These days, computer animation can be an expensive business. Not only do you need to shell out your hard-earned cash on a decent computer, but then you have to decide which of the hugely expensive animation packages you're going to use in order to bring your creations to life.
Fortunately, over the past few years we have seen a growing trend of smaller, independent teams creating more focused software. Whether that focus was on subdivision surface modelling, rendering or animation, the mantra remained the same: to give people a cheaper, sometimes more refined option, which can also streamline their workflow.
Among these is newcomer Akeytsu from Nukeygara. A slick looking program built from the ground up, to make the job of rigging and animating game characters a speedy and efficient process.
The version I tested was still an early Beta so there were bugs present and some features missing, but my early impressions were positive with the application showing some real potential.
Importing and rigging a low polygon character, with full IK and FK support, was quick and easy with the help of the online tutorials, and before long I was animating using the Spinner, which is an on screen control box, and editing my F-curves right in the viewport with the Curveboard.
What's more, creating a simple run or walk cycle was helped immensely with Cyclemaker, a tool which copies and offsets your animation from one side to the other.
Unfortunately it's not all smooth sailing. As mentioned earlier, this version is aimed more at the Unity and Unreal Engine user who wants to animate relatively low polygon geometry, and for that it's ideal.
If you're looking to do anything slightly more advanced then you may find the rigging tools a little too simplistic.
As an example, there are no options to add a twist to help rotate the bicep, wrist or thighs. A common feature added into most rigs to reduce model twisting. You also have to select sequential joints,
like fingers, individually rather than having a global control to curl and pose them.
In fact, there are no 'controls' to speak of really as it's all joint-based animation. Facial animation is also restricted to joints as there is currently no morph target support.
Skinning your character can also be a lengthy process as you have to edit the weight values on a per vertex level – something you wouldn't want to do on a 20,000 polygon character. I ended up skinning my model in another application first, but weight painting is on the list of additional tools which Nukeygara is working on.
With all that in mind you do have to remember that we are looking at Akeytsu in its infancy. From what I hear, the developers plan to expand its capabilities to cover some of the issues raised above and also push it well beyond game development and into higher end production territory.
But for now though, Akeytsu is a fun and focused application which achieves what it set out to do: to give animators a cheaper, but not inferior, option when it comes to animating lower end game characters.