This is the first episode of a series that will last for 12 weeks. During that time I will learn Nightmare Puppeteer and create various kinds of machinima. Along the way, I’ll share with you my discoveries, my mistakes, and my successes using this remarkable cinematic game engine. My goal is to learn the game thoroughly and develop a workflow that allows me to create short machinima scenes and music videos.
“Nightmare Puppeteer takes the approach of puppetry where you do something with your hands, but instead of using your hands, you are pressing keys on your keyboard….it’s an animation engine”
-M dot Strange
What is Nightmare Puppeteer?
M dot Strange’sNightmare Puppeteer is a unique indie game that allows the user to quickly create animated 3D scenes using keyboard keys. It is essentially a machinima tool(making movies inside of video games) where the actual gameplay is character creation and movie production. Released in 2020 on Steam for $4.99. The strange character and scene style along with the rapid production process has made Nightmare Puppeteer popular particularly among those who create animated music videos.
I chose Nightmare Puppeteer because of its unique production process, its inexpensive cost, and because the developer has made an extensive amount of tutorials and actual films using the game. M dot Strange has spent over 15 years creating every kind of animation and wanted to create a tool that makes it much easier to create animation quickly: hours rather than weeks.
What You Get with Nightmare Puppeteer
This animation engine game is available on Steam for $4.99. For your money, you get several things. There are more items than what’s listed here, but these are what I think are the basic components.
A huge variety of bodies, heads, clothing, hair, and props that you can combine in any way that catches your fancy and then save them for later.
The ability to import music and audio for your scene, apply to lip-sync, and cue your audio along with the ability to change the pitch and tone. You can also record live using a microphone.
Over 40 pre-created sets of varying degrees of normal and weird, including a basic level editor where you can add props, lights, and pre-animated characters.
Over 50 premade animations are broken down by the upper body, lower body, and full body. These animations can be recorded and looped during scene playback using keyboard keys as activators
Style flavors: visual shaders that change the look of your scene in subtle and outrageous ways. Can be activated with keyboard shortcuts
Import of .usb props, heads, and bodies which can then be animated or adjust in scale and placement.
Integration with Twitch so that you can create scenes live with another player.
Developer support and tutorials as a scene in the game, plus dozens of tutorials and films on the developer's Imagination Rabbit Youtube channel.
Buying, Downloading, and Installing
You will need to join Steam, download the steam application (look for the green "install steam" at the top of the main page), and buy the game (search for "Nightmare Puppeteer) to get started. You can also use this direct link. Once you have done those things, you just go to your steam library and download Nightmare Puppeteer. After the download, there will be a shortcut to the game which you can click to start.
There is also a free demo of Nightmare Puppeteer. You can download the demo here. But at $4.99, just buy it :-)
M dot Strange has an experimental version of the program that has new features he is testing but it's quite buggy. For this series, we’ll be using the current version that is on sale on Steam.