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Going Through the Motions

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"You can almost see [the characters] going over their stage directions in their heads: 'Hello Commander Shepard (wave hand), I heard you might show up today (nod head), how 'bout those freaky aliens, eh?' (shake fist, grr grr, slightly racist undercurrent)"
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, on Mass Effect

Animating Cut Scenes in a video game is not easy, mostly due to sheer volume. Even most 'short' games are longer than all but the most avant-garde of movies, plus players might need to see different cutscenes depending on what they do in a playthrough. It can be the equivalent of animating four Toy Story-length movies.

And there's another problem with animating video games — technology. In the first decade or so of 3D gaming, in-engine cutscenes had to use extremely simple models, often with no moveable mouths or visible eyes. It took until about the year 2000 for motion capture technology (recording an actor's movements with sensors) to start being seriously used (and affordable). And even this must be processed by hand in some cases, because the sets at mo-cap record time may have changed in-game since the mo-cap was recorded (or no sets were used at all), or because the characters can perform actions that the motion capture actors can't possibly replicate or have proportions that real-world acting can't translate to. It is much harder to translate mo-cap to a game with surreal or exaggerated styles like Waddling Head or Super-Deformed, for instance, and so this trope is much more likely to show up those games.

Going Through the Motions is the corner-cut measure designed to avoid all this hurt and pain in the most commercially viable and time-saving way possible, thus allowing game developers to spend their time on more interesting and important pursuits such as writing, debugging, and increasing the Third-Person Seductress' cup size.

It involves small bits of gesture animation being predefined for all the characters. For example, you animate a Fist Pump, hair-toss and folded-arms gesture for Alice, and then a hands-on-hips, Quizzical Tilt and pointing-finger gesture for Bob. You use a few of them to put together a scene:

Alice: Fold-arms gesture It looks like there's a foot-high wall in our path. We'll have to find a way around.
Bob: Hands-on-hips gesture Can't we just climb over it?
Alice: Hair-toss gesture What next? 'Alice, why don't we eat?' 'Alice, why is everything trying to kill us?' 'Alice, why don't we ever go to the toilet?' Fold-arms gesture You're full of it. Follow me!

And then to make another scene, you just use some gestures again:

Alice: Fist-pump gesture Wooo! I caught way more fish than you!
Bob: Head-tilt gesture ...Those are tin cans. Pointing-finger gesture Are you sure you know what a fish is?
Alice: Fold-arms gesture Um, of course I do! I'm just... keeping my fish in the cooler! Hair-toss gesture Once I go get them, I'll win the contest for sure!

If you need to work even faster, you can use the same animations for all characters instead of giving each one a certain set. So Alice folds her arms in one scene, and then Bob folds his arms in the same way in the next. Due to how digital animation programs work, it's relatively easy to "apply" an animation to different characters once you've designed the motions.

The point of all this is that once you've finished making the reusable animations, you can craft many solid, believable scenes with very little time and budget. Of course, it doesn't take long to realize that the sequences will look unnatural and stilted. The characters will have to express every emotion known to man in only a few stock gestures. Scenes will look repetitive in the extreme.

As motion capture becomes less expensive, game engines and animation software become more powerful and game budgets increase, this trope seems to be almost dead. Nowadays it's more common to use stock gestures just for minor, talky scenes which aren't very plot-important — Exposition Breaks, player tutorials that break the fourth wall, things like that — and use full motion-capture or animating from scratch for everything else. If you have enough gestures however, particularly character-specific ones, it can help establish personalities even without full animation.

Visual Novels tend to use this a lot, usually just reusing static drawings of the characters instead of animations.

Not to be confused with stock sequences triggered by the player, as Victory Poses, spell effects, etc. They're something different. For when entire scenes are reused, see Stock Footage. An example of the Kuleshov Effect. This is also somewhat related to Machinima.


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    Action Adventure 
  • Every character in American McGee's Alice has this little "vanishing" animation they use every time you meet them, whether it is Cheshire Cat's fading out or the gnome's "twirl and shrink into nothing".
  • The Assassin's Creed series as a whole is pretty good at avoiding this, but the Dreadful Crimes from Assassin's Creed Syndicate feature it when talking to interrogation subjects. No matter what they're saying, they'll throw their arms around and gesticulate wildly.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series has this, starting with the the third game, where civilians and the player alike make exaggerated arm gestures during conversations which do not involve elaborate setpiece animations.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hermione adopts a folded arms position in every cut scene. Even in one scene, immediately after having her life threatened by a rampaging troll moments before.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Ōkami has these, but the only one that really jars is Waka's "uncross arms, gesture with flute, cross arms" sequence. This is because Waka is Mr. Exposition, so you'll see him frequently.
  • Psychonauts used this during less important exposition or dialogue cutscenes, but only sparingly. Some animations that stand out are Raz's "stand there in rage with gritted teeth" animation and Sasha's hair-flip and arm gesture animations. However, the facial expressions are not tied to the body movements. For example, Raz has a standard talking gesture that is basically moving forward a bit and shrugging. In one scene, when Raz is talking to Bobby about winning the levitation race, they play that animation halfway and make him smile, making it a hilarious blend between "I'm better than you" and "Please don't kill me". Also, the facial expressions Raz makes during Mr Pokeylope's reveal scene are hilarious.
  • The Yakuza series are well known for reusing assets all the way from the PS2 era, most notably talking animations but also attack animations.

    Adventure Game 
  • The 1997 Blade Runner video game features this a lot. Ray will frequently wave his hands around vaguely when conversing with other characters, even when those hand movements make little to no sense. Of course, this was likely due to technical constraints when designing such a monolithic game.
  • The Doctor Who Adventure Games suffer from this to a ridiculous degree. The characters never stop making the same four or five movements, making them all appear like weird, hyperactive drug-addicts. It does not help that NPC dialogue can reflect this if you interact with them rapidly, causing them to repeat the first word they say.
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey unfortunately did not do this for non-major characters, causing a lot of unnatural looking conversations where NPCs stand completely stock still moving only their mouths.
  • Ghost Trick combines the Phoenix Wright method with the movements of the characters' less-detailed 3D models. Minor characters like the prison guards may only have one or two faces, but can have their models move more dramatically and uniquely.
  • Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller is one of the worst abusers of this trope. During dialogue characters constantly put their hands on their hip, play with their hair, throw their hands up... the two main characters go through each and every motion several times in the first minutes. After several hours of this some players may get the urge to toss their computer out the window.
  • Obviously present in most second-generation LucasArts adventure games:
    • Monkey Island 2 has a few standard emotes for Guybrush, including scratching his head and proudly pointing at himself; and a few non-standard, such as jumping up in horror so that his hair flies off.
    • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis has Indy crossing his arms and angrily pointing at someone, as well as Sophia's hand-through-her-hair motion.
    • Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is one of the oldest games to do this: even at low resolution and few sprites per character, it gets a lot of mileage out of the 'smile' and 'frown' emotes.
    • Notably absent in every single Sierra adventure game, though.
  • Literally every Nancy Drew game has this, for every single animated character seen in the games, even the 2D "cartoon" animations from the first game. The animations have gotten much more sophisticated with time, so rather than the past "gesture with right hand", "gesture with left hand", "gesture with both hands", "tilt head", they now have more dramatic motions like "lean forward and point" and "place hand on hip while pointing at floor with other hand". (Although this has led to some subtly unrealistic modeling.)
    • It's highly amusing in combination with the repetitive phrases, particularly with Nancy's goodbyes. For example:
      Character: Points angrily, frowning. How dare you accuse me of such things! I hate you!! Stops pointing, face blank.
      Nancy: See you later.
      Character: Smiles. Okay, bye.
  • Telltale Games uses this technique in their episodic Sam & Max: Freelance Police, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People and Tales of Monkey Island adventure games, presumably to facilitate their tight production schedule. It's generally done well, but a few gestures do stand out, such as Sam's "thumb to the side" gesture, Max's "twiddly fingers" gesture, Strong Bad's "rub hands (gloves?) together" gesture, Strong Mad's "point and raise eyebrows" gesture and Guybrush's "posing heroically while looking off into the distance" gesture.
    • In Sam and Max Season Two the characters learn to click their fingers, but it happens a little too frequently. Sam finally puts his hands in his pockets, to the delight of fans.
    • Tales of Monkey Island resorts to reusing a pair of character models "Fat Guy" and "Skinny Guy", to save on the amount of animations necessary for minor characters. While this is quite obvious, two characters (Bugeye and one of the Spoon Isle pirates) use Guybrush's character model, though this is much less obvious and you have to watch their animations closely to realize it.
      • Lampshaded at one point where Guybrush and another character with his model introduce themselves to each other, reciting nearly the same line of dialogue and performing the exact same motions.
    • The Walking Dead, especially the first season. The movements Lee makes with his shoulders and eyebrows during conversations will become very familiar to a player by the end of the game, and every time Lilly is angry with someone, she always steps forward and jabs her pointer finger at their chin, to the point it becomes comical. They got a bit better about it in subsequent seasons.

    Fighting Game 
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy does this for quite a few cutscenes... and it wouldn't be all that noticeable if it weren't for the fact that Terra strikes a pose at the end of her walk cycle like some runway model.
  • To the point of ridiculousness in Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit. There's some scenes which are faithful reproductions of scenes from the anime, but for a lot of the side scraps they use a small amount of generic animations, merely replacing the characters. Characters will fall over in the same way, they'll be taken aback in the same way, and get beat up/beat someone up in the same way. It's not just limited to the cutscenes though — there's also the Drama Pieces, which use a lot of the same animations.
  • An attempt at an aversion occurred in Tech Romancer. That game had NO artificial atmospheric actions, somewhat justified by the fact that most characters are in giant robots, thus they wouldn't make idle motions. Thus, in cutscenes, no actions are made that are not already in the game. As such, one character tends to "disappear" at the end of cutscenes by using an attack that surrounds him in electricity, then jumping and letting the camera (usually) pan away before he begins the descent of his jump.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Borderlands 2 is a pretty heavy offender whenever an NPC is talking to you. Not only is it much more noticeable since they go through numerous stock motions in quick succession, but they tend to do little more than move their arms and occasionally shift their weight a bit.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War has one animation for when a character is talking to you. It gets repetitive.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution has expressive motion-captured body language and subtly-animated facial expressions... during the "social battle" conversations. In regular conversations, everybody has the same set of animations. Men will perform the downcast head-scratch, the sly chin-stroke, and the angry "cut it out" arm gesture. Women will clasp their hands, bobble their heads nervously and generally act like they're plucking up the courage to ask Adam on a date. Once you notice the reused animations, you can't ever not notice them.
  • Not only is it averted in the usual cases in Half-Life 2, the dev team goes out of their way to avoid this effect. At one point in Episode 2, the player can see squads of Combine infantry and support moving across a distant bridge. Apparently the effect of these half-inch-tall figures moving in lockstep was too "robotic" for the Combine (which is quite a trick for the transhuman troops, but okay), so they coded them to switch randomly between several walk cycles as they crossed. Details...
  • Left 4 Dead has a mixed bag when it comes to emotions and animations. Survivors have several idle animations, such as rolling their head and shoulders, wiping their faces, or picking their nose, plus their facial expression changes whether they are responding to another survivor or are trying to de-stress after an intense fight with zombies. However, every survivor character share these animations without any variation. The zombies themselves also have various idle animations, but when it comes to movement, they all move exactly the same (which the developers say they done on purpose since they consider the zombies to be like feral animals). The zombies also lack any facial animations other than their mouths sometimes moving.
    • Zoey has unique healing animations from Left 4 Dead while the other survivors share the same animations. When using a first aid kit, a survivor will wrap a gauze around their arm and then bend down to wrap gauze on their leg. When a survivors heals another survivor, they will make some patting motions from the face down and then wrap the gauze around the target's leg. In Zoey's case, when healing her self, she will bite off a piece of the gauze before wrapping it on her arm and leg and when she heals others, she reaches out to them from the chest down to wrap the gauze.
  • Metro 2033 and its sequel Metro: Last Light exhibit this trait in the friendly stations between action levels, where you can interact with NPCs and buy supplies. Pretty much every character you can talk to will use the same "place one hand on hip while gesturing with the other" motion at some point or another.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Drakengard averted this, surprisingly. Every cutscene is scripted, including the facial gestures and the characters talking.

    Platform Game 
  • Banjo-Kazooie has several of these looping animations (particularly noticeable in Banjo-Tooie). During cutscenes, Banjo will repeatedly put his hands on his hips, nod, put a hand to his chin, and repeat while Kazooie shakes her head in the background. This can get annoying quickly. However, the idle animations are actually fun to watch.
    • One cutscene has him passively nodding right before getting sniffed and then eaten by a dinosaur!
  • Epic Games' early platformer Jill of the Jungle. Jill's 'look up' and 'look down' animations had her facing the screen/camera. Idle animations would post text at the bottom of the screen: "Look, An airplane! (look up animation)" "Your shoe's untied! (look down)" Also at various points, these sprites were cycled to make Jill nod.
  • Mega Man Powered Up has a stock set of emotive gestures for use in the short cutscenes preceding a boss fight — since most of the characters have the exact same body type, these animations are shared across all characters except Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, Roll, and Gutsman (Who has his own versions of the exact same animations).
  • The Ratchet & Clank reboot for PS4 sadly has this for the in-game dialogue, due to the developers being given very little time to do them.
  • One really noticeable instance in Sonic Adventure: During Amy's ending, she performs her boss victory animation, then abruptly snaps back to her standing animation once it's over.
    • Also, Sonic's idle animation has his eyebrows bouncing all over the place, and it seems that the person responsible thought nobody would notice. They were right that it's hard to tell during gameplay, but it's used in many a cutscene as well.
    • The Sonic the Hedgehog series, in general, averts these for cutscenes, with a few exceptions. One of them is Classic Sonic in Sonic Generations and Sonic Forces, which was a deliberate choice to make him look like a Fish out of Temporal Water — namely from a less technologically advanced era of games. Where everyone else moves fluidly and the other Funny Animal characters are animated from scratch, Classic Sonic does stock flips, backflips, short hops, hand-waves, running in place, etc., albeit adjusted such that he appears natural and not uncanny.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • The characters in Age of Mythology have a suite of extremely bombastic/overacted gestures to go with their dramatic voice acting and badly-rendered mannequin-like models. It works surprisingly well.
  • Every character portrait in Starcraft has a few different motions they do while talking. This leads to people nodding about once every third word they say.
  • Starcraft II normally goes well, well out of its way to create realistic movements in pre-rendered and in-game cut-scenes alike, but most standard conversations display a surprisingly limited number of speech animations. Some, like Valerian Mengsk's tendency to raise his hand as he speaks, become painfully noticeable.
  • Warcraft III: Unit Idle Animations play even during cutscenes, so it's possible to see a soldier reporting to his general, crown prince and paladin while taking a big swig from a flask, or a dramatic scene marred by the blood elf prince throw his head back and laugh. Even the talking portraits can get into this, like Thrall turning towards the camera and grinning at odd intervals, raiders howling, or elves turning and winking.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Bethesda games are major user of this trope. To note:
    • Bethesda's Gambryo Engine games from the The Elder Scrolls (Morrowind, Oblivion) and Fallout (Fallout 3, New Vegas) series lack even individualized gestures. This isn't so noticeable when its monologue being delivered in the "Talking Head" style which comprises the vast majority of dialgoue in these games, but it's highly noticeable in staging what are intended to be a dramatic in-engine cinematics. All models have the same wooden hand gestures which are reused whenever needed (ex. pulling levers, opening doors, etc.) with elbows locked at their sides and scant body language. Even the celebrity voice-acted characters do this (it must make Liam Neeson wince to see the movement associated with his voice). Any modder can find the vast library of idle animations the designers had at their disposal, but for whatever reason, very few were implemented.
      • The few rare instances of humanoid NPCs not using the same stock motions in conversation are almost jarring thanks to their novelty. One that comes to mind is in New Vegas, where the Courier can speak to a Hispanic Ghoul mechanic, who has some unique response animations when spoken to about certain subjects, most notably an exaggerated head-hanging slump that basically seems to convey "I don't know, but I'll say something anyway."
    • This also shows up to a lesser extent in Skyrim and Fallout 4, despite using the more advanced Creation Engine. There are a greater variety of motions utilized over previous installments, and prominent characters are more likely to have to have a few unique gestures, but the vast majority still get repetitive quickly. For example, in Skyrim, "drinking" seems to always involve drunkenly swaying back and forth to some music with a tankard in one hand, your followers all respond to trading with you with the same gesture (shrugging their shoulders a few times), and people react to finding a dead body by kneeling before it and hovering their hands over it.
  • BioWare games often have hours if not tens of hours of cutscene content, which would be impossible to custom-animate on time and on budget. Even their most recent games use an automated system for lip-syncing, setting up character motions and arranging camera angles in cutscenes; the scenes are then touched up by a human being to make them look a bit nicer. Their older efforts were a bit more obvious about the motions they went through. In no particular order:
    • Mass Effect has one that many characters use, a generic "I'm a little confused" animation that even Shepard does sometimes, involving a small shrug and the character awkwardly rubbing the back of their neck. This one is notable because there's a small sidequest where you have to keep an NPC talking for as long as possible, and the quest-giver tells you to press him on subjects that make him nervous so he'll try to dance around the issue and talk more. The tic to watch for? The NPC rubs the back of his neck when he's nervous.
      • As mentioned in the page quote, there's also a generic "shake fist grr grr" motion used throughout the franchise that looks wrong no matter who is using it from Counselor Udina to a teenager.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic, everyone expresses misery, no matter how mild, by grabbing their head and shaking. The same game features a standard script animation where the characters gesture with their hands, and this is extensively used during conversation. Because the characters are rendered with weapons in hand, this can get unnerving. There's nothing quite like seeing Carth Onasi, Guns Akimbo fighter extraordinaire, talking to you while waving a pair of blasters around wildly. Especially when he's angry at you. More amusingly, performing the 'bow' animation with a sword in hand results in the character impaling their own head.
      • Early in KOTOR 2, the Exile relinquishes her lightsaber to the Jedi Council... which can be represented by stabbing the guy (s)he's giving it to. Who grabs the 'saber by the cuts-through-anything blade.
      • Both KOTORs have lots of motions doing double- to triple-duty. The same animation is used for cheering, dancing, and being powered up.
    • Bioware's Dragon Age: Origins does this very weirdly. The characters mostly move very naturally, except that everyone loves to cross and uncross their arms while talking. In some longer conversations, you may see arms cross and uncross three times. Even better, rarely the game's timing gets a little too predictable, and multiple character will start doing it in sequence, which rather kills the drama.
      • This is made even worse by the Dwarves, considering their arms don't cross properly. Their hands end up clipping through their forearms.
    • There's one action in Jade Empire where the character sort of raises their right arm, as if in benediction, and wave it back and forth and up and down in front of them. This not only looks ridiculous, everybody does it at random points.
  • Chrono Trigger, widely regarded as one of the best 2D sprite RPGs, still had to resort to spinning around for certain emotes, though much more rarely than other SNES RPGs. The attentive player will find a number of emotes are reused in surprising ways, however.
    • Parts of animation loops, whether cutscene or battle, sometimes get cut out and stuck in to be dancing or flirting etc.
  • City of Heroes started including cutscenes in Issue 6, making use of the game's existing library of Emote Animations for the motions.
    • This was also used for the advertisement for the recently released Mac version, which parodied the Mac VS PC ads.
  • Used for foreshadowing in Digital Devil Saga. Gale demonstrates a common habit of touching his forehead whenever he's thinking. The player can later infer that this is because in his past life, he wore glasses.
    • The rest of the Shin Megami Tensei games aren't that good with it, even the ones that use 3d models. Persona 4 regularly uses Yosukes "Lean forward and wave hands" gesture whenever he says something with force, while Chie's crying gesture is so silly that the developers seem aware of what it looks like, and use it for her getting a bug off herself.
    • Devil Survivor indicates any measure of determination from the main character by him putting his hand over his heart, leaning forward and grinning angrily. You will see this a lot.
      • This might be also be a case of Fridge Brilliance. The main character is Abel, and in one of the paths Cain mentions how he stabbed him in the heart. One would be a little careful with ones heart after that.
    • Devil Survivor 2 has the main character do an Aside Glance whenever something humorous happens.
  • Final Fantasy IV had altogether too few of these, with often comic results — particularly when a character spun around for lack of anything better to express their emotions with. This may be why Final Fantasy V was the first FF game to have a reasonable selection of these (the lighthearted mood that makes the exaggerated movements not break the mood also plays a part).
    • Part of FFIV's problem was the use of very small sprites. 16x16 sprites don't have nearly the expressive power of the 24x16's used in FFVI.
      • The DS remake, which used 3D models, actually gave the characters access to every other character's movements, except in the high-quality cutscenes, likely so that each character has the proper movements necessary for the various abilities given by Augments. One particularly hilarious use of this is when a Dancing Girl asks Cecil to dance with her, and he, the newly reformed, Bishounen, armor-clad Paladin, copies her movements perfectly, down to every wave, hop and hip thrust.
      • Even better, you can give Kain Porom's Cry move with an Augment, so a fully-grown armor-clad faceless badass man will weep like a little girl on command.
      • There's also the ladder climbing animation being used for dancing.
      • Which may be a reference to Chrono Trigger, where the ladder-climbing animation was a dance option in the prehistoric parties.
  • Final Fantasy VI used "raise arm" in so many ways it's mind-boggling. Hitting switches, saluting, head scratching, cleaning boots...
  • Final Fantasy VII had some very iconic gestures. Cloud's shrug, headscratch and hair-flip are very fondly recognized by fans, to the point of the last one being performed in a fully-animated scene in Kingdom Hearts as a Mythology Gag.
  • Final Fantasy VIII also had several iconic gestures, most notably Squall's Facepalm, which also made it into Kingdom Hearts at least once.
    • One that especially stands out is Cid peering through his glasses while giving an important speech. Oh, there's important exposition going on here? Sorry, I was mesmerized by the headmaster's ridiculous animation!
  • Final Fantasy IX does this; during scenes, each textual box is accompanied by a gesture. Played on a loop. This leads to hilarity, particularly with Steiner, since he notably shakes his fists up and down in front of him or actually jumps and has a tantrum: depending on how long you can keep laughing/bear to watch, he can stand there jumping indefinitely. Similarly, Zidane will always go into his high-alert hald crouch position before a boss battle, even if there's a lengthy slab of exposition beforehand. Doesn't matter how long it takes you to read the text, he will be alert until the Fight Woosh.
  • Ditto Final Fantasy X.
    • Rikku's dog-paddling.
  • Final Fantasy XI uses this heavily, at least in the original game and earlier expansion packs. In Treasures of Aht Urhgan and especially Wings of the Goddess, though, the cutscenes are getting much better animated (although seemingly at the cost of quantity of story-related content).
  • Final Fantasy XIII doesn't use this much in cutscenes, but each character has two idle animations they switch between if you leave your party standing one spot for a while. Lightning just switches which hand she has on her hip, but Snow will pound one fist into his hand, Hope will alternate between swinging his arms and tapping his fingers together like he doesn't know what to do with his hands, Vanille will crouch down to rest, etc.
  • Like with Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV uses generic animations and emotes for characters and the player character in small cutscenes. In cutscenes that are very important to the story and/or has voice acting, the animations used are from motion capture (although some of the stock animations are also used). In version 1.0 of the game, everything was motion captured, but it was heavily scaled back when the game was remade in version 2.0 in order to save costs.
  • Golden Sun: Basically every emotional reaction is represented by jumping up and down. There is even a scene in the first game where the two main-characters try to explain that the world is going to end and stuff by running around and jumping.
  • Cutscenes in Gothic are very well animated, but everyday dialogue with NPCs involves about three gestures. Over, and over, and over again. The most common one is a sort of air-punch, is used on every other line and generally makes no sense whatsoever.
  • Every single Grandia game has been full of this.
  • Guild Wars uses the built in emote system in order to make the animations in their cutscenes. Cutscenes for the later installments did have arguably better animation, and Nightfall's release did allow for basic lip-synching for all cutscenes, even those of the previous installments.
  • Conversations in Kingdom Come: Deliverance involve a set of gestures that are recycled by all characters.
  • There's one particularly iconic pose in the console games of Kingdom Hearts, as well as the GBA game Chain of Memories — a pose of Sora's where he crosses his legs over and puts his hands behind his head, relaxed. In Birth by Sleep, his Expy Ven also uses the pose. 358/2 Days has to use Going Through the Motions. By the time you finish the game, Axel's headscratch and Roxas's depressed glance down probably will have been burned into your memory forever, as will their particular ways of sitting on the edge of the clock tower.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has plenty, but they aren't too noticeable. Except for the overly-exaggerated "shocked" animation, which is so over the top that it's impossible to ignore and looks so silly that it kills any seriousness the conversation may have had.
  • The Last Remnant does this a lot in any non-plot-central cutscene. Most sidequests involve opening and closing dialogues with text boxes and stock animations, while anything that's part of the main plot has voice acting and (usually) motion captured animations, though even in main plot scenes there's still some stock usage here and there for minor lines.
  • The Legend of Dragoon's use of this was most painfully evident during the "battle" with Shirley. Every time one of the illusions she summons says anything, they do the same exact over-the-top animation, from Shana's hands-over-her-heart-before-bending-over-and-gesturing-beseechingly to Albert's waving-his-spear-around-and-pointing-it-at-you-imperiously.
  • The Playstation RPG Legend of Legaia has gestures for happiness, sadness, excitement, anger/defiance, and what have you for the three main characters. They're thankfully unique enough to reflect that character's personality.
  • The entirety of Little Town Hero is animated in this way, though each character has at least a dozen different animations, even minor characters and every Monster of the Week. There's even a menu accessible from the Press Start screen where you can view their stock animations and animation cycles, all of which are modular, meaning they can be combined where feasible. Oddly, a large number of them are never used in the game.
  • The Mega Man Battle Network and Mega Man Star Force games are subject to this trope in overworld scenes (the good animations are saved for battle). Often, when an NPC has special animation for an event, the game will come up with excuses to use it again later. For instance, in BN3, Dex and Mayl are hypnotized to think they're a train and a zombie respectively; they use the same poses while playing with Chisao in the credits. Fans are understanding about this, but lament a related cost-saving measure: one "mugshot" per character, even Lan and MegaMan, no matter how great an emotional range that single picture has to cover. (The one exception, BN5's DS remake, is a real breath of fresh air.)
  • The lack of variety of expressions causes much Narm in some Neverwinter Nights 2 cutscenes.
  • In Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, all of your playable characters have this when you're at the menu. However, easily the most amusing would have to be the pirate captain Batu, who rubs his belly, yawns, and flexes his muscles.
  • Odin Sphere uses this, which is an acceptable trade-off for the amazingly detailed sprites it features. Though it does have its stranger moments: At one point, a character is injured, and his sprite shows him holding one arm. When he turns to face the other direction, he switches the arm that he's holding in a lazy sprite-flipping way.
  • Parasite Eve has a considerable number of recycled animations for every character, but one of the most humorous ones is for Aya, who just fidgets in place while saying a line.
  • Every character in the Pokémon Ranger series of games has a short animation that plays for a few seconds if they're standing around for long enough. This can get rather comical when, for example, a villain is hanging around, taunting you to go stop his master from executing his plans — and all he does is stand around, pausing every five seconds to put his hands behind his head in a laid-back manner.
  • Except for the opening cutscene and climactic cutscenes, Pokémon Sword and Shield subsist almost solely on stock animations — or, in some cases, none at all. That being said, it does get creative sometimes: Dynamaxed Pokémon grow huge and will look downward at normal-sized Pokémon, and this pose was used on a normal-sized Silicobra to indicate it's sleepy. The credits have no mention of motion capture whatsoever, suggesting everything in the game, including those cutscenes, was animated completely from ground up without the use of actors.
  • Every character in Sands of Destruction has one specific gesture to themselves which they go through when they speak. Yes, (nearly) every time they speak.
  • The original Shadow Hearts 1 is pretty clever in its use of stock motions, enhanced through emotion bubbles, but Covenant has Yuri put his hand on his hip every time he speaks.
  • Skies of Arcadia, big time, and often accompanied by a matching bit of stock voice (the dialogue was not fully voiced).
  • Super Mario RPG had hardly any additional frames for the characters. However, during cutscenes they use the standard walking, jumping, waving, etc. motions combined with sound effects to great effect. Usually, this was in the form of re-enacting what had just happened, in an effort to explain it to someone else. Its spiritual sequels, the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series, do the same thing.
    • One creative bit is when the "mute" pose of a bowed head is used to show Mario bowing to Mallow when he's revealed to be a prince.
  • Tales of Symphonia is very guilty of this. From Colette's arm pump, Lloyd's wild arm gesture, Zelos waving his arm up and down as he speaks, to Kratos' quickdraw sword slashes, you see each motion SEVERAL times during the game.
    • The sequel does as well, though it major cutscenes use motion-capture.
  • Trials of Mana:
    • The game manages to get through a good many cutscenes like this while still looking believable. The only really jarring one is the "push" animation, which gets recycled as trying to shove one's way past something and even picking flowers.
    • For main characters, sure, but the vast majority of human NPCs, especially those who never fight, get no frames of animation whatsoever beyond walking in the four main directions. Every ounce of visible emotion from these characters comes in the form of jumping or spinning (made even weirder by the fact that the main characters almost never jump or spin.)
  • Valkyrie Profile has a truly impressive number of unique situational sprites. There weren't more than a couple scenes that were made with stock poses. You could tell when crap was going to hit the fan by the use of Valkyrie's more emotional reactions or more dramatic poses.
  • Wild ARMs 5 had this. From Dean's "rub upper lip" to Carol's "lean forward, fists clenched". Bonus points: each of the characters has a special default pose they regress back into when they're not moving. Unfortunately, this can lead to such cases as Rebecca informing the others that they have to save an orphan in a semi touching scene... then leaning a bit to the side and placing a hand on her hip in a sassy way.
  • World of Warcraft gives the player-characters a limited amount of animations, which are often used and re-used to limited effect on Role Playing servers. Most can be seen (including the ridiculous dances) on the South Park episode set in the game.
    • Unfortunately, alternative forms (from one of several gag items or druid forms) often have even less variety. One model of a birdlike humanoid, however, actually has a lot of animations, including a simple but unique dance, a sleep pose (instead of simply using the death pose) and several others that are never used normally on enemies. And the item that transforms your character into this for some minutes is pretty hard to obtain, too.
      • The large number of emotes in that NPC race led to rumors it was going to be a PC race in the next expansion — it wasn't.
    • Almost every crafting ability uses the same 'rubbing an invisible grapefruit' animation, from cooking to tailoring to leatherworking. This is especially jarring with male trolls, who hammer one hand against the other. Alchemy uses the same animation but has the character holding two flasks. Blacksmithing and mining use a 'pounding on something' animation with a hammer or pickaxe.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 uses this trope during general play and minor cutscenes, the most egregious example being the way the party leader will look over their shoulder at an interjecting party member when they accept or complete a sidequest, every time, and every character (save one) uses a near-identical animation skeleton for it. The same handful of gestures and minor facial expressions are also used extensively for the minor cutscenes, though the heavier, more dramatic scenes use full motion-capture and give the characters much more detailed, expressive faces.
  • The first two Xenosaga games mostly avoided this, only using stock poses for unimportant scenes, and otherwise using nicely animated cutscenes... until the third game, at which point they changed the format over to old school textboxes-and-stock-animation for the most part, which was somewhat disappointing.
  • The You Testament has characters often repeating the "checking the wind" animation.
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 replaces the 2D sprites used for dialogue scenes in most other games in the series with 3D models, with each character having a few unique animations they might perform depending on the scene. For example, Nepgear's animations include "lean forward excitedly", "recoil in fear/shock", and "look down sadly".

    Simulation Game 
  • Animal Crossing has a various amount of animations and effects that are used to display emotion when the characters are talking. In Animal Crossing: Wild World, players can learn some of these emotions and set them off whenever they want. This was carried over into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which has at least 40 such emotions the player can perform at will.
  • The Harvest Moon series makes full use of character portraits during dialogue to to show emotion. However, Magical Melody took this trope to extremes with the characters moving wildly to express emotions such as embarrassment, joy, or panic, turning the characters into Large Hams. While amusing at first, it gets old quickly. Other games like Animal Parade and A New Beginning tend to do this better.
  • The Movies is a movie studio simulation, but in fact can actually be used as a studio for Machinima. It puts the player in the seat of a cutscene director: You can actually write, direct and edit short cutscenes (or long ones if you have the patience) which can include many actors with an array of backdrops, camera angles and costumes. The game has a very large assortment of possible character animations in each "scene", but most of the motions look extremely exaggerated or contrived, making it difficult to make anything which doesn't look like a satire of itself. Still, with the editing tools at your disposal, and a bit of talent it's quite possible to actually make a movie that looks reasonably good. Some have won awards.
  • The Sims converse with exaggerated stock gestures and nonsensical language.
  • Stardew Valley uses the same "jump back, arms above your head" gesture for almost any time a character is shocked or physically struck.

    Survival Horror 
  • Deadly Premonition did this quite often; the same animation was often recycled by different characters. One of the most prominent examples is an indignant/belligerent hand-on-hip, fist-shaking motion, shared by George, Nick, and at least one other male character, if not more. York's characteristic tap-the-collar motion is also done by other characters, like Deputy Emily.
  • Happens a lot in the first three Resident Evil games. Animations range from hands on hips when speaking/listening, beckoning another character to follow them, exaggerated motion of the arm when gesturing, pointing at another character...the list goes on. More expressive animations were made as the games went on, but it wasn't until Resident Evil – Code: Veronica where the characters had more natural animations that were very likely mocapped.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • The Disgaea series. Spoofed in Disgaea 2 when the characters realize that they FINALLY get a fully animated cutscene and thoroughly abuse the hell out of it. With a chaingun. (The video spoils only the good ending of the first game)
    • Disgaea 6 marks the game's first Video Game 3D Leap, yet in cutscenes the characters are animated using generic motions that look identical to what the sprites used. Whether this is delibrate or done out of laziness or cutting costs is uncertain.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics, despite being sprite-based, avoided this, with sprites drawn for every conceivable situation and every cutscene rendered in-engine. The tradeoff for this was very generic actions in battle scenes — other than using fists or a bow, attacking is the same downward sweeping gesture, charging is achieved by squatting, all spells are cast by raising hands, and summons are "rendered" by a still image plus particle effects.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance didn't have the same luxury as the first Tactics did. There were custom sprites for some situations like a few characters shaking their head to say no, but the rest were just recycled animations used from battles. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 improved it a bit; one character's sprite shakes when he is freezing and he also spins in circles when panicking.
  • The cutscenes (besides the opening and ending ones, which are beautifully animated) in Heroes of Might and Magic V are painful to watch, as the only motions the characters have are their various spell casting ones. Every sentence is punctuated with a swirl of magic.
    • Expansions, thankfully, dealt with the issue and added much wider variety of movements — and also finally allowed the character to get off their mounts.
  • Units in Majin Tensei II: Spiral Nemesis have only two animations — one for moving, and one for not moving. This makes in-battle cutscenes rather awkward, since almost every character expresses themselves during dialogue by running in place.
  • Used (and repeatably mentioned in the "team-streams") in Massive Chalice. Wherever possibly every character will be using the same set of animations to save time and money.
  • Super Robot Wars has very few actions that can happen to a particular unit on the map — moving, exploding, and "leaving". This leads to a few strange ways to set up scenes — when characters fall into a body of water, for instance, it's shown by them moving very quickly over the body of water, then leaving. Cutscenes also have to use the offensive and defensive support features to reasonably good effect. Generally, unless you know what's going on, just watching the little units dance around can look very strange.
    • It gets just plain odd in Super Robot Wars Z where, after completing the Overman King Gainer plotline, the entire team does the Monkey to "King Gainer Over!"...which is represented by their map sprites, including the battleships, spinning and "hopping".
    • Original Generation 2's throwing of DyGenGuard's sword, anyone?
    • In the games that use the Squad System, certain ALL attacks invoke this when used on Squads that only have one or two units — it can easily lead to Narm watching a unit shoot or slash at targets that aren't even there.

    Visual Novel 
  • Again!!: Outside of small cutscenes, character portraits are often animated this way. such as with Detective Lane's does this occasional facepalms and some instances of Giving Someone the Pointer Finger.
  • Danganronpa has a particular set of expressions for each character, such as anger, fear, happiness, or confidence. The high versatility of their expressions caused several poses to be iconic for some characters to the point where the Animated Adaptation slips them into the show fully rendered.
  • Ace Attorney is notorious for this, to the point some of Phoenix Wright's movements have entered the wider nerd sphere. The writing is more than capable of carrying the emotions across, however, and most of the central characters have a fairly wide palette of actions. One character, Marvin Grossberg, only has two facial expressions (upset, and non-upset) due to another reason for the use of this trope — they ran out of cartridge space, though this improves in the third game when he plays as Mia's co-consul in the first case.
    • The very first case in the first game shows how ridiculous the motions are. When Phoenix needs to send a signal to Larry inn the very first case, it plays like this:
    Phoenix: (*hands on desk* Tell *thumb and index finger resting on chin as if thinking* the *points directly at Larry* truth!)
    or (*hands on desk* Lie *thumb and index finger resting on chin as if thinking* like *points directly at Larry* a dog!)
    • Dick Gumshoe has sprites for being angry, glum, embarrassed, but none for anguish. This shows when Franziska whips him in Justice For All, and he yells "Oooow!" with a cheeky smile on his face. And in Trials and Tribulations, he weeps tearfully over being rejected by the girl he's crushing on... and he stands motionlessly with a smile as he does so.
    • Larry lost one on his way to the third game, but it was nothing more than a slight modification to one of his other poses, so it wasn't noticeable. Plus he has a large amount of animation anyway.
    • Payne's forehead tap is such a recognisable part of the character that it is the only motion he does in his cameo in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth.
    • The leap to 3D in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies more or less kept the same style of animations for everyone while new characters gotten their own. Thanks to the characters being in 3D, the animations, despite most being the same ones played multiple times, flow a lot smoother, thus they look more natural.

    Non Video Game Examples 
  • This effect is not limited to games. In Beast Wars Transformers, the robots' various transformation sequences were stock motions — freshly animated each time, often from different angles, but with their body parts transforming in exactly the same way.
  • In Scott Meyer's An Unwelcome Quest, Todd kidnaps several wizards and then forces them to play out a video game of sorts that he created. Except he put about as much effort into making believable animations for the artificial constructs as most games. For example, the "quest" involving a blacksmith forging an Infinity +1 Sword generally involves the blacksmith simply waving his arms around the object, making it appear like he's doing something, and then the object instantly transforms into something else. Todd gets called out on this lazy method by the "players".
  • Non-video game example: Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which deliberately reuses the same familiar animations over and over again throughout the series (in a deliberate So Bad, It's Good). None of the characters have ever so much as moved their legs on screen.
    • The spinoff show Cartoon Planet had even more fun with it, particularly with Brak's immunity to Space Ghost's laser. Apparently he simply doesn't have any "getting shot" animations, and knows it, so of course it never happens to him, even when he taunts Space Ghost. At one point, when asked to perform a task that would have involved getting out from behind his podium and then asked why he wasn't doing it, he responds, "I'm not animated to do that."
    • Aqua Teen Hunger Force also often reuse animations.
  • Sprite Comics are often bound by this limitation as well unless the artist gets really creative by mixing and matching different poses or creating their own custom poses or expressions; 8-Bit Theater, for example, gets good mileage out of Final Fantasy characters "arms up" and "head down" poses.
  • Xtranormal videos, at least the ones made on the website, either don't let characters talk and gesture at the same time and use stock gestures, or the creators are too lazy to bother fixing their creation. Either way, any gestures will be made after a comment, looking incredibly awkward.
  • In Turning Red, if you are very observant you may see some reusage of background characters actions in different scenes. One pair of girls can be seen to apparently admire each other's nail polish at least three times in the movie.
  • Wandavision plays this for Surreal Horror. As Vision nears the edge of town where Wanda's Reality Warper powers aren't as strong, the townspeople start acting less naturally and start behaving like poorly programmed NPCs in a video game. And they seem to be somewhat aware of it, too...

Alternative Title(s): Stock Motions