This is the 12th and final episode of the 12 Weeks series. In this last episode, I’ll recap what I’ve done so far (and what I’ve learned) and then share my conclusions about the game and its future.
“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
NP is a Game
It’s important to point out that Nightmare Puppeteer is a game and not a 3D application. The gameplay is focused on creating characters, animations, and scenes within the game. And as M dot Strange points out “it’s an animation engine”. Also, the game is built upon the Unity Engine which means it has qualities that only a game made in Unity has (unique shaders and effects, for example).
Recap of Our 11-Week Journey
We began several months ago by describing what Nightmare Puppeteer is and is not. It is a game, but the game allows you to create machinima (real-time video) by using the Unity engine to puppet characters on your keyboard. We covered scene creation, character creation, how to use the camera, and how to trigger animations on your character. After that, we looked at how NP handles audio and lipsync. This was very interesting since NP makes creating music videos a snap.
Right in the middle of the series, M dot Strange, the developer of Nightmare Puppeteer, added motion capture using the Kinect2 which expanded the possibilities of the animation beyond just keyboard strokes and puppeteering. We looked in-depth at this new feature.
Then for the last few episodes, we produced a scene in NP that proved to be complicated and difficult in some areas like the level editor in NP. We then rounded out the series with an interview with M dot Strange and talked with him about the new additions and his reflections on creating Nightmare Puppeteer. We were surprised to learn that this game/tool has had very limited response from the public.
The main menu from Nightmare Puppeteer for the scene we worked on.
It’s quite an accomplishment to create and code your own game, but even more so if the game is designed for creators to create new media. It would be so much easier if you had a team where when a problem spot showed up in the game, you simply assigned it to a team member, while the rest of the team worked on other aspects of the game. The level of complexity in game design, despite Unity asserting that it’s relatively easy to do, is very high. Not to mention, you have additional issues with buggy sections of your game which requires even more attention and work.
That M dot Strange was able to create a tool that works well in the fast creation of wildly animated videos and music videos is a tribute to his skill and work ethic. We learned that you can quickly create characters (even random ones), bring in music and voiceovers (or singing), and then animate them quickly in a huge variety of scenes (over 65). As M dot says in the interview, “you can get an idea and create it in 30 minutes”.
The problem is that you are somewhat limited in the style of characters and animations you can create. M dot’s own personal style is one of anarchy and energy. Anti-realism if you will. And I like that a lot. The potential for surreal, expressionistic, and even abstract styles is very high in Nightmare Puppeteer. However, if you want to do realism, you are quite limited. Motion capture with the Kinect2 is a big step toward realistic animation, but there still needs to be developed to make it easier to do realism. I had a lot of problems with my scene creation in NP because I was trying to create realistic interactions between characters and NP didn’t make it easy.
But I think this is actually a minor problem. M dot Strange is very responsive to users of Nightmare Puppeteer. I think he’s just limited in the time he can spend continuing to develop NP as he has many other irons in the fire. Of course, I didn’t bring in new, more realistic characters from, say, DAZ Studio, for my scene, which would have made a difference. USB import is excellent in NP from a variety of sources like Mixamo, DAZ, and any Unity marketplace purchases.
Overall, I really enjoyed creating things in Nightmare Puppeteer. Considering all of the content you get, the $4.95 price is cheap. Add the speed of idea-to-finished product and you have a fun and creative program that, while perhaps limited in the style of video you can create, is well worth owning. I encourage readers to buy Nightmare Puppeteer and create strange and weird videos. I know I intend on working with the program for many years to come.