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A more flexible animation system

Something that I have struggled with, and the forums show that I’m definitely not alone, is animations tied to a specific skeleton. I’d like to say that I’m an indie developer, but more realistically I’m a hobbyist with delusions of grandeur who is still learning the system. I work alone, so I don’t have an artist (nor could I afford one). I get my models from Turbosquid, CGTrader, Sketchfab etc. Not surprisingly, every single one has a slightly different skeleton, and none of them (with very, very few exceptions) are rigged to the Epic mannequin. The system in Unity is similar to the one in UE4, but everything is mapped to a common humanoid avatar, skeletons and animations, meaning that I could use any skeletal mesh with any animation. I don’t doubt that it’s not as performant as the one in UE4, but when you are still blocking things out in your project, the Unity system works very well.

Therefore, would it be possible to include a system like this in UE5, and give the users the option to use it or the existing one, depending on their required level of performance? I much prefer to use UE4, but the process is so frustrating, particularly for someone like me who is new to the engine. Thanks for your consideration.

This sounds like a textbook case for animation retargeting. Is there any reason why that doesn’t work for you?

I have never gotten a successful retargeting, something is always wonkey. Aside from that, I would have to retarget all of the different skeletons, and each of them would require its own copy of each animation. For people like me, who are just starting, that feels unreasonably cumbersome and is a major source of frustration. The humanoid rig already exists, and the skeletons can use it, so why not the animations so that both have the same deniminator? Please keep in mind that I am looking at this as a complete beginner, so in that regard, I do not find UE4 welcoming for noobs like me.

Sorry, I looked at your join date and it says March 2014, so I assumed you had more experience using UE.

In my experience, the three most important things for retargeting to produce good results are the base pose, the bone name mapping, and the translation retargeting options. Doing a google search for all three should lead to some good examples.

My Unity experience is limited, but it seems that both do basically the same thing with Unreal allowing for greater customizability and being more complex as aresult. My bet is they won’t change much about how the system works for UE5.

If it’s any consolation, I always found characters and everything around them to be the most complex and time consuming part about game development.

They can share the same skeleton, even if they have different proportions and extra bones. As long as the general structure and bone names are the same, different skeletal meshes can share the same skeleton. Because they share the same skeleton, they can share the same animations without duplicating them.
Some more information: Skeleton Assets | Unreal Engine Documentation, Skeleton Assets: Importing, Sharing Skeletons & Anims | 02 | v4.8 Tutorial Series | Unreal Engine - YouTube

Here’s something I did; there is one skeleton, one animation, and two skeletal meshes:

Funny enough, I gave up on UE4 because even when retargeting I had to retarget to 20 different humanoid characters, each with a different skeleton. Each of these would then require their own copy of the animations. When you’re using a pack like Kubold’s animations, that’s a LOT of animations.

I don’t doubt that the UE4 mechanic is superior; I find UE4 superior in many aspects. That doesn’t help when you can’t get past the trouble that I (and many others) are having. Essentially, it’s a showstopper if I can’t do something basic. Yes, I’ve followed the tutorials in the documentation as well as many, many Youtube tutorials.

The fact that there are so many others who, like me, are certifiably stupid, the responses we get is pretty much like yours and we feel even more stupid (as if that’s possible).

I know that you’re just trying to help, and I very much appreciate the fact that you took the time to try. When I look at the kinds of things that Epic can do with graphics, I just wondered if they dedicated the resources they could build a better mouse trap. Thank you again for taking the time to help. I really do appreciate it.

@midgunner66 If I understand correctly from your video, both models share the same skeleton and it is just the proportions that are different. I have had success with that, but that is almost never the problem that I face. If you look at my response to @and-rad you’ll see that, as a hobbyist, I have to buy my models and down it spirals.

That’s a pretty slick video and I really appreciate that you took the time to make it. I hate the idea that I’m too stupid to use Unreal Engine (because the only thing that I like about Unity is how it handles different animations. I’m not ready to give up yet :grinning:

There is also extra bones (the wings) on the smaller character that the taller character doesn’t have.

Well, you’re buying models that aren’t made to go together. I would assume just renaming the bones & matching the rest pose would work as long as the general structure (i.e. hierarchy) is the same (e.g. spine_1 → spine_2 → spine_3 → clavicle_l → upperarm_l → etc.) Plus, extra bones (like ponytails or extra arms) are alright.

@midgunner66 Thanks, I’ll give renaming a shot.