Your trusty parasaurolophus Lucky is the first dinosaur you’ll get to know when you move to Paleo Pines. Since she’s been with us from the start and has become a much-loved member of our dino family, we’d like to take you on a journey to get a little bit deeper into her character! We spoke with our game director Nina Roussakoff and animator Alan Martin about just who she is, how essential she is to our story and what went into bringing her to life through animation.
Who is Lucky?
We’re sure you’ve all seen Lucky in a lot of our posts but you must be wondering who she is… Let’s dive a little deeper into where she came from with Nina!
How do you meet Lucky?
At the start of the game, a family member gives you a mysterious egg and a little parasaurolophus hatches from it! You become best buddies in no time and do everything together. She loves to listen to your flute, and follows you around your house… until one day she doesn’t fit anymore! And that’s when you decide to move to Paleo Pines…
What makes a parasaurolophus special?
Goodness, what doesn’t?! I think most people would recognise them by their beautiful head crests, but did you know that a parasaurolophus walked both as a biped and a quadruped? This is why Lucky walks on all four legs but when she runs or sprints she uses only her hind legs and can make great distances! Lucky is also a herbivore, and while she doesn’t live in a herd like the others, she is extremely loyal to you and will never leave you.
How important is Lucky to our journey in Paleo Pines?
Quite important! She’s a great help with clearing out debris on your ranch and can sprint, which makes traveling a lot easier. Aside from that she’s super cute and friendly, with a fair bit of sass, which is always fun to be around. And of course she’s the reason you move to Paleo Pines in the first place!
Bringing Lucky to Life
Our fantastic animator Alan Martin has been with our project from the very beginning and was the first person to get Lucky moving the way she is now. We’re talking to him about what went into this process and how we gave her character while still being true to who she is; a parasaur.
Were there any specific ‘rules’ to follow to keep the animation true to a real parasaurolophus?
There are always rules and things to consider when creating believable movement for any animated character. Lucky’s movement, as with all the dinos in Paleo Pines, was designed using a layered approach. The first thing to consider is always body mechanics. Size, weight and proportion all inform things like how fast she can move or how much weight shift is required for her to step from one foot to the other convincingly. If we can’t get the weight right then we’re not doing our jobs as animators. Then considering the length of her limbs will help define things like stride and gait. Then we can layer some dino-specific knowledge over the top. We know parasaurs ran on two legs but tend to drop to all fours for slower movement and standing around. Anatomical research reveals finer detail such as the bones of the forearm preventing her from pronating her wrists. And we animators just love to pronate wrists…
Solid animation principles however play the largest part in any of this. We’re very fortunate to be able to draw on over 100 years of knowledge and pioneering work in our craft. Timing plays a huge role in conveying weight, be that in the up and down poses of walk or run cycles or the stomp of a giant foot or spikey tail. Animating overshoot on smaller more bird-like raptors or utilising ease-in and out movements to really convey the sense of mass in some of the heavier dinos is our stock-in-trade. Lucky’s movement lies comfortably half-way between the two.
When animating Lucky did you have a certain idea of how you think she might act?
Lucky was the first dino we animated back when we were first defining what this game should be. We knew she was a Parasaurolophus (I still can’t pronounce that) and what that entailed. We also knew she was specifically a young, small Parasaurolophusolopsus so we wanted to keep her playful and curious. The first animation we created for her was essentially a rig test to see how she could move from all fours to her hind legs and then drop down again- purely mechanical and very experimental, but there was such appeal just in the character design alone that a personality was already coming through. Then Rachel animated the petting sequence with the butt wiggle and we never looked back.
It’s important however, especially on characters as cartoony and abstracted as these dinos, not to impose too much personality in their behaviour. True appeal comes from encouraging the audience or player to ‘project’ a personality onto the characters and we need to create a sort of vacuum that they have to fill. A lot of that lies in the character design itself but also in the behaviour. If we define that too much we rob the player of that connection and diminish the relationship they can have with the dino.
Where do you think her personality really shines through?
I definitely think butt-wiggle was the defining moment for us as we experimented in the early days, but seeing all the animations work together in-game really conveys a sense that she really is this companion with a mind of her own. The coders have done a great job of blending various actions together and it’s kind of bizarre watching her wander about in the background on her own acting autonomously. It’s extremely satisfying to see it all come together like that. The petting sequence I mentioned above is extremely appealing and even the way she digs to clear ground on the farm, it really is like having your own pet dinosaur.
That’s it for Dino Diaries #5! We hope you learned a lot about our lovely Lucky. To end the blog on a hilarious note, we got the team to draw Lucky from memory at one of our team meetings recently…
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