A guide to the top animation tech in games

12 animation tools to bring your game characters to life

Ensuring seamless animations to your game characters is essential to creating an immersive experience. To help, Develop has put together a guide of 12 tools to create the most believable character movements.

Is there a tool you’d recommend that isn’t listed here? Let us know and we’ll get it added to the list.

Morpheme with Euphoria

Company: NaturalMotion

Morpheme with Euphoria allows developers to create characters that can accurately react to obstacles in the game environment.

Morpheme is an animation engine and tool-chain for character animation, providing tools for marking up and organising data. Euphoria is a runtime tech that builds on this by dynamically generating character motion at runtime, enabling them to interact with other characters and the environment around them.


Company: Autodesk

HumanIK can be used for creating real-time character animation for games. The software features a full body inverse kinematics system and real-time retargeting technology to enable characters to interact realistically with and procedurally adapt to game environments and other characters in real-time.

The latest release introduces a Creature Solver, a modular solver that enables IK computation on non-human characters with multiple limbs, tentacles, antennae or mandibles.

Modo 801

Company: The Foundry

Modo 801 is the latest version of the animation, 3D modelling, sculpting and effects and rendering toolset.
New additions to the animation workflow of the tool include time markers and onion skinning. Animators can also load standard mo-cap formats or transfer existing Modo character animation using the retargeting toolset. Rigging has also been updated to include new Wrap Lattice and Bezier Deformers, enabling animation on hi-res objects.

Havok Animation Studio

Company: Havok

Formerly known as Havok Behaviour and Havok Animation, the Havok Animation Studio provides tools and runtime SDKs for character animation. The tech can be integrated into the Physics tool for ragdoll driving, blending and mixing.

Features include the ability to manage animation quality, quantity and speed with a number of popular codecs, and enables developers to re-purpose existing content from one character to another with runtime retargeting and mirroring.

Ikinema RunTime

Company: Ikinema

Ikinema RunTime is a full-body inverse kinematics software that can be harnessed to create real-time animation during gameplay on any fantasy creature or human.

The technology can be used to reduce animation load on blend trees by animating the characters using full-body IK in the game. The SDK works as part of established animation pipelines, providing a full-body rig that can be used to quickly and efficiently animate any characters in your game.

Emotion FX 4

Company: Mystic Game Development

Emotion FX offers a real-time, cross-platform character animation software development kit that can be plugged into any 3D engine, game or other applicable product.

The fourth iteration contains a fully artist-focused editor to set up complex character behaviour, with extensions of the API to handle the extra functionality from the previous version of the tool. Other functions also enable devs to add more details and expression to character, including lookat and IK.


Company: Esoteric Software

Esoteric Software’s Spine animation tool is designed specifically for 2D games. The tool works by attaching images to bones and then animating them, which it claims has numerous benefits over frame-by-frame animation, including smaller files sizes, fewer required art assets and a smoother animation frame-rate.

Features include a dopesheet providing a detailed view of all the timelines that make up an animation, meshes and free-form deformation.

3ds Max

Company: Autodesk

Coming in at 19th in the Develop 100 Tech List, as voted for by CTOs, indies and other game industry professionals, 3ds Max allows developers to create fully-textured models and detailed environments, as well as intricate character animations.

The tool houses a fully integrated Character Animation Toolkit and Biped toolsets, with the aim of making and editing animated characters faster and easier.

3ds Max has been used by studios large and small, and can be seen at work in games such as the Gears of War series, the new-gen reboot of Thief and mobile titles such as Fieldrunners 2.


Company: Nvidia

Featuring a number of uses, PhysX can also be used for character animation in games.

The tech allows animators to accurately compute the physical behaviour of bodies in real-time, for example, allowing a football player to bend and twist in various different ways depending on the specific conditions associated with a tackle or player movement.

The tech, which is also used to generate dynamic destruction and particle-based fluids, has been used in over 150 games and is said to have been adopted by more than 10,000 developers to date.


Company: OC3 Entertainment

FaceFX offers a unique solution for generating realistic lip and muscle movements based on audio files.

The tech can batch process thousands of audio files and is tailored to add expressions to an animation without disrupting the lip synchronisation. Developers are also able to go in-depth and tweak their animations how they want, or integrate FaceFX into their art pipeline.

The tool has been seen in characters from Grand Theft Auto V, Watch Dogs, Battlefield 4, Far Cry 3, and South Park: The Stick of Truth.

Ikinema WebAnimate

Company: Ikinema

Ikinema’s WebAnimate toolset is designed specifically for indies and lets users loose with a fully-featured animation and retargeting platform in their browser.

Developers can also import mo-cap and models in FBX and BVH, retarget and customise animation, rig skeletons and retarget 2D models. It also allows the control of asset storage from local drives, network servers and the cloud so artists can collaborate on projects globally and share files.

As well as the free starter version, developers using the tool can also upgrade to three other subscription packages, all the way up to Professional for $19.99 per month per user.


Company: Mixamo

Fuse is part of Mixamo’s end-to-end character creation tool suite, allowing developers to create 3D characters from a library of body parts. In total, the suite features more than 60 body parts, 90 pieces of clothing and 25 smart texture substances, powered by Allegorithmic’s Substance.

Characters created using Fuse can be exported as OBJ files or uploaded to Mixamo’s online 3D character rigging and animation tools. All models created within the tool can be used royalty-free by the developer.

More recommended animation tools

Granny 3D by Rad Game Tools – www.radgametools.com/granny
Spriter by BrashMonkey – www.brashmonkey.com

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