Slashcards Unity Quick Tip 2: Bringing a face to life

This is a continuation of Quick Tip 1, which discusses the coding approach to the faces in Slashcards: Learn Japanese.

Character still.

Let’s bring our character to life.

Plop her in your fantasy world and what would she be doing? She’d be looking around, thinking and reacting to what she saw. That means she’s blinking. She’s raising her eyebrows or furrowing them as she thinks about this or that. She’s pursing her lips and relaxing them. And none of this is happening in a rigid, repeating pattern. It’s all semi-random. Sometimes she blinks three times in three seconds. Sometimes once in ten seconds. Something will worry her for just the briefest moment…etc.

For my character, I’ve broken facial activity into four processes:

  • Blinking
  • Looking-at
  • Eyebrow movement/shape
  • Eye shape

Moreover, the character has a Mood and a PointOfInterest.

Blinking is a coroutine that blinks every so often (from .5 to 5 seconds). It’ll blink more often if the mood is Afraid or Sad.

LookingAt is a coroutine that aims the pupils at the PointOfInterest if there is one. Otherwise it just picks a different thing/point in space to gaze at every several seconds.

Eyebrow movement/shape shifts the eyebrows up and down at random intervals. The eyebrows’ shapes are determined by the mood.

And eye shape — angry, relaxed, afraid, and so on…

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Eye shapes by deviantartist sharkie19.  You can imagine how you might break out eyebrow, pupil, and eye shape.

…are controlled by a coroutine that varies them according to the mood. Certain moods use different sets of eyeshapes. For example, in Mood.Relaxed, the character might momentarily be pensive/worried — an eyeshape also used in Mood.Afraid — but it won’t use that expression as often.

Slashcards facial animation

Crucially, this approach shows the player that the character has an inner life. Keeping the control in code makes it easier to vary. And the varied behavior means the designer/animator doesn’t have to handcraft every little reaction.

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