As a self-professed horse girl, I've always admired the opportunity to ride when video games allow me to. But what goes into incorporating the most famous human beings into video games?
Horses, like all quadrupeds, are much more difficult to animate than bipeds like humans.
Alice Ruppert told me that once you have more legs, you have a lot of choices. She says you need to think more about when does which leg do what? The game Horse Tales - Emerald Valley Ranch will be released this winter.
Ruppert is the founder of The Mane Quest, the only gaming website dedicated to horses. Alice reviews gaming horses and writes more generally about how horses are used in video games.
Horses have other attributes that make animating them a challenge.
Ruppert noted that a horse's legs have very, very few muscles on it, or that their lower legs have no muscles on them. Horses are very heavy animals that move on thin legs that are unnerving.
The muscles in a horse's legs act like rubber bands, absorbring half a ton of weight and then releasing it in a burst, which is why Thoroughbred racehorses run so fast, even though their legs are enormous in comparison to their massive weight.
(There is a wonderful episode of Inside Natures Giants about it, but there is no imagery spared! I will never be the same.)
Horses have a bouncy gait that does not always translate into games.
Ruppert told me that when you create a simple humanoid animation, you can go about having one joint in the hand. However, for a horse, for the movement to be effective, you must consider every one of these joints, because otherwise youre gonna have some weirdness.
Games give little credit for horse movement. In many games, horses are treated as simple transportation rather than individuals. However, the narrative potential of horses in games is enormous.
Check out our video to learn more about how horses are adapted into games, and why it's so important to get them correct. Also, make sure you subscribe to Polygon on YouTube and now on TikTok!