The Woman Warrior – Muybridge motion capture

Woman Warrior

The blog DIY Gamer, in its Game-Maker Archive thread, recently included a piece about mid-1990s video games, which adds to the historiography of Muybridge and motion capture…..

The Game-Maker Archive: Sheldon Chase and the Woman Warrior
June 24, 2010 | Eric-Jon Rössel Tairne

Toward the end of Recreational Software Designs’ support of its Game-Maker development suite, Sheldon Chase became a kind of pervasive presence. Somewhere around 1995 or early ‘96, he hit on the notion of digitizing Eadweard Muybridge’s early motion photography for use as character sprites — sort of a retro Mortal Kombat effect, if you will. The result was a few drafts of a silvery, jittery nude model. After a bit of anti-aliasing and some animation tweaks, and finally some wardrobe assistance, he presented to RSD a stock female character for inclusion in future software updates.

Much as RSD’s Sample hero formed the template for uncounted male protagonists, Chase’s Muybridge lady became the starting place for legions of (often lurid) sprite edits. If for that reason alone Chase’s input would be notable. Yet his Woman Warrior games also exemplified several unusual and advanced techniques, as well as a curious borrowed aesthetic that sticks in the mind.

Muybridge’s re-vamped and digitized woman appeared in Woman Warrior and the Outer Limits, and Woman Warrior and the Attack from Below.

[The game] Houses is one of the more overt demo games to come with Game-Maker ….

The game contains (indeed begins with) a slightly less refined version of Chase’s Muybridge lady, wearing just a blue swimsuit — more or less a selective palette swap, adding both a bit of color and a bit of modesty to the black-and-white photos. Houses is a later addition to RSD’s demo portfolio, and perhaps was added for the 3.0 CD release. For posterity, that release also comes with a bare version of the Muybridge model — although I believe it exists only as a raw sprite set, and is not incorporated into any game.

Appropriately enough, when I viewed this blog entry an advertising strap was promoting the MA / MSc course in Computer Generated Imagery at Kingston University, which includes motion capture techniques.

Perhaps the original photographic sequences used for Warrior Woman were those featuring Blanche Epler, Muybridge’s favourite model, animated back into action in 1995 – more than a century after Muybridge photographed her – but dressed up and coloured and interacting with digital creatures from the imagination. 1990s video games are now consigned to history but like that other animated antique, Felix, Blanche is walking still – in animations from Animal Locomotion that proliferate on the World Wide Web that Muybridge could hardly have dreamed of.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert