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Video Game "Walk Cycles" Are Just The Best

“Was bayonetta designed with an attempt to pander to a straight male audience? Most deft. Is she a character with a strong sense of her own sexuality and just wants to enjoy it? Seems like it. Is this walk cycle a good example of both? Holy butt, I think it is.”
Illustration: Walk Cycles / Bayonetta

A “walk cycle” is the part of video game animation that covers the most basic, default movement of your character. It’s maybe the thing you see the most in a game alongside a HUD, and as such might also be something you take for granted! Today, let’s not take them for granted.

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Louis Brooks has a Tumblr called Walk Cycles, where he isolates and pays tribute to some classic walk cycles by rotoscoping them, drawing them out of their environment and letting us focus on nothing but the shuffling of shoulders and the placement of one foot after the other.

“The way your lil villager walks with their lil arms out suggests this kind of quiet excitement that’s joyful and pure and it makes exploring your island chill as.”
Illustration: Walk Cycles / Animal Crossing
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“I like ‘acting’ in games. If a game will let me, I’ll walk whenever it’s appropriate for the character, Brooks—a market researcher by day and also a podcast host—says. “I love when games are built to give you the space to truly ‘roleplay’ as the character you are stuck playing as. Red Dead 2 is a great recent example of this. Slowly plodding around that camp, taking a sip of coffee while listening to Dutch yammer on. It feels so good to pretend, to be a character in someone else’s scene.”

“That game is begging you to walk everywhere, as soon as you start sprinting around all over the place the facade kind of falls away. Animation is a huge part of all that.”

“I mean, look at it. I don’t think I’ll ever see a better walk cycle in my life. He looks sassy, stealthy and ready to go but most importantly, he looks like a goose.”
Illustration: Walk Cycles / Untitled Goose Game

To create his images, Brooks captures a few seconds’ worth of gameplay footage, then cuts it down to a single animation cycle. “From there I import that into Photoshop or Procreate, which breaks it down into frames. Most of the time I’m capturing at either 30 or 60 fps, so I usually cut it down to 15 frames. This gives it more of that ‘animated/sketchbook’ feel, and saves me a heck load of time!”

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“That being said, with a fast moving character like Venom Snake or Sekiro, I’ll bump it up to 30 fps or it loses all the detail. Then it’s just tracing each frame and colouring inside the lines (mostly). I try to keep the colour scheme similar but not identical. Often I’ve simplified the detail on the character (weapons, pockets, buckles...) to save time and just keep it clean, so I try to reduce the amount of colours used to 3-5.”

“I like how Link runs in Breath Of The Wild. It works for both a kid playing in a field but also someone desperately trying to evade a big bad. The lil sweat bubbles above his head are a cute touch too.”
Illustration: Walk Cycles / The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
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In terms of what makes a good walk cycle, one worth highlighting, Brooks says he’s always looking for a game that really revels in the way it lets a character walk around. “The push and pull between ‘is accurate/is purposeful/is fun’ is in every walk cycle and I love examining that. I think the games I choose to animate exhibit a healthy combination of those characteristics.”

“Also, not to sound too corny, but I do just genuinely like highlighting the work people put into this stuff. So many details get put into games that go missed. It’s nice putting my teeny, tiny, spotlight on one of those details. Walk cycles are big details too! I want a blog for every interesting craft in games. Maybe there already is...”

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“I’ve never known if this goofy crawl animation in Metal Gear Solid 4 is just a joke thing put in by the developers or they did some research and found out people actually do this to move through an area undetected. I imagine it’s a bit of both, which is kind of that series’ whole vibe tbh. ‘How do we take something serious and make Snake hump it?’”
Illustration: Walk Cycles / Metal Gear Solid 4

You can see a lot more of these tributes at Walk Cycles.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

afriendtosell
afriendtosell

I’ma take this as an excuse to post some of my favorite walk cycles in fighting games mkay feel free to do the same.