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I have recently noticed something in a large number of sports games relating to the animation of the crowd.

Scenario

Player holes the golf ball and the crowd all clap their hands. Whilst the faces and attire of the crowd members are different the animation is exactly the same. That is, the arm and hand movement of each member is identical.

Similar scenarios exist in other sports games; in football games the crowd often stand up and sit down together as well as doing things like "fist pump", wave, etc. in a perfectly synchronised manner.

Question

Why is there no (or very little) variation in the crowd animation? Is this a memory constraint? If so, what is the general architecure/design of this functionality and why is it so constrained? Is it along the lines of "It is more efficient to animate a collection of objects than multiple individuals"?

Or do game developers simply not see crowd variation as an important enough requirement?

As technology and game "realism" advances so quickly, this is something that still strikes me as "wooden" and unrealistic.

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To the person who voted for this question to be closed; could you please state why you don't think there will be a constructive answer to this question? I fully expect somebody with the relative expertise to be able to provide an authorative answer to this query. If it needs re-wording then please let me know and I will amend accordingly. –  Ste May 18 '12 at 14:36
    
We cannot know. They might have just chosen not to do more than one. In the general case this question has no relevance as your game might have ten crowd animations or none at all, and you'll encounter your own unique issues later. I'm going to vote to close too. This is a startlingly similar situation to the questions discussed here. To appropriate the highest voted answer: Usually nobody except the creators of the game know why they chose, all answers will be speculative, and how does it help to know? Does it matter? –  Jonathan Hobbs May 18 '12 at 23:44
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I've created a topic on meta to discuss this. –  Jonathan Hobbs May 19 '12 at 0:03
    
@JonathanHobbs - Thanks, Jonathan. I welcome the discussion. :) –  Ste May 19 '12 at 12:02
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Primarily this is a memory constraint. Animation is data is fairly large and often those crowd animations are considered low priority compared to what is actually going on in the game.

I would say they are all playing the same animation simply because the designers didn't want to use more ram on animation variants. ie, the actual key frame data.

Whats more, for every large crowds, a few games I know use special technology to render the same characters over and over into the scene, adjusting the camera each time to correct the perspective. ie. you are literally seeing the same characters over and over, just from a sightly different angle.

I would love to hear from a coder who had actually implemented one of these systems. I only have a fairly high level producers perspective.

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Thanks, Jay. I'll see if we get anything else in before accepting an answer. I'd love to hear from someone who has worked on a game with this requirement, also. –  Ste May 19 '12 at 11:59
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I'll dissent from Jay Kyburz slightly and say that in my experience animation data is actually relatively small, but it can be expensive to compute from frame to frame. So it might be the case that they compute it once and apply it to several characters at once to save on CPU usage.

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I'd suggest time and resources as another potential constraint. Given a ship date, you get to choose which is the most productive use of the time and resources you have: improving ball physics, adding extra maps, adding extra gameplay modes, or devising a more complex crowd animation system. The latter seems to be the most likely candidate for "first feature to be cut".

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