These decisions were in place before and have been mentioned in scattered posts across the blog, but we wanted to repeat some of the info in one place to better answer some of the questions we have been receiving lately! This doesn't cover everything, some stuff is still in its respective blog post from earlier, but if you have any other questions please feel free to comment in response to this post and we would love to answer them! We'll add all answers to this post so that everyone can see them!
Our background will be rendered inside of Maya with as many polygons as needed for our modeler to get the environment looking awesome. This will be rendered out as a still image and painted over for any last edits. Then that last version will be saved out as a flat image that will be applied to a card inside of our game engine, Unity. The camera will sit in a fixed position except for the zoom-in feature during the lineup phase. The 2D characters will sit in front of this backgroun card as their own "models", which will be 2D cards imported in with any animations (done in Maya) baked down into their bones.
All lighting will be done in Maya before the environment image is rendered EXCEPT lighting of the characters. The characters will have their lighting (highlights and shadows) hand-drawn onto them during the design process using Photoshop. Then, in engine, they will have lights placed on them ONLY to get the cards to light up and be visible in the game. Any dramatic mood lighting will be hand-painted in beforehand. Our characters don't walk or have any position switches that would cause lighting to change. The only ones that will ever possibly move across the screen will be the distractions and they will be animated with After Effects and made into sprite cards, so while the lighting shouldn't change on them because we are purposely setting the lights in a way that it wouldn't feel necessary, they can easily be edited before the sprite sheet is applied in Unity.
We could explore lighting the characters in-engine later on after vertical slice (using things like lighting masks), but when considering requirements with the current art team that we have we made these technical decisions and goals in order to be realistic and put more focus in places where we really need it, such as making awesome and fun characters that will make everyone laugh!!
Characters' shadows will be attached to the rig as a card that has manipulators on it, allowing the animator to wiggle the shadow or stretch it if necessary. The only times we'll have characters with visible feet will be anything walking around in the back of the office, the lobby, and the lineup.
For both the office and lobby, the lighting will be in a way that the characters will all have their shadows mostly underneath them. This is done intentionally so that we don't have to worry about shadow perspective breaking our illusion of depth on the flat background card. The controllers on the shadow card attached to the rig will allow the animator freedom to move the shadow if the character picks up a foot to keep from breaking that illusion, but it will be very minimal shadow movement.
For the lineup, the characters will have their shadows dramatically cast onto the lineup wall using in-engine lighting. The characters will be painted for their own shadows and highlights in Photoshop, but then they will be front-lit to not only make the cards visible in Unity but also to get a dramatic backdrop shadow on our lineup wall.
All major animations will be done in Maya. Our interviewed characters will be animated, and we are reviewing and refining the animation style at the moment for something that better defines our wide spectrum of characters. Instead of focusing only on Tex Avery, we will select other styles to define the less-crazy characters.
The lineup characters will have an idle animation of a gentle swaying, which will be achieved using a simple rig of a single joint chain that has IK spline on it. This is just to allow a sort of breathing or swaying that adds depth and life to our lineup without adding too much extra work or too many extra assets. Characters in the lobby might also have this "idle" animation applied to them to give them life.
Characters in the lineup will NOT animate upon correct selection of the guilty perpetrator anymore. Instead, the screen will pull up their comical mugshot and a prompt that lets the player know that they chose correctly.
The "distractions" in the background of the office, where the interviews take place, will require very little animation, but those that do require animation will be animated in After Effects and applied in Unity as sprite sheets. Their animations will have very few frames, so there is no reason to apply a rig to each one. We can't use sprite sheets on the interviewed characters though because they will have very varied movement and it would include ridiculously massive sprite sheets.
The office itself will have a couple of animations to bring life to it. The flower in the background will drop a petal off every once in awhile as it withers away, a car might pass by outside the windows occasionally, maybe a mouse will skitter across the floor briefly (again, very few frames of animation). These animations will be applied using sprite sheets and they won't constantly be moving, they will work on separate timers to just occasionally do something to make it feel more alive in the environment and add depth.
The character in the office will have his arm wiggle when the player touches the touchpad to either draw or erase. This will be a comically simple animation where the arm itself does not bend but cartoonishly keeps its pose while just wiggling around. An example of this can be seen here.
We will be using toon shaders in Maya and then painting over the environment renders in Photoshop.
There are many technical decisions that we have made are still constantly making or updating! This post covers some of the biggest ones, but throughout the blog you'll find many more updates on decisions we have made regarding how we're going to accomplish certain art aspects of our game. And if you have any questions, please feel free to comment in response to this post and we'll add our answers into this post so everyone can see!