Special Case Animations II

by Ron Gilbert
Dec 14, 2015

This is a very exciting time for the project. We're about halfway done with all the rooms and it's time to start putting in what we call Special Case Animations™.

Maniac Mansion had no special case animations. Each of the characters had a four direction walk and talking and that was it. You can famously see this when someone climbs a ladder or uses the weight machine in Ted's room. No animation.

The Indiana and the Last Crusade adventure game was the first place we used special case animation. The first one that went in was where Indy jumps down into a large pit. Steve Purcell did the animation and it was stunning to see the characters do something that wasn't walking and talking. It was also an extravagance. Disk space was very limited and these SCA's (as the pros call them) took a lot of space, so we had to "choose carefully" (ha ha).  LOOM had quite a few of them and Monkey Island built on that, but they were still a luxury.

Fast forward to the year of 2015 and disk space is - for all intents and purposes - unlimited. We can have an many special case animations as we want.  Well, almost and not really.

They take time to animate, so we still have to be a little picky, but not overly.  Each character has three reach animations: reach low, reach med and reach high.  For a lot of cases, we can just use one of these to avoid hand animating someone picking each and every object off the floor or a shelve. Reaching for a door knob isn't exactly an game defining animation, just the opposite, it's likely to be forgotten as fast as it can play.

But for other animations that define moments in the game, it's important to animate them. Special Case Animations can show a lot about a character's personality and help set the tone for the game.

As the project comes to a close, we'll use any available animation time to go back and add animations where a simple reach just won't do.

- Ron

Carlo Valenti - Dec 14, 2015 at 15:30
Nice vomits!

Mcloud the Cowboy - Dec 14, 2015 at 15:31
Now that is some beautiful puking.

It is 8-bit, and still advanced.

Well done.

DanVzare - Dec 15, 2015 at 06:11
I'm pretty sure it's closer to 16-bit in graphics, than 8-bit.

Big Red Button - Dec 15, 2015 at 11:22
256 colors might be 8 bit. An 8 bit binary number has one of 256 different values: 2^8=256

Matthew - Dec 16, 2015 at 09:19
8-bit machines didn't generally have 8-bit graphics.  I'm not sure what the colour depth of 16-bit machines tended to be, but I'd guess they tended be 64 or 256 colours.

Allen - Dec 14, 2015 at 15:41
Something about the vomiting animations (and how they loop endlessly) makes me feel somewhat unwell... >.<

Stupid body being sympathetic to pixel art...

Christopher - Dec 14, 2015 at 15:51
That Ransome, what a dick.

finc - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:01
Hey Ron, great animations, I always think the SCAs in your past games were fantastically done especially considering the low pixel count. Do you think the characters will do 'something' if you just leave them idle for a while like so many 90s games did? Also, who came up for the drowned after 10 minutes joke in MI? Being called for dinner at that puzzle and returning to see the verbs changed to 'Bob' and 'Float' was one of the funniest things 12 year old me had ever seen. Also slight panic before remembering I'd saved the game before going away from the PC haha

Nor Treblig - Dec 16, 2015 at 02:27
Yes, they said there will be idle animations. The one above with Ray smoking is probably one.

This scene where he can drown was really a great easter egg!
They also remembered in MI2 that he can only hold his breath for 10 minutes.
I was sad they forgot about it in EMI, I left it running for hours just to be sure...

Marco Lizza - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:18
The from-the-side puke animations reminds me a lot of Guybrush's Spit Contest Failure(tm) in MI2 (one of the best SCA ever, in my opinion)... awesome...

Marco Lizza - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:20
... although the question is, why are the barfing?

Peter Campbell - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:27
They must've had an ipecac drinking contest like in Family Guy.

Marco Lizza - Dec 14, 2015 at 17:51
Ahahah! Hilariously trashy! :D

Diduz - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:22
Yeah, I see... SCAs... great pixel art... but still... all this puking is rather upsetting.

Farooq - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:43
Animations are real real swift. Im loving it. Octavi you da man!

Mattias Cedervall - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:50
I really like special case animations!

Cazzeris - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:51
Sadly, considering the superior number of playable characters TP will have, it won't surpass MI2's magnificence in this regard. That game's animations were all superbly crafted, and their distribution was so well-balanced that the player would rarely stop being surprised by Threepwood's vivacity.

But in TP, much effort will inevitably be spent on having parallel versions of similar animations for all the five characters, so it seems unlikely that this adventure game will feature an astonishing, continuous stream of unique animations comparable to the one the above-mentioned masterpiece had.

I'd love to be proven wrong, though. The increase in available disk space may end up being a nice advantage for TP, and so might be many other technological advancements.

Just remember to at least try to add some Purcell-esque unforgettable SCA's!

Ron Gilbert - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:59
I think you'll be proven wrong. There weren't that many special case animations in Monkey Island 2. Disk space was too limited. Go ahead, count them. I think you'll be surprised.

perc - Dec 14, 2015 at 18:15
I haven't counted them, but do think the range of the Guybrush sprites is quite impressive!

Ron Gilbert - Dec 14, 2015 at 18:18
Wow! Think of all the disk space that could have been saved if I had just cut the stupid monkey wrench puzzle.

Bogdan Barbu - Dec 14, 2015 at 21:04
Not that I can confirm whether this is the case but I suspect that your gripe with that puzzle is that it doesn't translate well into other languages; at the very least, I know it wouldn't make much sense in my native language. While this may be the case, it's also witty and funny, as was the "red herring" one from the first MI.

Even though I'm someone who appreciates the power of constraints, I'm a little sad that we probably won't see these types of puzzles anymore. I've heard that MI3 took a different approach with the song on the ship: they only cut it from the translated versions of the game. What do you think of that approach? Would it be unfair to the players of those versions?

Ron Gilbert - Dec 14, 2015 at 21:09
I don't want to cut puzzles from translated versions. If there was a puzzle (and good puzzle) that was a play on words, I'd want and work with the translator to come up with a variation that worked in the given language.

unwesen - Dec 15, 2015 at 05:26
Both the monkey wrench and red herring puzzles did not make much sense in my native language, but they had the benefit that when I played the game again in English, they were much funnier for discovering what they were all about. Playing those games in English was a very enjoyable part of my language learning, so I cannot be upset about those puzzles.

Nor Treblig - Dec 14, 2015 at 21:48
Ron stated numerous times that he will try to never do such untranslatable puzzles again. But I don't think HE's got a gripe with that puzzle, I think it's because of all the mail, emails and other kind of messages he got about people being stuck on this part for eternity, I'm sure he can't hear it anymore :-)

About MI3: It was really sad they cut that part, they should have kept it untranslated. But on the other hand it was an awesome surprise playing the English version the first time and discovering such unseen footage after many years!

Grafekovic - Dec 15, 2015 at 01:51
12 discs on the Amiga version. Now I know, what's on nine of them ;-) That's really a lot, and although I played through MI2 about twenty times, I can't recall some of these animations.

Helge Frisenette - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:52
So beautiful it brings tears to your eyes.
Amazing how much it does for character involvement to se a bit of puking, or movement in general.

Bill Jackson III - Dec 14, 2015 at 16:58
I had to read this fascinating post thrice over, because I kept getting distracted by all the hyperactive motion of the charcters vomiting all over the top of my screen; though Ransome's mischievious blurp-and-giggle is not as hyper as the energetic/inspired/motivated vomiting of Rey and Reyes [or as I have come to think of them, Hispanic Mulder and Scully]; more like relaxed; laconic, even... :P

longuist - Dec 14, 2015 at 17:26
Lol, SCA of Ransome is very special :)
As the style of the characters differ slightly (Octavi vs. Gary?), is this something which will eventually blend towards the end of the development or is it not worth changing (keyword: artistic freedom)? This is by no means negative critique as i like both and Ransome is from another world anyway. Just curious.

Arto - Dec 14, 2015 at 17:57
I guess the town cafeteria isn't very good...

I have a lot of interesting things to discuss about, but first lemme check where she'll end up on that ladder...

Arto - Dec 15, 2015 at 12:39
Wow. It was a loooong animation, but well worth to watch. She reached the top eventually and found The Secret of Monkey Island! Wouldn't have expected that.

Patrik Spacek - Dec 14, 2015 at 18:08
Finally!  :)

me - Dec 14, 2015 at 18:24
I like the green colours of the puke.

It's a nice detail that they (except the clown) sweat before they ...

Paul Jacobson - Dec 14, 2015 at 19:06
I laughed so hard looking at those, I threw up... you guys owe me a new laptop =)

Sushi - Dec 14, 2015 at 19:20
Disgusting! At first, I thought Ransome was performing some kind of magic balloon animal trick... Or perhaps he is?

On that guy.brush sprite sheet: I do seem to falsely remember his underwear being of the heart-covered boxer type?

@Ron, unless I've been misquoting that for 25 years, but didn't the knight say "choose wisely"?

Nor Treblig - Dec 14, 2015 at 21:39
I think the pixel count is too low to make proper hearts on that underwear. It was either your imagination (those red dots CAN be hearts after all) or maybe it was covered in dialog somewhere?

Oh and apparently he changed it after being on the graveyard on Mêlée Island (you would never notice anyway since it's shown for few frames only). But enough about his underwear :-)

Sushi - Dec 15, 2015 at 01:21
I had a second look: he surely has different underwear while he's cross dressing at the governor's Mardi Gras party (when he's knocked out on the ground)

But enough about his underwear already!! :-D

Mischa Magyar - Dec 15, 2015 at 01:54
Hmmm... Do you differ between animations that "just" make a movement more realistic like climbing a ladder or reaching for an item and (hopefully) one-time animations  like the vomiting?
I would only call the second category SCA (like a pro ;), but I believe the first category might feel annoying, if they were left out.

Roman - Dec 15, 2015 at 03:00
Puke, fake or not, seems to play a rather big role in point and click adventures.....why is that? ;-)
...and Ransome seems to actually like it....muahaha

Martin Wendt - Dec 15, 2015 at 04:19
Just to nitpick a little: Zak had a special animation/frame when he was sleeping in his bed.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 16, 2015 at 06:20
Yes, it was a single frame: the main sprite was turned off, and the bed was modified. That was a real nice touch for that age!

LichiMan - Dec 15, 2015 at 04:22
Have they been drinking too much Kerosene, Propylene Glycol, Artificial Sweeteners, Sulfuric Acid, Rum, Acetone, Battery Acid, red dye #2, Scumm, Axle grease and/or pepperoni?

Farooq - Dec 15, 2015 at 05:22
to be precise. GROG!

AndreasAT - Dec 15, 2015 at 07:21
I bet this SCA plays when you use the chainsaw with the dead guy to reveal the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle that he accidentally swallowed.

Roman - Dec 15, 2015 at 04:26
There it is..the green tentacle....

3dh - Dec 15, 2015 at 04:52
It's disgusting and beautiful at the same time.

Soong - Dec 15, 2015 at 06:56
Beautiful!  SCAs are always a little reward in adventure games and I remember being excited whenever I encountered one (well, I guess I ignored/missed a lot of the simpler ones).  I'm glad to see the characters are so good at throwing up.  ;-)

AndreasAT - Dec 15, 2015 at 07:31
Looking at the climbing animation made me wonder:

Does the engine now align character positions to pixels?

Octavi Navarro - Dec 15, 2015 at 12:19
The ladder climbing was made by eye, synchronizing Ray's animation with the movement speed of the rungs. Very old-school!

AndreasAT - Dec 15, 2015 at 18:55
So did Ron or Gary give you an empty moving ladder animation, where you had to add the character?

Also could you do a blog post on how to express different emotions with limited pixels? I love how in Ransome's vomit animation (if you just look at the eyes) only one pixel per eyebrow changes, but his emotional state is (for a weird reason) clearly communicated.

Bogdan Barbu - Dec 18, 2015 at 03:05
Why would Ron or Gary provide a moving ladder animation? The sensible thing to do is to synchronize the moving ladder to the character's climbing animation in order to produce the above GIF, not the other way around. In order to do that, all one needs to know is the frames where the character is raised and the amount of raising, measured in pixels. That's not something that the ladder gets to "decide" but the character itself. That said, in the game itself, the ladder is undoubtedly not part of the climbing animation at all.

Christopher Griffin - Dec 15, 2015 at 09:48
I think I've finally found some new avatars.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 15, 2015 at 09:54
Great animations!!

I wonder what makes them feel so sick...
- "Look behind you! A naked LeChuck!"

Norman - Dec 15, 2015 at 11:49
I suspect with all the smoking and climbing, anyone would puke after a sufficient amount of both.

Big Red Button - Dec 15, 2015 at 11:48
Ray's jet abates a bit abruptly. Nevertheless the animations are great! I especially like how Reyes saves his tie.
Besides, Ray seems to be a creature of habit, seeing how quickly she lights up her (countless) cigarettes without even taking a pull or looking.

Sushi - Dec 15, 2015 at 13:00
She's probably trying to quit smoking.

Arto - Dec 15, 2015 at 14:33
Which is why she's womiting, which in turn makes the other two to womit as well. This is going to be an educational game.

Siegfried - Dec 16, 2015 at 08:46
I am waiting for more of technical articles explaining potential pitfalls - something about dialogues implementation, pathfinding, animaiton system.
I hope I not missed anything ;)
best regards

Dominik - Dec 16, 2015 at 11:08
Wow, this is AWESOME!

But I have a suggestion, NAY... A DEMAND!

Could the puke puddle on the ground be permanent? Just spawn an object at the position... So that when the player repeats whatever crazy actions lead to the puking-your-brains-out, there would be puke puddles all over the play? That - I think - would be the innovation adventure games need! Perma-Puke (TM)!

Dominik - Dec 16, 2015 at 11:10
Uuhh! And here is an idea for a (secret?) achievement:

"Make all playable characters puke within x minutes."

longuist - Dec 16, 2015 at 12:32
"Pavement completely covered with up(le)chuck" unlocked.

Arto - Dec 16, 2015 at 13:25
If the character would walk through the puddle, puke would stuck to character's shoes, which would leave a trail when one walks around. It would be an indication that you have been in a room with puke marks already. Good for someone with memory issues or something. And if characters would've eaten different colored foods, say one would have eaten broccoli and one beetroot, the puke would be in different colors, so you would see which characters have been where.

Christopher Griffin - Dec 17, 2015 at 09:40
And if you walk through the puke, every time a dialog occurs, the character you're talking to would make an annoying reference to the smell...

T.M. - Dec 16, 2015 at 13:53
Oh dear, this doesn't bode well on future success of Dave and Sandi's diner.

Peter Campbell - Dec 16, 2015 at 16:43
In the special case animation with the ladder it looks more like Rey, or Reyes, or Ray, what's her name? (can never remember which is which, why do the two detectives have almost the same name, just seems way too unintentionally confusing?) is pulling the ladder downwards towards the ground than actually climbing up it lol.  But of course the vertical scrolling of the backgrounds which'll be in the final game will fix all that.

Arto - Dec 16, 2015 at 17:01
This is how I remember it: Agent with man's name is woman. So Agent Ray.

I agree, their names are a bit confusing.

Alessander - Dec 16, 2015 at 19:49
Great art! I just don't like the meta-reference in the clown's laugh, i.e., his awareness of the players, breaking the so-called "fourth wall". IMHO, it disrupts the immersion.

Simon Simon - Dec 17, 2015 at 04:18
It is not necessarily a meta-reference -  Ransom could also laugh up his sleeve, being self-satisfied of his creepiness or something.

I wonder, however, if the actors can all puke in different directions (to the front vs to the side)..?

longuist - Dec 17, 2015 at 04:42
And will the puke be slightly translucent and cast a shadow (with shaders)?
How about glowing puke, could be used to illuminate a cave.
Measuring the half time of nuclear puke could be used to define the exact puke time.
Consider the game name change to "Thimbleweed Puke"

Christopher Griffin - Dec 17, 2015 at 09:45
Many of Ron's games did that though, where the character point-blank stares at the screen and makes a comment to you, the player.  It is not new in this instance.

longuist - Dec 17, 2015 at 04:28
Please add SCA for spitting out because of a damn good! (and hot) coffee :)

Arto - Dec 17, 2015 at 15:46
Connect the dots... la, la, la-la (guess which game that came from):

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 17, 2015 at 17:26
Ahah too easy! It's me!

Carlo Valenti - Dec 17, 2015 at 17:49
You connect dots like a cow :D

Carlo Valenti - Dec 17, 2015 at 17:39
I understand now this: how such special case animations were small milestones in the story, usually the reward for solving one complex puzzle.
I never realized this at a conscious level in the past. But it was present, and now with this post you made,  I appreciate this aspect of your game design VERY much, as a form of art. Much better and intelligent than exploding clouds of rainbow stars/golden coins happening continuously during some stupid videogame.

I will never forget Guybrush falling from the tree, the scene turning red, and then... "The hip bone's connected to the rib bone!"
That was a Special Case Animation and Music, a small Broadway made by pixel skeletons on my PC.

badde - Dec 18, 2015 at 15:39
Ugly - as it ist?!  ;- )


Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 18, 2015 at 17:38
Thanks God Is Friday!
(in italian: Grazie a Dio è Venerdì)
Please enjoy this song from a very famous italian singer: Max Pezzali!
Even if you aren't used to listen to italian language, you can follow the text since the song is "subtitled" inside the video.

Carlo Valenti - Dec 18, 2015 at 19:08
Yes! And we are getting closer to... THE post.

Mario - Dec 19, 2015 at 11:15
What do we get on X-mas? Playable Demo with 3 rooms?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 19, 2015 at 12:29
A complete sprite datasheet for every NPC (non-playable character) in Thimbleweed Park!

Andreas - Dec 19, 2015 at 15:14
Ron and Gary in skeleton suits performing the MI2 dream sequence.

Ernst Eiswürfel - Dec 20, 2015 at 16:12
What kind of Animation Software you finally use? I remenber that you had to decide beween differen types.

Amy - Dec 26, 2015 at 17:01
Er, can we have a setting to skip the puking? Many apparently find it hilarious, but it really grosses me out. You don't want that to be the only thing I remember about the game, right?

Uli Kusterer - Jan 17, 2016 at 01:38
Awesome animations. Also awesome desktop background recently, and loved the pseudo rooms post. This is probably my favorite blog at the moment. And to think at the end I'll also get a point-and-click adventure out of it!

And now excuse me for a m-- *runs for the sink*