Hey there, adventurers! My name is Ben and I’m responsible for the animation of the Flail Snail mount. When I first heard we were going to be making a snail, I assumed it was a small task to knock out so I could get on with something more impressive. Then I was told, “Oh by the way, it’s going to be a mount. One of the fastest in the game.”
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My head was like a Michael Bay movie condensed into 15 seconds: explosions everywhere! I had so many questions to ask about how we were going to pull this off convincingly and, of course, I was the one responsible for answering my own questions. Snail. Mount. Superfast. Flail. This was all the info I had. Nonetheless, I was pretty excited about how irregular this mount was and about the challenges I had the opportunity to solve on my own.
When I’m animating a mount, I begin by looking at the character. What does it look like? What features of anatomy does it have that I might able to leverage in building its persona? And from those features, how best can I represent its movement? What real world counterpart can I steal from to help me? What does existing D&D lore tell us about it? Among the many questions I had there was one question that stood out as being the mountain top in the distance, how do make a snail jump?
As you can imagine, I didn’t glean too much from the “anatomy,” what with being a snail and all, so I had to think about what might enable a snail to go so fast: slime. Snail. Mount. Superfast. Flail. And now slime. I didn’t come up with slime right away, though in retrospect it seems obvious. It took a few days of playing with the rig of the character, and finding an avenue, a theme, that I could string through all of its animation as a key feature of its existence or persona. But when I did, the options seemed to make themselves known. So I concluded that the snail must excrete a slick super fluid from its belly to slide on as it traverses the landscape. In this way, I changed how the snail interacted with its environment, and I used that as the basis for as many other animations as I thought I could get away with.
We had great detail in the mesh for the Flail Snail that I tried to capitalize on. For instance, the Snail has little fleshy lumps on the bottom edge of its belly, and we rigged those little bits so that I could make those lumps move as it runs. The Flails were also an opportunity to inject as much character as possible. And, predictably, I made them flail. In general we take this approach with each mount we develop. The results of the Flail Snail highlight this process well.
With so many challenges to overcome, and being surprised by the solutions in the end, the Flail Snail is my favorite mount in the game. I hope it’s yours too!
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