In bringing a game to life, the Animator’s contribution is invaluable. Yan Ke, who most recently worked
on Just Cause 3 as a Gameplay Animator, is a perfect example. During pre-production of a game, she
comes up with ideas of how a character might move according to their personality and physical traits,
coupled with the gameplay requirements. She then works with the wider team, receive their feedback
and revise until they move on to the next step. Once in production, Yan polishes the animations until
they reach their final, releasable quality. Not one to be confined to her screen, Yan is also a mocap
operator and actress. On days when the team needs quick testing, she does not hesitate to jump into
one of the mocap suits around the New York studio and act out how a character should move.
What inspires you?
It depends on what I am currently focusing on. I had a really fun time working on Just Cause 3 DLC:
Mech Land Assault because I got to watch a lot of Japanese anime references. I analyzed my
references to see what we could adapt to the gameplay and conceptual needs, which in turn inspired
new ideas for our Mech. For the open world of Just Cause 3, I take inspiration from observation of
people in real life, films as well as other games. Discussing character movement with programmers
and designers can also be very inspiring. I get a lot of new ideas just by bouncing mine off my
teammates and seeing what sticks.
What is your background?
I got my bachelor degree in computer science in Taiwan. After that, I came to New York to study
computer art focusing on animation. I started out freelancing in broadcast, working on tv commercials
and film animation. One of the studios I freelanced at, started working with AAA game studios, and
that is how I began my career in games.
Which games have you worked on?
I have worked as a Character Animator on the Rock Band series, Green Day: Rock Band, The
Beatles: Rock Band, Homefront, and my proudest game title, Just Cause 3!
What was your first impression of Avalanche Studios before or when you joined?
I was thrilled to join a studio that makes such epic open world games, especially in New York! I was
really impressed by the quality and scale of Avalanche Studios’ games. The passion can be seen in
our work and heard throughout the studio as people vigorously debate what is best for our games.
There's a sense of belonging and genuine camaraderie on our team, all of us working toward the
same goal. It is just awesome.
What do you like about working here?
There are so many things I like! I like knowing that I am free to express my opinion, and that my
opinion contributes to the game and Avalanche’s culture. I like the close collaboration between
Animators, Programmers and Designers. Seeing the game from different perspectives is important. I
always learn something new by talking to my teammates. It makes my animation better suited for the
game. It is a treat to work with people that are really passionate. Everyone is so focused on making an
incredible game that they are willing to go above and beyond if it makes our game better. Avalanche
gives a lot of opportunities for employees to explore and develop different aspects of their talents. Last
but not least, people here have a life outside of work! Avalanche values your off time and having the
time to focus on your other aspects of life can provide inspiration and new ideas for our games. It is
truly rare in the industry.
What makes working almost exclusively with sandbox games a unique experience?
Sandbox games are unique for their non-linear gameplay. The player can choose his/her own
adventure! What we are creating is a world for players to explore, or more specifically, creative and
unique ways of blowing things up! We create this world where anything can happen and let the players
decide how they want to approach the game. It is so satisfying to watch videos of players just pulling
off the most insane and unimaginable stunts. We go through a similar process when we create these
worlds. We have to be creative and come up with efficient ways of solving things. It's very rewarding
when you see all the things in the game are finally working together to create this fun experience.
Do you remember your first contact with games?
Yes! I was in elementary school, and I broke open my piggy bank to get a Nintendo Famicom!
It started when my brother came home one day and asked me if I was willing to pitch in some money
to get a used Nintendo Famicom. Together we had enough money and bought this red and white
plastic box along with a cartridge with 20 games in it. The next day my brother’s friends came over and
I had my first game night. I remember fighting with them to get the controller. Those were good times!
Which are your favorite games?
Galaxian, Mario Bros, Street Fighter, the Far Cry series and Just Cause 3!
What are your interests outside of work?
You mean besides playing games? (laugh) I love discovering new parts of the city that I haven’t been
before with my 17-month old baby. I enjoy traveling, organizing local community activities, watching
films, and good tv shows.
What are your best suggestions for someone trying to break into the games industry?
For Animators that want to break into the game industry, it is very important to have a solid
understanding of body mechanics. Do your research on the company you want to apply to, and create
a reel that is in tune with their animation style. Start to play games if you haven’t! Be more aware of
the game control and the AI response, start to analyze what you like and what you don’t like, and how
you would improve them.