series is well known for its over-the-top characters and ridiculous dramatic twists.

I recently finished playing the first three Ace Attorney games, and I was impressed with how much they did with what seemed like not very many art assets. The first Ace Attorney episode has 11 characters, only 3 of which are exclusive to that episode. Pheonix Wright himself has about 10 different poses (with variants in how his mouth moves and whether or not he's moving). Most characters you talk to/cross-examine have around 6 different poses. I guess looking at it now, that does seem like a lot of art, especially if one person had to make it all, but it's not an impossible amount. But for a whole team of artists, that's totally doable! The different poses really show the character's personality too. The bizarre personalities and artwork are half the fun!

I found it interesting how the different poses could be combined to create different impressions. While a character might only have 6 poses, different combinations (surprised/worried, confident/thinking) make it feel not as limited. And usually, the character has one or two poses they only use rarely, which also helps give an impression that they have a wide variety (i.e., you don't see a character's whole spectrum of poses in just one conversation). The pose animations are usually super simple too, like one arm moving back and forth. The paucity of poses actually make the characters stronger because they have a few readily recognizable poses, which are carefully tailored to reflect their personality. This contrasts a lot of 3D art where half the characters have the same body and gait. With 2D art it is easier to make a variety of body types, tics, postures, and mannerisms.