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Interview with Solcar Amat, Virtuoso Animator

posted Feb 24, 2015, 2:52 PM by Rosanna Himmel   [ updated Mar 8, 2015, 2:59 PM ]
Hola Solcar! I have heard rumors that you have been working on something pretty exciting.

Hola y muchas gracias. Yes, yes, it is true. For the last three months I have been working behind the scenes on a big improvement for the Virtual Kennel Club. We [on the VKC team] stretch our imaginations always to make things better, you know. I am so excited to be able to bring this to our VKC Family.

Of course, we are aware that many of our VKC Patrons are kids. And what goes together better than children and pets, eh? How many times have I seen a child in the VKC Park with the family say, “Oh Pappy, buy me this doggie. I love it!”

Kids and pets are natural together. I have seen many children visit the VKC Parks and fall in love with a pet.

So true. But the dogs have been animated for grown-ups, and the kids miss out on the fully immersive experience of cuddling, stroking, and caressing their VKC pet. Long ago, I promised Enrico that I would solve this problem.

Why did it take so long?

Obviously — as some have suggested — we simply could have added controls to move the avatar up or down, closer or farther, and left or right. Controls like these work well for SL furniture, but this solution would not be satisfactory for petting an animal. Tiny hands could sink too deeply into the pet or not reach it at all, short legs could be dangling awkwardly in the air, little feet could be pushed uncomfortably into the ground, things like that, you know.

Because children have such a wide range of sizes and shapes, developing animations for them has been a real challenge. We are trying to include everybody, but we must do it with one animation, one that will work reasonably well for younger and older children as well as for toddlers. This calls for compromise. We must find something that works reasonably well for a variety of children just as we have developed petting animations that work sensibly for a variety of grown-ups.

What did you do so that kids can interact with the VKC Pets?

Finding the right base size demanded effort. We needed something that we could stretch as much as possible to include toddlers from 1 to 3 years old, pre-teens who are 8 to 12 years old, and children who are in between those ages. After much experimentation we chose a 5–6 year old as the base. Toddlers who are very much on the small end of the range can expect to hover over the pet a few millimeters. Older kids who are nearly full grown may find that they sink into the ground just a tiny bit. But on the whole, we found this to be a very believable compromise.

How did you test the petting animation for kids?

Once we had most of the kids’ animation worked out, we took it to the VKC community and asked the kids to try it. We took notes and made adjustments. Now, we have something worthy of a VKC animal.

“I wiked it,” announced one of the beta testers, “da peting was good :)” “Yah, i wike bein on top of him huging,” added a girl. “Is fun,” chimed in a little boy.

What else should our readers know?

The petting animation for kids is nearly ready for general release. The first animal to receive it will be the VKC Australian Shepherd — both the blue merle and the red merle. Our next step is to make a suitable animation for the puppies because, well, they’re puppies. What goes together better? Kids and puppies!