The Art of Animation: The Babylonians

Paul Zimmer is an animator for Gas Powered Games, currently at work on Age of Empires Online.

What rigging system do you use and why?

Paul Zimmer: We use a 3rd party tool for 3d Studio Max called "Puppetshop", by a company named Lumonix. It helps us build and maintain rigs (the bone structures for our animated units) faster than if we had to do it by hand. It also makes saving and sharing animations between units a cinch and allows us to load multiple animations into one file at the same time for easy animation mixing and pose grabbing. In short, it speeds up the unit creation pipeline a TON and gives us animators plenty of creative control.

So what were some of the challenges you faced when it came to creating the Babylonians?

One of the toughest was making sure that they looked and felt unique. It was very important that their rich culture and heritage was well represented.

What are some of the specific things you did to set the Babylonians apart from the other civs?

Visually we wanted them to lean more towards a bulkier, sturdier look. The Sapper unit is a perfect example of this. They are a short, stout unit whose main job is tearing down buildings.


Are there any other units or structures for the Babylonians that stand out for you?

One of the units we did that was a bit more challenging, but turned out pretty well, was the Ox Cart.

How did this idea come about?

Design came up with the idea of a “mobile storehouse”. Art was tasked with having the cart looking “packed for travel” when moving, and “unpacked for loading” when idling without extra animations to transition between these two looks during gameplay. We also had to keep the Babylonian building style in mind when crafting the cart, as well as attaching enough animals to pull it so it felt like a big mobile storehouse. I think we hit it pretty close to the mark.


Do you have a particular favorite?

There is a special place in my heart for the Babylonian Shield Bearers. You don’t see enough shield bearers in videogames. It’s a shame.



Yeah, how bad ass is it that this guy charges into battle with a giant tower shield and little else? I had fun animating one of his attacks as a “Peek-a-boo Surprise Punch” using the shield as a makeshift door to pop out from behind and sock the opponent in his face. He is equal parts funny and awesome, just like the rest of the game.

I especially like the Babylonian Caravans…

I love them too. They tend to be the “mascot” for each civ we make. The Babylonian
Caravan was especially fun to animate. It’s a ram with huge horns and an even bigger backpack of
goodies. Strapped atop his horns is a basket with a monkey in it. The monkey lures the ram around
with food at the end of a fishing pole. Definitely our silliest caravan yet.


How long did animation work take for the Babylonians?

For a Pro Civ like the Babylonians it usually takes about 2 months for over 300+ animations. Full civs are a bit longer at 3 months and over 400+ animations.

Is there a particular unit or structure that has more animations than others?

As it turns out, the Villagers have the most animations in the game, which stands at over 40+ right now.

Which one has the least?

Not counting destruction, it would be the Farms, which only needs a build animation.


Is there anything else you would like to have done for the Babylonians?

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. If anything, I wish I could have made even more animations for them.

The mighty Babylonians have been unleashed in the Anniversary Update.

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