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Evolution of Battle: Fight Choreography

Updated on February 2, 2015

Conflict is central to any story, but it isn't always physical. When it comes down to fisticuffs, however, mapping it out blow for blow may be more difficult than one might think. You want to paint the picture with words, even though the action contained within your pages may demand a more visual medium to be beheld in all its glory. Whether with words or with computer animation, planning is everything.

Monty Oum animates for Red vs Blue as well as his own series RWBY. Previous examples of his work include shorts called "Haloid" and "Icarus," as well as a series of shorts known as "Dead Fantasy," each containing nothing but long fighting sequences. Most involve quick movements (which wreak havoc on computers with slower processors when trying to watch) and a sense that the combatants are more-or-less evenly matched, leaving the audience guessing as to which character will come out on top. The fight scenes in RvB and RWBY are also tailored to each character's style and use of weapons and/or other abilities. The background music doesn't hurt, either. Sometimes words on a page cannot do justice to the audio-visual components of a piece, as a certain be-hatted reviewer has pointed out on occasion.

Suburban Knights
Suburban Knights | Source

The Channel Awesome anniversary videos have evolved from this format as well. What began as the Year One Brawl, which was nothing but combat, turned into feature-length films each year for three more years, every one of them culminating in a similar battle. Each shot was planned down to even the background action, whether a scene involved individual skirmishes or two groups clashing. Everyone had a role and a job to do, with the end result being a high-stakes comedy of errors. The scripts included characters trading barbs as well as blows, temporarily pausing the action to give one-liners or exchange sides of ongoing arguments. Each scuffle between characters was a scene of its own within a much larger scene. What began as a battle of egos turned into a fight for survival, and I'm proud of them for doing that.

Pokémon battles and trading card games like Yu-Gi-Oh! require planning and strategies, too. Writing stories about them demands research. For Pokémon, there are game stats to work from to determine outcomes, or you could just wing it if you aren't aiming to be that precise. The same goes with Yu-Gi-Oh!, where the cheesing is more rampant ("Heart of the Cards" pretty much means you can get away with almost anything). Depending on what you want to happen, there are ways of achieving it with or without making it look too easy or one-sided. You want your characters to have a level of competency or a fair amount of luck; it can be possible for anyone to win, but you have to know how to tip things the way you want them without making the situation seem too stacked. With other games, the possibilities are endless. If you still have difficulty like I do, just keep trying.

In short, fight scenes can be tricky and require visual cues to let the reader know precisely what is happening. While visual media don't have the same problem, they do still take a vast amount of planning and effort to come to life. Just take your cues from the aforementioned examples (Doug and Monty have their own inspirations they copy from as well).

Update: Rest in Peace, Monty.



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