Today I released Jellybubbles Free on iOS (it is already available on Android), and had to share the making-of for the jellyfish animation, because it was so much fun to make!

The jellyfish is a highly dynamic object, with its canopy (the body bit) contracting and relaxing to push it through the water, while its soft flexible tentacles follow behind, swirling with the water currents. The jellyfish graphics and animation have worked really well, in a project that was otherwise fraught with problems such as commercial viability, that I will cover in another post.

Developing the animations was great fun, particularly because it is such a custom task that I had to figure out myself, but also really rewarding as I brought a jellyfish to life.

Here is a video showing the final graphics in game.

The process began with an idea – the motion of the jellyfish. This was central to the game, as the graphics had to provide an atmospheric experience, and be beautiful. I began by testing the animation idea, drawing a rough test in photoshop, thinking about how the motion could work.

The motion seemed to work, and I felt like I understood how to build the animation. The next stage was to build the production-grade graphic. That wasn’t much of an art pipeline, it was a huge jump from quick concept, but is just how I work.

I moved to 3D Studio Max, where I created a 5 vertex spline that represented one half of an axial cross section. I dropped in some key frames, and created a single animation loop.

After this, I lathed the spline (using a modifier in 3DS) and applied a turbo smooth. This created the jellyfish canopy, although the animation didn’t really work. Moving down the modifier stack, I edited the spline and the waypoints to the level where they animated smoothly. This was a challenging and creative process and there was much tweaking, altering and complete re-doing. The end result out of 3DS was as so:

Once I had this animation, it was simply a case of moving it into photoshop and overlaying the color layer, the end result being as so (without the alpha masking applied):

Coupled with the dynamic tail flowing behind the jellyfish, I think the visual results really worked, and was a really rewarding and enjoyable process, where there was a great mix of technical problem, artistic judgement, and creative problem solving.