How Tango Gameworks uses intricate hand animation to propel its ‘weaponless’ Ethereal Weaving ability to take on the supernatural.
Following a paranormal disaster plunging Tokyo into a world of real-life urban legends and conspiracies, players take up arms to battle otherworldly Visitors that have taken over the city…literally! In Ghostwire: Tokyo, players combine conventional gear with a special technique called Ethereal Weaving – fusing spiritual energy with the elements of wind, water and fire – to fend off foes and save the city.
Rather than a special weapon or conduit, Ethereal Weaving utilizes just two hands, weaving motions together hypnotically in-game to unleash your power upon Tokyo’s hostile apparitions.
“The evil spirits that appear in Tokyo are supernatural, non-physical beings, so we tried to think of what the most intuitive way would be to combat them,” explains Kenji Kimura, Game Director for Ghostwire: Tokyo at Tango Gameworks.
“Japan has a long history of warding off bad events such as natural disasters or disease through prayer at shrines and temples. If a child got injured in the neighborhood, their parents would wave their hands over the wound while saying incantation-like words, as if to magically alleviate the pain. It’s this historical reliance on nature and other unseen forces controlled by hand movements that inspired their use in the game.”
The motif of “tradition meets modernity” is a common one in Ghostwire, crafting a vision of a contemporary Tokyo encountering the spiritual world into a unique hybrid that stands on its own, down to its combat skills.
“Of course, we knew of the ‘kuji-kiri’ or ‘nine symbolic cuts,’ and the gestures used in ninjutsu and other practices,” explains Kimura, “but we weren’t really going for explicit sorcerer or ninja vibes. We wanted to focus on how a person living in a modern Japan with traces of unique traditional elements would grow and adapt. So, we went for more original gestures informed by those of the past.”
Rule of cool
What really drove Tango in developing and animating Ethereal Weaving was its “feel” – that is, having the hand motions make sense for the setting and abilities being used.
“We tried to imagine what sort of movement would, for example, best harness the wind (and look as cool as possible) before coming up with a concrete gesture,” Kimura says. “Animating these gestures was a primary focus so we acted them out, asking each other things like, ‘does this look cool?’ or ‘is this too ridiculous?’ The process was a lot of fun.”
Of course, players can also use their own hands to experience Tango’s beautifully haunted vision in Ghostwire: Tokyo, out now exclusively for PlayStation 5. Doubling down on bringing players closer to the action, Ghostwire: Tokyo supports the DualSense wireless controller to not just show players the action, but let them feel it.
“Once we settled on the gestures, we then worked on the VFX and SFX, as well as the haptic feedback and adaptive trigger responses [on the DualSense controller],” says Kimura. “All the elements were connected, and it’s that interconnectedness that makes for a really immersive experience, in my opinion.”
Ghostwire: Tokyo is available now for PS5. Download and play today or upgrade to the Ghostwire: Tokyo Deluxe Edition for exclusive content and more.