Animator Tianyu Wu helps to create anticipated PS5 exclusive ‘Returnal’

Working in the world of 3D animation, Tianyu Wu has made a formidable name for herself.

Over the years, she has developed a realistic style, evident with her work in many successful video games. Her animations tend to have clean curves and an elegant flow, as players can see while playing WWE2K19, Sonder, and the highly anticipated Returnal, launching with Sony’s upcoming PS5 system.

Returnalis an upcoming science fiction psychological horrorvideo game developed by Housemarque and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is a third-person shooter featuring roguelike elements. The player controls a space pilot stranded on an alien world. Every time she dies, the world regenerates. The trailer for the game premiered at Sony’s PlayStation 5 reveal stream on June 11, 2020, and fans have been abuzz since, eagerly awaiting their chance to play the game, which has been commended for its lifelike animation.

Prior to coming on board, Wu was at another studio and had just finished working on the first season of DC’s Stargirl when Steven Lehrhoff, the owner of the prestigious animation studio Frame Machine, approached her to come join his team after seeing her reel online. When she heard they were taking on a AAA game, a title developed by a large studio, funded by a massive budget, she knew she had to be a part of it. AAA games are the highest achievements in the videogame industry. The project also received a lot of support from Sony, as it is a PS5 launch title. It was a dream come true for Wu.

“They showed me some work they had been doing on the project, and it seemed highly conceptual and interesting. I was very intrigued because I could tell it would be engaging work. I knew I wanted to be a part of such a grandiose and special game,” said Wu.

Wu worked on cinematic animation in Returnal. She contributed countless shots from start to finish, and many cinematic elements include her hand-crafted animation. The game includes lots of trippy, imaginative dream sequences, and each animation had to be very polished and highly refined. Wu took this task head on, working on not only characters, but complicated props and creatures, acting as a vital part of making the stunning visuals in the game. 

The trailer that millions have seen online also features many shots that Wu animated. Once players get their hands on the game, her animation will be a major contributing factor to their experience. The game is very story heavy, relies a lot on these cut scenes to build the plot. All the “acting” in a video game is animation, and Wu created that acting from the ground up.

“I enjoyed working on Returnal because as the shots were revealed to me, I could tell the project was quite visionary. The game includes a lot of interesting dream sequences and unique moments. The whole experience and game is unconventional, and so was the work. The director would experiment with multiple ideas and concepts, so it was in our hands to hash out multiple versions of different moments. We would slowly try to distill down the most effective way to tell the story. Aside from the work I put into it, I enjoyed my team and synergy we had,” said Wu.

The more Wu works in animation, the more she falls in love with it. There was once a time where she was on a pathway to be an engineer, and she is thankful each day that she followed her dream and pursued her passion, allowing her to work on such high-profile projects like Returnal. For those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers some wise words.

“Animation requires a lot of patience and determination. It’s a very detail oriented profession, and you’ll end up spending countless hours at the computer. If someone is looking to get into the field, I would recommend that they watch a lot of animation shows and films. The more you are exposed to, the more you will learn and absorb. Also, it’s important to create an inspiring environment, which includes the people around you. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that you can learn and share ideas with is essential,” she advised.

Be sure to check out Returnal with the launch of the PlayStation 5. In the meantime, don’t miss out on the trailer for this unique game.

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