Have you ever wondered what the RBS Six Nations would’ve been like if it were a beat em up video game? Wonder no more as we went ahead and created a series of animated videos that followed Wales fighting it’s way through the Six Nations Fighter tournament.

The idea came from a ‘what if’ conversation that escalated into a campaign to support Wales throughout the Six Nations. There was no doubt about the art direction, it had to be based on the old 16bit fighting games like Street Fighter. To pull off the style we wanted, we knew that the attention to detail was key. We studied and mostly took inspiration from beat em games on the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive with subtle nods to other video games we’re fond of (can you spot them all?).

Designing with Pixels

To do this, we would be working up close on a tiny image that we’d blow up later when it came to animation. The final size of the dragon is approx 4cm.
This was a learning curve that we got better at as the project went on. We studied and referenced a lot of video games in order to understand how sprite artists added detail.  By the end we understood how to add a lot detail with only a few tiny squares.

Six Nations Fighter Welsh Dragon
Designing the Welsh Dragon up close
Six Nations Welsh Dragon Actual Size - Copyright Jammy Custard Animation
Actual size of the Welsh Dragon (Approx 4cm)

Animating The Six Nations Fighters

When animating these characters we used a modern approach of creating a puppet that we could easily manipulate i.e the limbs are separate pieces we could control and reuse, whereas traditionally each character is a single image redrawn for every frame of animation (see Ryu image below) – This is likely due to how games process sprites.

Ryu Street Fighter Hadouken Sprite Sheet
Ryu Sprite via http://www.spriters-resource.com/

We animated the characters inside After Effects, but due to the nature of how they are animated, the movement was too smooth and clean. We would then take out every other frame (using time remapping) which made the animation stuttery but look more authentic.

Ultimately the animation needed to look slick and have a lot of detail, but at the same time look like it was done in as few frames as possible.

Six Nations Fighter Welsh Dragon Frame Rate
Left: Original Animation. Right: Removed Keyframes

With a character designed and assembled, it’s a case of working out the choreography of the fight itself. If you watch through all the videos you may notice a homage to many video games. When we weren’t referencing other games, it was a case of acting out the moves ourselves around the studio.

The Results

Before and after each match Wales played, we put up a video on various social networks. Depending on the result of each match, we would put up a video of whether the Welsh Dragon had defeated its opponent or not. This meant we had to create both outcomes beforehand, so each match had three videos: The fight, the Dragon winning and the Dragon losing. However after the first Six Nations match of Wales V Ireland, the result was a tie which we foolishly hadn’t anticipated and quickly posted a picture instead in bias of Wales.

The results of the campaign has been documented on the Six Nations Fighter landing page. The video below shows what would have been if the results were different.

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