Dev Blog: Creating Motion and Emotion with Animation

Brandon Fernández, Animation Director


With Lara, our goal is always to infuse as much of her personality and emotional state into her movement at all times. This can be quite a challenge, as we also need to contend with the actions you as a player have, and your moment to moment decisions. For Rise of the Tomb Raider, we’re expanding on techniques, such as animation layers and hair tech that worked previously, while also taking advantage of the new power afforded to us by the Xbox One and incorporating physics and other real-time simulations to drive Lara and our other characters.  

With animation layers, we’re pushing the number and complexity of the layering we had done previously. In Tomb Raider (2013) we created the “Living Lara” system that could drive around 3-4 layers at a time, but we’re expanding upon this for Rise considerably, potentially hitting 10+ layers at once, depending on what Lara is experiencing. She is now able to react to the world in a deeper, more nuanced way. Reacting to temperature (depending on her clothing), fire, enemy threats, wind, water, lighting conditions, and more, depending on what you, as the player, chooses to do.  Each of these animation layers can affect her entire body or as little as just her eyes or fingers. With so many layers, even now as we at Crystal Dynamics have spent countless hours working with these systems, we can still be surprised by how they combine together to bring life to Lara.  

In addition to these animation layers, we’re using the physical force of Lara’s movement in the world to drive her posture, her hair, clothing, as well as her gear as she moves around the varied environments in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Is she trying to stop quickly? She’ll lean back to brace herself as the arrows in her quiver quickly shift under the sudden speed change and her hair slides down her shoulders. Is the object she’s hanging on moving from a large explosion? She’ll sway with its movements as her hair and clothing react to the wind around her. With all that the world and the player can throw at her, Lara does her best to react physically correct to her environment.

It’s easy to get caught up in buzz words and new technology, but at the end of the day, we always come back to the same question, “how do we best bring Lara and the other characters to life?” And on that note, as I re-read this I realize it might seem odd that I speak of Lara as if she’s alive, but to us, she is. We hope you’ll feel the same way.

Brandon Fernández
Animation Director, Crystal Dynamics