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From the Air Force to games animation – developing believable characters

7 May 2015

Research by the US Air Force’s Chief Scientist has inspired the development of more believable animations at the Abertay Digital Graduate Show this Friday (8 May).

Jess Hider, who studied Computer Arts at Abertay, used the work of Dr Mica Endsley on ‘situational awareness’ to start developing animated characters who respond more believably to the environment they’re in.

Her final piece, Rose, focused on developing character animations beyond just responding to the physical environment of a game so they also react to the mood of the environment, for instance whether that is hostile or safe.

Jess Hider ADGS 1 ‌ 

Jess said: “At the start of the year, I was playing many games trying to work out what I wanted to do for my dissertation and during this time I realised that in most games I had played, the character was great at reacting to the physical environment, but barely reacted to the tone of their surroundings.

“This bothered me, as I found it most noticeable in areas where the rest of the environment was clearly emitting a specific atmosphere. If the lighting, textures and sound are creating a certain atmosphere, why can’t character animations be aligned with this?”

Jess Hider ADGS 2 ‌ 

She added: “One challenge was finding the balance between having the character react to their surroundings without disrupting the player’s sense of agency or control.

“However, there are a couple of cases in Rose where I deliberately disrupt player agency to draw their attention to a narrative point, which seems to work well as the player wonders why and what the avatar is reacting to.

“The importance of game characters showing believable moods and personalities depends on the design of the game. If it is about the player becoming the character, it would be disruptive if the two are reacting in different ways.

“However, for games where the characters have a clear personality, such as the latest Tomb Raider or The Last of Us, I think it is very important they demonstrate their personality at all available opportunities.”

Jess Hider ADGS 3

Jess is one of 170 students showing their final year projects in Abertay University’s main Kydd Building and the Hannah Maclure Centre art gallery, on the top floor of the Student Centre.

The opening times of the Abertay Digital Graduate Show are:

  • Friday 8 May, 4-8pm
  • Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 May, 12-4pm
  • Monday 11 May, 9am-12pm

Coming along to the Abertay Digital Graduate Show? Join the Facebook event and share it with your friends.


For media enquiries, please contact Chris Wilson (Communications Manager) – T: 01382 308522 M: 07837 250284 E:


The Abertay Digital Graduate Show is part of the Ignite Dundee festival, which runs from 8-31 May and showcases the very best of Dundee’s creative talent.

Ignite Dundee is a partnership between Abertay University; Dundee & Angus College; Dundee Contemporary Arts; Dundee – One City, Many Discoveries; Dundee Rep Theatre; Leisure & Culture Dundee; University of Dundee and V&A Dundee.

For more information, please visit the Ignite Dundee website.

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