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37. “The illusion of life is our goal.”

37. “The illusion of life is our goal.” Animator Czenas Rodriguez on Illuvium’s high standards in artistry.

When animators have done outstanding work to bring a character to life, you can see it instantly. The characters move convincingly, in a way that makes sense for their shape, size, and personality. Their movements are dynamic and they flow seamlessly from pose to pose; they twitch, shift weight or sway ever so slightly even while they’re standing still. Their hair and clothes move with them, or fall off of them. These are the types of detail that bring a character to life.

Illuvium’s animation unit, led by Lead Animator Alexandre Bebari, is a meticulous crew. To deliver a game worthy of gamers, our animators know you expect nothing less than top-notch artistry. The fact that your Illuvial NFTs are playable animated characters that journey, battle, and earn for you, is what makes these digital assets so much more satisfying than just owning a piece of media in a gallery. In-game they come to life — in cinema-quality AAA-level animation.

When Czenas, one of the core contributors in our animation unit, started to work on the Dualeph (Stage 3 of the Pistol Shrimp line), rain was pouring down the streets of Taguig City, Metro Manila. He braved through the rain to get a bag of turon — banana slices wrapped in rice paper, fried, and covered in sweet syrup — his favorite snack while working.

As he was reaching over to pick up another turon, he noticed the way the different parts of his arm and hand stretched and flexed. It was an example of the principle of squash and stretch in the real world, one of the twelve basic principles of animation that Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas wrote about in “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation,” a book considered to be the Bible of the art-form.

That moment of observation, and the bite of turon, inspired him to visualize how Dualeph’s arm would move when firing a gun. “Even though the focus of the action is the pincers and the projectile, small body parts and other elements also have to move in a way that makes sense, for the animation to look natural and organic,” Czenas explained. “We are always applying real-world observations. It enhances the realism we go for, and it’s usually small details.”

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Czenas works on Illuvial attacks, walk cycles, idles, and animates special cinematics, like Axon chasing a rolling opponent in the Clix Promo video. Before satisfying Alexandre’s high standards with his animation test, Czenas had been the lead animator at Dawnpurple Inc, a CG/VFX company where for 7 years he did CG for pachinko games, television series, animated films, and live-action films for major Japanese franchises. He can usually finish 1–3 animations a day, depending on the intricacy of the actions and the complexity of the character.

“I really enjoy animating the Illuvials, because their bodies are complex and many parts move at the same time,” Czenas explains. “Taking more time to finish an animation because I’m thinking about how one moving element would affect another element really makes a big difference in how a character comes to life.”

For Dualeph, Czenas wanted the firing of the projectile to look strong through the movement of their whole body. “I needed to start with a cool pose that showed Dualeph focusing energy on their pincer. After Dualeph shoots, the recoil of their body needed to be believable, so that you really feel that they shot something powerful. Pose is very important. It brings more epicness and personality. First, I create poses, then I work on the timing and speed of movement to reinforce the weight and impact of the animation.”

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We can’t wait to get these Illuvial NFTs to you when we launch our Open Beta next year. We hope that you’ll bond with your NFTs when you see them come to life in the game. Czenas, and all the core contributors in the art department, push their imagination everyday to visualize how the Illuvials will behave.

Summing up the animation unit’s artistic standard, Czenas again references the animation Bible: “Players will immediately notice how detailed the animation is here at Illuvium. We animate details that cannot even be noticed from a distance, because those micro-movements make things look alive. The illusion of life is our goal.”

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Czenas Rodriguez’ Art Station: https://www.artstation.com/czenasrodriguez

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37. “The illusion of life is our goal.” was originally published in Illuvium Hub on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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