Jonathan Cooper, an animator for Naughty Dog and a developer on Mass Effect 1, has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Mass Effect: Andromeda's facial animations. On social media, the developer explains why it's "unfair" to compare an RPG like BioWare's latest title to a game like Uncharted, as animating an RPG is a "really, really big undertaking."
In a series of tweets (threaded, beginning with the tweet below), Cooper says that the "magnitude" of choices offered in an RPG like Mass Effect: Andromeda means that there is a trade-off of quantity versus quality of the content. The animator also explained, in more technical terms, that developers tier things such as dialogue into "quality levels" and designers "sequence pre-created animations togethers - like DJs with sample tracks" based on the importance or the likelihood of the content.
Folks have been asking so here are my thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda's animation. Hopefully people will better understand the process.— Jonathan Cooper (Book out now!) (@GameAnim) March 23, 2017
The reason for Andromeda's problems - or at least the issues that fans are picking up on - is that the team at BioWare may have "lowered the quality of it's [sic] base algorithm, resulting in the "My face is tired" meme featuring nothing but lip-sync." Cooper also suggests that BioWare may have aimed to address each scene by hand instead of just relying on the algorithm, but due to the game's lengthy development period, the developer may have "underestimated" the task, thus leading to all of the criticism from fans.
During Cooper's rundown - which touches upon the animations in The Witcher series and the original Mass Effect trilogy too - the Naughty Dog animator also urged followers not to "single out one person for a team's failures," calling such behavior "despicable." Cooper was undoubtedly referring to the other controversy that hit last week in which a former Andromeda developer received masses of hate and was blamed for the wonky animations, leading BioWare to make a statement.
BioWare will no doubt be glad to see that someone is going to bat for it, as the developer has faced an avalanche of criticism about the animations (including social media harassment). It will be hoping that angry fans keep Cooper's words in mind and give it a chance to properly address the concerns, perhaps with a facial animation patch, before continuing to rally against the team and the newly released game.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is now available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Source: Jonathan Cooper – Twitter