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Dance Fortress 2

By Shamus
on Saturday Oct 30, 2010
Filed under:


You’ll need to watch this several times if you really want to see everything.

Link (YouTube)

These animations were made by one person, using keyframes. That means by hand, without using a motion capture studio. It’s all just timing and posing. I’ve done this kind of work before and it is far more art than science. I spent hours just making a very bland walk animation. It’s tough work and this guy has a talent for it.

Several people have said, “Valve should hire this guy!” True, I’m sure he could go to Valve and do fine work. But you know who really needs this? Like, a lot? Bethesda. This guy could work miracles at Bethesda.

Comments (59)

  1. porschecm2 says:

    Ah yes, this is very cool. I saw it a few weeks ago, and had to watch it in HD to catch everything.

  2. Moriarty says:

    found this in the youtube queue:


    the pyro dance to it’s original music, these things look great.

  3. mad_wolf says:

    there is actually a guy already doing an re-animation mod (no not necromancy, shees….)


  4. Nyaz says:

    Oh my god, yes. Get this guy a job at Bethesda. Actually, kick all the current animators and let this guy replace them. (Okay, maybe they need a few more animators, but… you know… Bethesdas animations are… nightmare-inducing)

  5. Jenx says:

    As someone who studies animation I’d like to point out that doing animation in a “traditional” way (that is, keyframes and then inbetweens) is not really much of an art as much as it is “HARD WORK AND OH DEAR LORD I’VE BARELY EVEN FINISHED THIS SCENE AND THERE ARE SEVERAL HUNDREDS MORE IN THE MOVIE WHEN WILL THIS END” sort of thing.

    While being a good artist is helpful for an animator, having nerves of steel is better.

    • Neil Polenske says:

      And having a good rig to work with, even more so!

    • Will says:

      It’s very much an art, primarily because when working with 3D models, especially models with unrealistic proportions, what is technically physically accurate may not neccessarily look correct.

      This goes doubly so in something like TF2, where animations need to be extremely crisp and sharp and exxagurated to avoid clutter and prevent confusion. Several of the animations in the video are physically quite wrong, but they flow correctly and thus look right.

      It’s one of the big problems i discovered when working with motion capture; you can get yourself a nice animation sequence that you know for a fact someone did in real life and it looked pretty good while he was doing it, stick it on a skeleton that you know for a fact accurately mimics the human skeleton and then bang your head against the wall because the actual animation on the character itself defies logic and looks wrong anyway.

      Uncanny Valley is probably heavily responsible for this.

  6. Avilan says:

    That is… SERIOUSLY impressive.

  7. eri says:

    The fact that this guy did this all by hand, frame by frame, is just awesome. Some major Pixar-level talent right there.

    I’d say Bethesda need the help, but… they don’t deserve it. And I imagine their engine would find a way to butcher his animations anyway.

  8. Reach says:

    My first thought was “What the hell, this is good but way too short”. Then I realized that it wasn’t made by Valve, and in fact by one person.Wow.

  9. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Had to watch it 5 times just to focus on a single group. I like it a lot.

    Although the Heavy/Medic turned out a tad too dirty in my taste ;-)

  10. Noah Lesgold says:

    It’s awesome all over, but my favorite part is actually the bit at the end where they’re getting ready to fight again and the red spy pops up behind the blue soldier like a jack-in-the-box.

  11. Peter H. Coffin says:

    A minor redirection: keyframing is when only particular “key frames” (hence the name) are drawn by the animator, then the stuff in between those key frames is handed over to either an intern or a computer program to fill in the intermediary frames. Actually doing EVERYTHING frame by frame is cartoon animation (doesn’t have to be funny in this case), with rotoscoping being a subset (which is drawing over a filmed motion of something else to get the movement right — Disney used a LOT of rotoscoping to make their films). Animating the whole thing by hand with physical objects instead of drawings is stop motion animation. CGI and things like how this was done really start blurring the lines because a) the computer’s doing the drawing, so maybe it’s keyframed, but the animator’s still directly controlling everything so maybe it’s not and b) you’re not really having real things there so maybe it’s drawing (cartoon animation) but all the stuff being shown are at least virtual objects that have prescribed limits and you’re making images of them, so it’s kind of stop motion as well (or instead, depending on how you look at it).

  12. I was amazed by all of the different recognizable dance moves that were used.

    I saw the famous MC Hammer dance. Beyonce’s “Put a Ring On It”, some Michael Jackson moves, a little Marky Mark…

    Having knowledge of so many different recognizable dance moves is impressive in itself. Let alone being able to create them as animations.


    • Teldurn says:

      Maybe we can try to identify who’s doing what? From what I can tell:

      Sniper: Napoleon Dynamite
      Spy: Michael Jackson
      Pyro: Beyonce
      Demoman: MC Hammer
      Engineer: Starts off with The Robot, then some breakdancing moves, then some bull-riding shenanigans with the Sentry.

      Scout and Soldier: I can’t identify the breakdancing-style moves Scout does before getting into a fight with Soldier.

      Medic and Heavy: I’m not touching that one. :P

  13. Teldurn says:

    Yeah, this was brought to my attention a couple weeks ago, and it is just as spectacular now as it was then. I had to rewatch it about a dozen times, just focusing on a different character each time, to see the whole thing in action.

    It really is superb.

    Makes me almost want to be an animator again.

  14. Ringwraith says:

    If I remember correctly, this was actually his job application, or at least part of it.
    Though I think you only need to add a note saying “Would you hire me?” with it as it just speaks volumes for itself.

  15. Roosevelt says:

    Hey Shamus, have you tried Fable III yet? Man, you’re going to hate it. Exactly two characters return from the last game. Care to guess who? That’s right, Theresa and Reaver.

  16. RTBones says:


    Dont know why, but I felt it had to be said. :)

    Well done piece, that is. Well done indeed.

  17. SatansBestBuddy says:

    But you know who really needs this? Like, a lot? Bethesda. This guy could work miracles at Bethesda.

    Heh, that reminds me of that interview with Todd Howard I read in EGM, he talked about how they had this one British guy doing a lot of the modeling and animation, and when Todd asked him to make the girls in Oblivion prettier the guy replied, “These are the pretty women in Britain!”

    The interview as a whole is pretty damn interesting (and long, eight whole pages with very few pictures and tiny text o.O), and Todd does say that one of the biggest things he’d change in previous games is character models and animation.

  18. poiumty says:

    Here’s something interesting: the sniper’s doing the WoW blood elf dance. The spy, to the lower right, is doing the night elf dance.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  19. Meredith says:

    Bethesda might need him, but from their track record I’d say Valve’s much more likely to actually hire him.

    This was cool, I need to watch it again.

  20. Amarsir says:

    Hire someone to do keyframe animation? Bethesda has enough trouble making deadline as it is.

  21. Klay F. says:

    Here is a music video of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” by the demoman. The animations aren’t as precise as they are in Dance Fortress, but IMO its better than Dance Fortress because its longer.

    If you’ve seen Michael Jackson’s original Beat It video, it goes along perfectly with the theme of “two warring snap-dance gangs.”


  22. scowdich says:

    If Valve doesn’t hire this guy (and really, this video is as much a job application as anything), they should at least pay him for the rights to the character animations. Who wouldn’t mind some new taunts showing up in-game?

  23. That was really impressive though, kept moving with good balance and complexity. You don’t always find that.

  24. Jarenth says:

    Because I am a terrible nerd, I feel compelled to point out that that small part of the You Have To Burn The Rope song at the end (“Now You’re A Hero“, if Google memory serves) was both unexpected and thematically approriate.

    Now then, to re-watch the video a few times. Or ten.

  25. Josh R says:

    Yes it’s impressive… though apparently he spent four months on it. Not sure whether that is time efficient or not.

  26. Stacy says:

    Really Shamus…another cheap shot at Bethesda? Don’t they meet the exacting graphical standards of a compulsive Minecraft player?

  27. Adam P says:

    According to a post Kotaku, the guy who animated these actually works for Lionhead.

  28. (LK) says:

    He might be hired by Bethesda and end up quitting a few months later in disgust.

    Seriously though I think if Bethesda knew enough to hire proper animators they wouldn’t need them so badly in the first place.

    Come to think of it I wouldn’t be surprised if they just asked some of the programming or game design staff to familiarize themselves with animation software and churn out some animations every now and then as they’re needed. Inexperienced amateurs can produce better stuff than what makes it into their games, I have seen it. Hell, I’ve even contracted them.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      There’s a troll image from /v/ about how Fallout 3 sucks in comparison to the originals, and one of the things it claims is that the guy who does Bethesda’s animations flunked out of an animation course three times and got hired by Bethesda because he was a friend of Todd Howard. Awesome source for that, I know, but it would explain a fair bit.

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