Character Animator Fede Romero was always passionate about design and technology, and had his sights on Guerrilla early in his career.
Fede Romero takes us through his life from his hometown of Almería, the intricacies of character animation, and what stokes his creativity in his work.
Hi Fede! We’re so excited to chat with you – first, can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Fede Romero, a Character Animator at Guerrilla! I’m originally from Almería, a beautiful coastal city in southern Spain.
I started my career as a Game Animator eight years ago, working for studios like Genera Games, MercurySteam and Tequila Works until I came to Guerrilla two years ago.
You’ve come a long way! What is Almería like?
Almería is a wonderful Andalusian city. It’s known for its beautiful beaches and known as one of the sunniest cities in Europe, where it’s actually measured by the hours of sun per year. It’s also known for its agriculture and gastronomy – it’s the tomato capital of the world!
What I love most about Almería is the people, the weather, and spending time on the beach. I love spending time with my family and making plans to spend time along the coast. That feeling of being surrounded by palm trees and being able to wear short sleeves all year round is amazing.
So you’ve been doing character animation for a while now. What sparked your interest in it as a career?
Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved design and technology. I grew up with a strong passion for animated works like Toy Story, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and it made me ask, “How can I dedicate myself to become an animator?”
After studying graphic design and finding a school specializing in 3D animation (which wasn’t widely taught 10 years ago!) I found my first job in a small video game studio. I learned rigging, modeling, and texturing in addition to animating, and it’s also where I had my first experience with a game engine.
At this stage, I learned that video game animation wasn’t just about making a pretty shot that appears for an instant on the screen. Instead, I learned that it was about creating a whole tree with different states and animations that, combined with each other, gives a character life in real time and in 360º. That particular combination of uniting technical and artistic elements got me hooked on this discipline.
After working for so many studios in Spain, what made you decide to move to the Netherlands?
I started my professional adventure when I left my parents’ home at 18 years old. For the next twelve years, study and work led me across six different cities across Spain – and after all that, the logical next step for me was to work at a leading videogame company. At this time, my English level was still very basic, so I started learning the language and simultaneously preparing to apply for a job for my favorite videogame company!
Fast forward a couple of years, I’m now happily working for Guerrilla in Amsterdam. Guerrilla’s support for me learning English, as well as the fantastic work environment I’m in, have been phenomenal.
It’s amazing that you had your ambition set on Guerrilla. Can you share what a character animator does here?
At Guerrilla, a character animator is in charge of giving life and personality to the game’s characters through their body movement. Movements like running, jumping, striking, dodging, opening a door or simply breathing, are done by the animation team. In Horizon Forbidden West, the character animation team was in charge of doing all the gameplay animations for Aloy, her friends, and human enemies like the bandits, champions, or bosses like Regalla or Erik.
With character animation needing to be such a thought-out process, what do you have to think about when starting? How do you collaborate with each other and with other teams?
We usually start with a rough blocking of the idea, either by recording mocap or hand keying from scratch – using references, recording ourselves or just trying ideas. We define the key poses, timing and distances, depending on what the animation requires, until we have something we can integrate in the game.
Once we see our animations in action, we start iterating. During this process, we work closely with other departments like game code or design to create the logic or define the parameters or skills intrinsic to that animation.
Once we have that first pass defined and approved, we focus on polishing our animations until the result is up to the quality we need.
You mentioned you loved that intersection of art and technology; how does character animation help you express your creativity?
A very creative part of this process I love is that we animators usually record ourselves! For Horizon Forbidden West, I often went to the recording studio with my tripod and my umbrella that I used as a long weapon trying to recreate the attacks I had in mind for one of the enemies.
This process is a lot of fun and challenging creatively, because it has me put a lot of myself into the character and understand their movements that I have in mind.
What kind of animations did you work on in Horizon Forbidden West?
I worked on some of the bandit enemy Champion’s melee attacks, who uses a longsword and an energy shield (in Horizon Forbidden West, the Champion is one of the strongest, elite bandits you face).
I also worked on a number of Aloy’s animations like her dive and her dodge while swimming or diving in different angles. This took weeks at the test level pool, tweaking all the animations until it was responsive and fluid.
From hearing about your journey, I’m sure there will be a lot of folks who’d be curious about character animation – if they weren’t already! What would be your advice to someone who wants to look into this as a career as well?
First, what I’d do is look for a good animation school focused on video games. Once you have the foundational knowledge on how to animate, I’d recommend creating your own content and practice regularly. Something interesting would also be learning about game engines and how to import your own animations to see how they look and how they connect to each other within the engine.
A good source of inspiration would be looking at games you’d like to work on, as well as animation reels from animators who worked on those games. Try to match the style and quality with your own animations.
Finally, have your reel ready with your best animations and send it along with a cover letter to all the studios where you’d love to work. It helps to have your work visible online. You’d be surprised at how often we share links with each other!