The results of our April 2022 satisfaction survey told us how satisfied our players were with the animations for each class, and the Eniripsa class ended up with the lowest satisfaction score. We sat down with Lolzewolf, lead animator and FX artist on the WAKFU team, to talk about the class animations overhaul for update 1.77.

Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your career path?

My name is Laurent, a.k.a Lolzewolf. I started my career working on the Arthur and the Invisibles video game as a 3D artist and lead 3D artist (in Luc Besson's studio!). I came to Ankama fifteen years ago, in the Animation division, and worked on projects including the WAKFU animated series, DOFUS: Kerub's Bazaar, and the movie DOFUS Book I: Julith. A little over five years ago, I switched to the Video Games division and became a lead animator on the DOFUS game, and then just under three years ago, I moved to the WAKFU project as lead animator and FX artist.

What made you want to become an animator? What's your advice for up-and-coming animators?

Ever since I was little, I've always loved to draw. Back then, I was totally captivated by the cartoons and video games of my childhood, but I didn't think it was something I could do as a career. After a bit of back-and-forth in my studies (two years of math for engineering, then fine arts and architecture school), I discovered Supinfocom (now known as Rubika) in Valenciennes here in France. I took the entrance test just to see what would happen, and I was accepted! I got my degree as a digital director and then worked as a 3D animator and 3D graphic designer. It wasn't until I arrived at Ankama that I started specializing in 2D animation.

My advice for someone who'd like to go into it as a career: You have to love drawing – even if you're not that great, you'll improve with practice. Then, try to get into a good school, and just practice a ton. That's how you develop your habits and routines as an artist.

Could you tell us about your typical day or week? What tools do you use? What day-to-day constraints do you deal with? What are you most proud of? Do you have a special ritual for starting your day?

I have a set of tasks that covers all the animations in the game. Since I'm the only animator, I have to animate new monsters, create new emote or run animations, animate certain costumes, and so on. For the monsters, I create all the animations that are needed in-game (static, walking/running, hits, deaths, attacks), and then I create the FX for the attacks, all based on what the game designers have come up with in terms of gameplay for these enemies. For emotes and runs, it's a bit more creative. I've got free reign, sometimes within a required theme, so I start by doing some test sketches with a stylus before working out the animation itself. I mainly work with the Animate software tool for the animations, and with an internal tool for the FX. As far as constraints, the game engine doesn't let me create smooth animations with the traditional method, by drawing each image separately, so I need to adapt to that. For the characters, I can't add facial expressions or hand shapes, so I have to work with what we've already got.

I'm proud of my work when I see comments from players who love my creations. That means I was on the right track. If the day ever comes when all those comments are negative, I'll start looking for a new career!

I don't have any particular rituals… I get to work in the morning, I turn on my machine, I put on my headphones, and turn on some cool music or a podcast to help me concentrate.

How did you first learn about Ankama, and how did you wind up on the WAKFU team?

I learned about Ankama from a job posting – they were looking for 2D/3D animators. I hadn't heard of them before, so while I was applying, I started up the DOFUS game to see what I was getting into, and I loved this world that was both familiar and innovative!

I joined the WAKFU MMO team following a reorganization of the DOFUS teams. For WAKFU the game, their animation needs weren't extensive enough to ensure full-time work – in fact, the producer at the time was actually just looking for one versatile animator who could do both graphic design and FX. As it happened, that worked well with my schedule, because I'm also a 2D animation teacher on the side.

Can you give us some details on how you went about your overhaul of the Eniripsa animations?

Based on the results of a recent survey, we knew that the Eniripsa's combat animations were the ones that players were least happy with. Since I sometimes have quieter periods at work, I was asked if I could make it an ongoing project to revitalize these animations a bit by redoing some of the FX and correcting a few issues along the way. I had carte blanche to do whatever I wanted!

I went to see how things looked in-game, and I decided it'd be good to change a few animations while I was at it. So I made a list of all the Eniripsa's spells! I started by creating the new animations, and then I did the new FX.

To begin an animation, I always start from the Eniripsa's static position in combat:

For the resurrection spell (Eniraser), I really wanted to bring in that style of the little fairy who sprinkles the target with magic dust.

 I had an image of the fairy who waves her wand and creates an explosion of dust with a little tiny tap, and an image of the target's soul rising up, with wings coming up too… I wanted to try and bring in that kind of delicate aspect to the new animation.

I first created the pose for the tap with the magic wand:

Then I did the other poses for the spell cast (before and after):

Next, we turn to the spell preparation phase: the poses where the Eniripsa is waving their wand/brush:

And finally, I did the transitions between all those poses:

Let's move on to the FX. I continued with the Eniripsa casting the spell by sticking to that same idea of "magic dust", and since it's a non-elemental spell, I added a few rainbow effects to emphasize the "magical" aspect. Then I did the FX on the target, trying to maintain those same visual codes and adding the "wings" to the soul that's being revived. My goal was to make the spell recognizable from its FX alone, because, for me, resurrection is much more visible with those wings rising up…

Another example: the Fire Marks. All Fire spells apply marks to their targets and have two possible effects depending on whether the Eniripsa is in Unnatural Remedies mode or not. It would have been a missed opportunity not to use the brush to draw those marks, which had already been designed for the spell logos. So I created all the animations on the same foundation: the Eniripsa draws the mark, then sends it to the target with a hand motion (you have to know when to be lazy in animation), changing only the outline to match the specific mark.

As for FX, there's not much on the spell cast animation – just a few flames to remind us that these are Fire spells, with different flame colors to match the color of each mark. For the target, I had to do several different FX: one for each of the two effects (normal and Unnatural Remedies), and one for triggering the mark. The goal is always for the FX to express the spell's effect: an FX with more of an upward motion when a bonus is assigned, more of an explosive look when it's causing damage, and so on. I added a few effects taken from the FX for the Unnatural Remedies spell to differentiate the effects that apply in that state.

What's your take on the community's feedback on your changes? Is it still just as fun as ever for you to know that players are blown away by the visual aspects you add to the game?

I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback, it made me very happy. When players are blown away like that, for me that means that I've achieved my goal and that I'm still in sync with what players like. I'm proud of that!

What are your inspirations when you're working? And what were they for the Eniripsa specifically?

In general, I take inspiration from everything I see: other video games, TV series (animated or not), movies, and so on. For the Eniripsa, I really wanted to make the most of that "fairy with a magic wand" aspect and focus on the importance of the brush. For the animations, there's a little bit of Tinkerbell, a little bit of Harry Potter, and a little bit of fencing.

If you had to redo the animations for a whole monster family, a whole island or a specific class, but could never touch any of the other animations for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Well, that'll never happen, because we can always do better and find things to improve. And variety is one aspect of my job that I really enjoy: going from an animation on some disgusting monster to a "dancefloor" emote, then on to FX for a different animation with explosions all over the screen… But sure, just for the sake of argument, I guess I'd like to make some updates to the Iop's combat animations. Just to be clear, though, that's neither a promise nor a commitment! :p

And if you could add whatever you wanted to the game by snapping your fingers, what would it be?

I don't know, maybe things that fly, the ability to use different heights…

Before you leave, have you got any spoilers to share with us?

Like I said, it's neither a promise nor a commitment…

The new Eniripsa animations will be included in WAKFU version 1.77, and are already available for testing in the beta client.
Category: Graphisme