Inside Has Gloriously Subtle Animations – Come See!

I’ve just finished Inside [official site] – I really enjoyed it. It’s a kind of macabre vignette with a lot of shared DNA from Playdead’s previous game, Limbo. It also reminded me of the few minutes I played of Black The Fall at a previous Rezzed in terms of dystopian setting, palette and some of the control mechanisms so I’ll be curious to see where they differ when that game is released. BUT while playing, the thing about Inside I kept coming back to/being distracted by/being entranced by was the animations.

There were so many little touches, little looks, little variations in movement when it came to the main character that I wanted to make sure we flagged them up in a post with the help of gifs.

I’m not sure how smooth these will look on your screens but I’ll add a little explanation beneath each so you know why I recorded it even if it doesn’t quite come across. I’ve also tried not to spoil anything so they’re pretty zoomed in and they’re not about the actual puzzle solving. If you’d prefer to stay entirely free of spoilers for atmospheric changes and setting just duck out now!

The Window

This was the first one I made. All I did was make the boy walk over to a closed door with a window in it by pressing the right arrow key. The glancing over the shoulder and the resting of the hands on the glass are entirely the game’s doing. It’s a really lovely touch (and I mean that in both senses). It also helps you develop this sense of the boy responding to his environment rather than just being a sprite dumped in a world.

The Trapdoor

This one has a delightful heft to it – the weight of the trapdoor for the little kid to lift is so apparent in his movements and the strain which switches from different bits of his body through the animation. It goes from shoulders to legs to elbows and upper arms then releases.

The Chain

This one has a nice rhythm to it and the accompanying sound effects are perfect (sorry they’re not giffable) but it’s all about the little scramble at the top for me. It’s an intermission between climbing and standing that’s all legs and arms and struggle.

The Falls

These are two variations on landing after a non-fatal fall. They correspond to different heights the boy falls from and the fact he’s got forward momentum when he does so, I think. The first is a favourite and you can trigger it while running downhill if you do a jump – a really neat stumble. The second one is when the drop is longer and incorporates a roll.

The Fence

This one is just really smooth. I like how he hangs from the wire – the body feels right. It’s not one of those animations where you feel like the creators had to fudge the motion or clip anything. If I slow it down hugely maybe I’d see it otherwise but running at regular speed it’s delightful. Smooth like buttered rum.

The Water

This one I recorded because I like the transition between swimming on the surface and diving. There’s a motion with both hands which connects the front crawl to the underwater swimming and it feels really true to my actual swimming.

The Slope

This one is here to demonstrate that downhill stumble jump you can trigger which I mentioned earlier.

The Wader

This one has just the right arm positioning to convey that attempt to balance and push forward through the density of water. It also has the right mixture of slide and jolt to the movements for a wading rhythm.

The Lorry

And this last one is here because of the little head movement. It’s entirely context dependent so if there’s an object the boy is wary of, even if it can’t kill you, he’ll look at it as he crouch-waddles past. I really like how it adds to the sense of him as a character. Not that it fleshes out motivations or backstory or anything, but on an animal level it feels like a very truthful and real response to a stimulus.

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  1. Turkey says:

    I wonder if Jordan Mechner or Eric Chahi have played Inside. I’m kinda curious about what their take on it would be.

    • Muzman says:

      I thought the same kind of thing. As I’m sure others have pointed out, watching videos all I could think was that I hadn’t seen anything quite like this since Another World and Prince of Persia.
      The animation in those games really connected you to the character’s plight. Seems to be working the same here. Although it seems weird to say that in the midst of ludicrously high quality animation being expected these days. Proof that it’s the fidelity more than setting a new standard (although it was that too in the old games).

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        Grizzly says:

        Wasn’t Prince of Persia motion capped?

        • zgtc says:

          Both were! Another World was, as I recall, Chahi himself. Prince of Persia was… Mechner’s friend? Or sibling?

  2. battles_atlas says:

    Good to see this getting some well justified love after John’s baffling failure to find merit in it. Be very surprised if this isn’t still my game of the year come Christmas, thanks in large part to the incredible world building that is glimpsed at here.

    • OnlyAnAlligator says:

      Um… you did read the entire paragraph he devoted to ALSO talking about how the animation in Inside is lovely, right?

  3. DanMan says:

    Thank you for noticing a high level production, and animation in particular. Good animation makes a world of a difference to me, too. I hate when you only get a better stick-figure that just has a few animations it just cycles through. Tomb Raider, for example, also has a wealth of animations: link to

    Kudos to PlayDead, in any case.

    • DanMan says:

      Oh, it’s also part of why I like 3rd person games more than 1st person ones. The latter feel kind of dead to me.

  4. Harlequin says:

    Yeah, the detail given to animations were amazing. Despite understanding some of John’s points in his review – I’m in the crowd that thinks both LIMBO and INSIDE had dreary gameplay – I still found them to be great because of other reasons.

  5. Qibbish says:

    I too was struck by this on my initial playthrough. There was a point towards the middle of the game where the kid had to walk in a line whilst being watched from behind, and his subtle glances over his shoulder left me beaming ear to ear. Kudos for the acknowledgement.

  6. jimb0 says:

    The game is beautiful, and is oozing with great character animation. It’s really interesting to watch the animation on some of the other characters as well, and other…things.

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    InfamousPotato says:

    Absolutely delightful. I don’t stop often enough to appreciate the great amount of effort that goes into these small, and yet ever so significant, details. Thanks for this article.

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    Jekadu says:

    I actually happen to Internet-know the brother of the main character programmer, so I paid a lot of attention to how the main character moved while playing.

    Suffice it to say that after finishing I sent a message to him telling him he should be both proud and horrified of what his kin hath wrought.

  9. RaoulDuke says:

    I feel like the reason people gush about the animation in this game is only because there isn’t much else to look at [there aren’t really any textures or particle effects to take your attention away].

    I don’t see anyone gushing over the 10+ minutes of different, extremely-subtle facial expressions Venom Snake makes while he waits in the helicopter.

    Inside *does* have brilliant animation work but its mostly contained in the “blob” bit. If you take away these “subtle” animations the game character would be mostly static, like The Swapper guy.

    The Fence one you have above it a bit rubbish too, why does he “jump out of his own back”? There is no transition at all.

    • Jetsetlemming says:

      While not typically considered “animation” it’s very similar technically: MGSV has by far the best cutscene camera work of any game I’ve ever seen. They’ve clearly put in an insane amount of time to recreate Steadicam techniques and appearances, down to extremely subtle movements and shakes. The game clearly has an invisible digital cameraman, and characters in cutscenes clearly make space for it (most noticeable in Ground Zeroes’ intro). While sometimes it cuts to first person POV, it’s almost always behind, over the shoulder, among the crowd, etc. in how it’s shot. It’s nearly invisible, still immersive even during cutscenes, but instictively 100% clear from gameplay without the need for letterboxing (which almost all older games use, including past MGS games) or anything like that to tell the player when they’re in control and when they’re not.
      It’s clear somebody went to film school for this game, and a ton of thought went into blending that with game design. :D

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      It looks a lot like the expressive animation style in Ico. Also without much to steal attention away with the purgatory’ish world with only two very animated inhabitants.

  10. Babymech says:

    I felt that the really astonishing thing was how well they married these animations to precision control – I just assumed that it would have a lot of sloppy lag between input and action because of the lavish animations, but it felt pretty pinpoint accurate throughout.