I own Articy Draft 2 - Articy 3 was released recently - but unfortunately I rarely have a reason to use the application as I'm always freelancing for other people & have yet to work on a personal project.
It's a really nice application from what I've tested so far - maybe Simon could implement direct support for it some day, but I wouldn't hold your breath for it being any time soon - if ever - as it's a really expensive product - like Spine - & thus not many users here will ever probably purchase or use it - same goes for Spine - well... unless Daedalic demand it as a feature (cross your fingers & toes).
Thanks, AFRLme. I checked the pricing, and Nevigo lowered the price for individual developers to 85€ - or a yearly subscription at 6€ a month. It is actually quite affordable now.
However, I only see good reason to use Articy if the content can be imported directly in a game engine - that will save me a good chunk of time. With this in mind I have done more research.
To understand where I a coming from: I quit part of my job to work on a game I have had in mind for a very long time now (over a decade). I am starting work on an adventure-type game that will make sport of a lot of dialogue between characters. I would also need cut-out animated character and object support (like Spine, Dragonbones, Spriter, or Blender with COA tools) and swappable elements. I would also need a good camera/scene animation system for dialog cut scenes along the lines of what Broken Age is doing (excellent GDC presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWEVY4ujyI4
It does mean I need some kind of built-in animation timeline with easy blending and camera controls.
And support for randomly generated locations and a RPG-like fight system. Support for physics also required.
The scope for the content is pretty big, and I need a game engine that will allow me to work fast. I do not want to be bogged down to much by the engine.
In the past three weeks I have been researching various engines: Visionaire, Godot, Fusion, Unity. Right at the start I actually did not even think Unity would warrant a look, btw. Only in the last couple of days did I check Unity out.
- Godot: built-in animation timeline, easy scripting, point-and-click adventure framework available (escoria), possible to write my own Articy importer (lots of work, though), support for cut-out characters. Animation timeline is per animated object, though - not for an entire scene. Physics. Very open system, though, and excellent scene based system. Version 3 is coming out with lots of improvements around April.
- Fusion: awaiting version 3, but I own a license of 2.5. Easy visual scripting, and good importers are available for cut-out characters (Spriter, Spine) with excellent visual scripting control. Caveats: timeline is lacking. Camera control is lacking.
- Visionaire: great dialogue support, good scripting, everything you would need for point-and-click adventure design, import of Spine characters (no support for scripting or swapping it seems), production proven. No import for Articy, no scene timeline support, camera control somewhat inconvenient(?). Version 4 has box2d physics.
- Unity: with adventure creator + dialogue system + playmaker + the new Unity Timeline + cinemachine: support for direct import of Articy dialogue, quick visual scripting, good scripting, full scene-based cinematic camera and timeline control, support for import of any animation tool & Blender. Drawbacks: reliance on various tools in Unity that are supposed to work well together, but I still have to test things in more detail.
Although I would like to avoid Unity (personal reasons), from a pragmatic point of view Unity seems the best fit for the game I have in mind. The other tools I investigated (other than Unreal engine) lack essentially one thing: a scenematic scene timeline. After watching the Broken Age development video, I think I will be able to achieve a similar cinematic workflow with Unity and its new timeline, together with the mentioned extensions.
The workflow I have in mind goes a bit like this:
1) write dialogues in Articy, and test dialogue in Articy with its new interactive test mode. (This will save a LOT of time. I tested this, it's awesome!) Add custom variables in Articy to control emotions and acting of models later in Unity, as well as other stuff such as swapping elements.
2) Create models and animations of cut-out characters and animations/swappable assets in Blender (I love to animate in Blender). Similar to Broken Age presentation, I will use mesh deformation for more facial animation control.
3) Create scene(s)/scene logic with Adventure Creator, and import dialogue into the scene with Dialog system in Unity, and use the new cinematic scene timeline to bring things together during dialogs. Timelines for other animations (background characters, objects, etc.) can be created this way as well.
Once I have the pipeline in order, this seems a pretty efficient and quick way to work and test things. I am trying to automate as much as I can here, and focus on game design and narrative.
There are tools for automatic lip-synching in Unity as well, but I haven't investigated these yet - at least one is integrates with the other tools.
A while ago Tim Schafer (of Double Fine's Broken Age) once mentioned they would release Broken Age's adventure game engine to the public. That would have been simpler ;-P
In my mind Unity seems overkill, though. I really would prefer Visionaire, but I can't see something as cinematic with cut-out characters comparable to Broken Age being done efficiently without a scene timeline and better support for cut-out characters. However, I do understand my game requirements are quite specific. No wonder Double Fine decided to develop their own adventure game engine, he?