A collection of motion capture footage from the Demon's Souls PS5 remake recently resurfaced thanks to stuntman Eric Jacobus (opens in new tab) and animator Jonathan Cooper.
Demon's Souls (2020) remake mocap session montage. pic.twitter.com/kdY31XvSkyApril 8, 2021
These mo-cap clips were quietly released on the PlayStation Blog (opens in new tab) a few weeks ago, and they've caught a second wind on Twitter now that Cooper's compiled them into one seamless video complete with Demon's Souls music. There's something about that Gothic horn-and-organ ambiance that just enhances the experience, but the footage is impressive in its own right.
As Jacobus previously explained, the Demon's Souls remake needed animations that were innovative but precise, and "remained true to the core gameplay" of the original. This led to motion capture, and around 18 months of work for him – some of the most demanding in his 20-year career as a stuntman.
"Motion capturing Demon’s Souls combat system was a very precise endeavor," he says. "The game’s attacks, navigation, dodges, and synced kills, or “ripostes,” had to be playable, true to the original’s, and aesthetically sound. If performed too quickly, the movements would lack clear arcs and silhouettes. Performed too slowly, they might lose their weight and inertia."
There are 20 weapon types in Demon's Souls, and they all have their own set of movements including "walks, runs, sprints, pivots, starts, stops, turns, and strafes," on top of attack and finisher animations, not to mention miscellaneous reactions like taking damage or blocking. To get the weight and timing right, some weapons also required hefty props. I always wondered how it would feel to actually hold the gargantuan Dragon Bone Smasher, and this footage offers a pretty good idea.
The mo-cap underneath the new opening cutscene for the game is cool to see, alongside the riposte animations. These were new to the remake, and easily among the most brutal attacks in the Souls library, even compared to the likes of Bloodborne. Watching Jacobus physically punch, stab, smash, and otherwise eviscerate the life out of the air is just plain fun. Oh, and let's not forget the art of the dodge roll. Souls characters roll around like it's nothing, but it always seemed like it'd be pretty difficult to actually pull that off, especially in full armor, but Jacobus makes it look effortless.
"By learning how to move in a new way, I came away with a new appreciation for Japanese action and animation, with its emphasis on poses and silhouettes that evolved over centuries of Kabuki theater," Jacobus says of his work on Demon's Souls. "Learning to move in Demon’s Souls helped me see and understand movement in an entirely new way."
A stunning Demon's Souls vinyl soundtrack is tantalizingly close.