I thought I'd do a little write-up of the process of animating something as simple as a sword attack. First off, I'm proud to say all the animation work we did on Rift are all keyframe and it's been a while since I got to do animation like this, straight up. The image below shows the breakdown of each key pose.
Two Handed Sword Vertical Attack
As you can see from the key poses above, the basic principles of animation still applies. However, it's up to you (the animator) to find a creative way of applying the principles or to break the rules as you see fit to produce the effect you want out of your animation.
So what's my process for animating something like this? Well, I usually start by drawing a series of thumbnails and doodles on paper before I even begin any work in front of the computer. This is the planning stage, where I work out different ideas on poses and how I think my character will be moving. Since this particular animation is about combat, of course I also look at video references (thanks YouTube) on the subject of weaponry and body mechanics - and it's all about body mechanics. Then I begin a bunch of pose tests (key poses) and see how the movement will "flow." The rest is simply tweaking until the animation feels right (and test and make sure it works in game... very important).
Here's The Actual Animation
As It Appears In The Game
In the fantasy world of RIFT, the Bahmi are a race of large, hulking humanoids from the Plane of Air who arrived during a time of war and became stranded when the portal to their realm closed, trapping them on Telara forever. They average around 7 feet tall, with the smallest male Bahmi being like the size of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson... yup.