Pulling the strings: How Puppet3D brings your games to life
If you’ve ever had the thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could do all my skinning, rigging and animation directly in Unity,” you’re not alone. In fact, that’s exactly what was going through the mind of Asset Store publisher, Jamie Niman (AKA Puppetman) when he developed the insanely powerful Puppet2D, and the more recent, Puppet3D animation tools.
As a technical animator, Jamie had plenty of experience working with tools like Maya on films such as World War Z, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Harry Potter.
For the last six years, however, as Senior Technical Artist at Preloaded in London, his focus has been: games, games, games.
“Making games for clients means short turnaround times, so Unity suits us perfectly from that point of view,” Jamie says. “And with the introduction of Timeline and other tools, animating directly in Unity is beginning to feel a lot like it does in other professional 3D animation software.
But Jamie wanted to take that one step further. Having created rigging tools in Maya previously, Jamie wanted to develop a tool that would enable artists to do all their skinning, rigging and animation directly in Unity.
Creating the illusion of life
As Brad Bird once said, animation is about creating the illusion of life. If that’s true, then it fits well with Jamie’s goal of creating tools that enable animators to focus on their art.
“I’ve always looked at rigging as being like a puppet maker. You want to make controls that are user-friendly, so the animator can concentrate on the performance part. I try to make it as easy as possible for animators to add those little sparks of character and animation that polish the game and bring it to life,” he says.
So what can you actually do with Puppet3d?
Puppet3D opens up everything in your game to be rigged and animated without having to go back and forth between Maya (or another program) and Unity. Naturally, that covers quite a lot of ground, and the possibilities of what you can do with Puppet3D are quite varied. Here are three examples:
- Modify existing animations
You could download non-animated characters (or ones that don’t have the exact animation you had in mind), and the one-click “ModRig” feature will automatically rig it for you with controls that make animating easy.
- Do some quick skinning
Perhaps you’ve got an unskinned character. Using the Autorig feature, you can quickly get it skinned to bones and rigged. It’ll also have an idle and walk cycle on it. Or if you’ve made any other animations with Puppet3D, the control animations that are made with one autorigged character will work on another autorigged character. You can also get these animations onto any Unity humanoid with the “ModRig” feature.
- Add more life to a cutscene
Puppet3D is not just for characters. You could, for example, rig a vine so it swings in the wind, or add bones to a chair to make it run off before someone sits in it.
Big in Japan
Puppet3D has only been out for a few months, but based on his past experience as an Asset Store publisher, Jamie has every reason to believe that Puppet3D will be embraced by Unity artists.
His first asset was Puppet2D, a 2D version of the current 3D title, which had followed the introduction of Unity features like sprite support and the 2D view, and really took off in the Unity community. In fact, it’s success took Jamie by surprise.
“It dawned on me that I’d made something really well known when I saw a tweet linking to a book about it, which someone had published in Japan. I ordered a copy right away — it’s sort of a souvenir for me,” he says. “The Unity Asset Store has allowed me to make tools for a much larger audience. It so exciting to think of all the games that have been made with my tools, like the award-winning puzzle game, Hue, and the popular arcade platformer, Damsel, to name just a couple of them.”
Jamie plans to continue making new rigging features for Puppet3D, and of course, supporting all of his assets, which will keep him busy for a while. However, he doesn’t rule out creating new assets in the future.
“My head is always running through new asset idea, and eventually, it’ll be hard to resist making one of them,” he says.
Get Puppet3D and InControl for FREE
If you spend at least $99 during the month of June, you can get Puppet3D plus InControl for free and start animating directly in Unity to give your characters that extra spark of life. Just be sure to activate the promotion using your Unity ID first.