Animating Vice City, breathing life into the citizens that inhabit the seaside paradise, is an important part of making the game come alive. All walks of life including tourists, rollerskaters, sunbathers, shoppers, police officers, retirees, gangsters, bums, pensioners and regular citizens, inhabit Vice City, and they all have a mind of their own. Watch roller skaters dancing on the sidewalk, old men taking a break on a park bench, and yuppies hurrying to work on the bus.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City contains over 70 minutes of cut scenes with over 30 characters, character physics and animation that use a custom skeletal animation system and thousands of distinct animations. Rockstar North took into account character motivation, plot direction, and acting when creating Tommy and all the other personalities you meet in Vice City.
Tommy swaggers through the city checking out the locals, and if you give him a moment's rest he'll note the time on his watch, yawn, or stretch out some kinks. In the path of an oncoming car, tap jump at just the right time and Tommy will dive out of its path. Sprint for too long and he'll slow and eventually stop, out of breath. Over time, as you gain stamina, Tommy will sprint for longer and longer durations ...it pays to travel on foot.
Tommy jacks cars from driver or passenger sides, jumps into a convertible, bails out of a vehicle, looks over his shoulder while reversing, runs up the steps on a bus, fires a sub-machinegun out the window, all of which were individually created and tweaked. Motion animation and interactive animation were essential in getting Tommy's driving moves to look smooth and seamless.
Rockstar North pulled off the near impossible, they got a variety of motorcycles to look cool and feel just right. Considering the number of variables, they found the perfect combination of animations to chain together and make the whole experience flow. Tommy ducks and weaves on the bikes, kicks his heel out on the choppers, drops his knee close to the pavement on the sport bikes and walks the bike backwards in reverse. Try getting onto a bike from the front; Tommy leaps and jump kicks the rider(s) off the back of the bike.
The weapon set in Vice City required dozens of weapon animations to cover the arsenal available to Tommy. Almost all of the weapons required distinct animations, from shoulder-fired shotguns to the vicious chainsaw slash. For hand-to-hand combat, Tommy's attacks now cover all 360° around him, so when you're in a group of enemies he'll lash out all around him. Elbows to opponents on the side, spinning kicks to the rear, crouching down to avoid gunfire and head butts have all been added to his repertoire.
Cut-Scene Motion Capture
Both motion-capture and stop-motion animation techniques were used when creating the game, the cut scenes are motion captured and in-game animations are created using a combination of the techniques. All the animations created for Vice City are extensively customized before they're ready for insertion in the game.
All the cinematic cut-scenes were fully motion-capped in a high-end mo-cap facility. Once the mo-cap is synthesized into the engine, and voice over recorded, models must be slowly and painstakingly lip-synced to the audio. The cut scenes in the game are treated like a movie and are crafted with a cinematic look; attention to detail is key when finalizing the camera angles. The end result is a series of highly stylized cut scenes that tell the story of one man's rise to the top of a criminal empire.