Naughty Dog animator explains why Mass Effect: Andromeda’s animations look terrible

Does this whole Mass Effect Andromeda animation thing get a gate yet? Facegate? Anyways, ever since the game dropped people have been collecting strange character expressions and animations, because there’s just something off about the way that the characters try to show emotion.

Jonathan Cooper works at Naughty Dog, but he also worked on previous Mass Effect games, and he has some insights to share about the criticism being lobbed at BioWare.

First things first:

This is very important to remember. Going after any individual team members with criticisms of a huge game like this is just unfair, for smaller games too for that matter. There are tight deadlines that aren’t chosen by the animators, they’re given a number of tasks to complete and pushed to get everything done on schedule, if EA doesn’t give a big enough budget or enough time to get every single detail perfect, some kind of witch hunt against individuals is just insane.

Jonathan explains why comparing a huge RPG game like Mass Effect to a more linear action title like something from the Uncharted series is like apples to oranges.

He explains that when you have so many different possible conversations and reactions for a character, you can’t possibly make all of them perfect, so they prioritize different conversation trees and put the most work into the most common outcomes that the most people will actually see. The dialogues are divided into different quality levels, and they “sequence pre-created animations together – like DJs with sample tracks.”

Audiences expect more, which pushes the medium forward but can also lead to disappointment when everything isn’t flawless so it can be a doubled-edged sword.

Make sure you follow Jonathan Cooper on Twitter for more of his insights, it’s great to get the perspective from someone who’s actually worked on games, and props to him for sticking up for fellow creators. He’s also working on a book covering video game animation which is sure to shed more light on the inner workings of the whole process.