EA Wants To Automate Game Animations Using Skeletal Movement

Electronic Arts is possibly working on an automated system for enhanced animation generation in video games using motion mapping with local bone phases, according to a recently published patent.

Animations
Source: Electronic Arts (EA)/LinkedIn

Rundown:

  • Electronic Arts has recently published a patent for a system to automate video game animations using motion mapping with local bone phases for enhanced animation generation.
  • The system takes information about how the characters should move and then uses it to make them move exactly like that based on their joint and skeletal movement (local bone phases), thereby generating realistic animations.
  • The information about the character’s position and movements is represented as a two-dimensional vector, which contains information about the position, orientation, velocity, and acceleration of the character’s bones.
  • The character’s movements may also include information about any objects the character is interacting with, and the updated animation control information for the next frame includes the updated information about the character’s movements and their interactions with any objects.

Electronic Arts was recently awarded a patent titled “Enhanced animation generation based on motion matching using local bone phases,” filed in August 2021 under Electronic Arts Inc. The patent, published earlier this week, describes a system to automate video game animations using motion mapping with local bone phases for enhanced animation generation. The system accesses the first animation control information and executes a local motion-matching process to generate the second pose of a character model for the second video game frame. The system uses local phase information to enhance the temporal alignment and segmentation of realistic motion and generates realistic motion for character models based on automated analysis of motion capture information, and the resulting animations are responsive to real-time user input. In simple words, the system takes information about how the characters should move and then uses it to make them move exactly like that based on their joint and skeletal movement (local bone phases), thereby generating realistic animations.

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Block diagram of an example dynamic animation generation system generating a character pose for a frame of an electronic game. | Source: Patent Public Search

“Systems and methods are provided for enhanced animation generation based on using motion mapping with local bone phases. An example method includes accessing first animation control information generated for a first frame of an electronic game including local bone phases representing phase information associated with contacts of a plurality of rigid bodies of an in-game character with an in-game environment,” reads the abstract for the patent. “Executing a local motion matching process for each of the plurality of local bone phases and generating a second pose of the character model based on the plurality of matched local poses for a second frame of the electronic game.”

According to the claims made by the patent, the system involves accessing information about a first frame of a particular video game, including information about the pose of a character in the video game and details about the character’s contact with the environment. The system then matches this information to existing animation data to generate a new pose for the character in the next frame, which is then used to create animation control information and render the next frame. The information about the character’s position and movements is represented as a two-dimensional vector, which contains information about the position, orientation, velocity, and acceleration of the character’s bones. The system selects the new pose for the character by comparing the two-dimensional vector for the current pose to the two-dimensional vectors for other existing poses in the animation data.

Animations
Block diagram of the dynamic animation generation system determining local bone phases based on motion capture information. | Source: Patent Public Search

Additionally, the system identifies the type of motion the character performs to help determine the new pose generated by blending the matched poses with a global pose. “The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein determining motion matching criteria comprises identifying a motion type associated with the second pose of the in-game character,” it explains. Furthermore, the character’s movements may also include information about any objects the character is interacting with, and the updated animation control information for the next frame includes the updated information about the character’s movements and their interactions with any objects.

With the increasing magnitude and complexity of video games, automation has become a necessary means for video game developers to develop video games more quickly and efficiently. As the patent mentions, “To create realistic movement, an electronic game designer may therefore adjust positions of the above-described objects included in the skeleton. For example, the electronic game designer may create realistic running via adjustment of specific objects which form a character model’s legs. This manual tuning technique to enable movement of a character can result in substantial complexity and significant expenditure of time by developers.” In October, we found a published patent from Electronic Arts describing an automated controller configuration recommendation system that adjusts controller settings according to the player’s skill level, which not only makes it convenient for players to tune controller settings according to their capabilities and needs, but it also streamlines the process for video game developers who may not have to address players with specific needs, such as disabilities, manually.

It seems like the company is focusing more on similar automated systems to simplify the video game development process for companies and indie developers alike using artificial intelligence, and an automated system for enhanced animation generation in video games will certainly facilitate doing so. However, it’s important to note that a patent application does not mean the system or method may be implemented. While it’s unclear when (or if) this system would be made publicly available by Electronic Arts, the prospect of such a system is rather promising for indie developers or relatively small video game companies that do not have the resources to create large-scale and realistic video games. Hence, this system could minimise the requirements for creating a high-profile video game while significantly reducing the time taken to develop them by both major companies and small video game developers.

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