As much as technology and software have helped it, animation of any kind is still an incredibly strenuous, slow process. Simply rigging a model (the process of giving a 3D object joints and points of motion) is just the first part of the process. Animators take these rigs and fine tune their individual movements separately to create fluid motion, and it’s a time-consuming process. Even if you’re making something as short as a highlight intro for Overwatch.
Blizzard animator David Gibson highlighted this exact feat in a new video, where he speeds up four days of work required to make on of Mei’s incredibly short highlight intros for Play of the Game. The intro in question is one of the cuter ones in the game, but that’s only possible thanks to the incredible amount of detail Gibson puts into it. Subtle movements of Mei’s nose when she smiles and down to her glasses sliding down her face all have to be done manually, and Gibson doesn’t miss a beat.
It’s just a testament to the amount of work that goes into something that many would deem throwaway. It’s also one of those “if it’s not there, you’ll notice” situations. I’ve never focused enough on the finer details of any highlight intros, but I suspect that as soon as one small little movement is left out it’ll just jump at you. It makes these sorts of processes painstaking, but as Gibson notes in the video he finds the fun in the challenge.
But it’s something you might want to keep in mind the next time you nail that ultimate with Reinhardt or Mercy. Somewhere, someone has spent a lot of time making that little moment of joy for you happen. And it’s almost definitely always this intense.