When it comes time to animate your character there’s likely a sort of standard animation set you think about. Those animations that are normally required for the gameplay to function properly. Let’s look at a platformer, for example. For pretty much any character, be they player or enemy, you’ll need an idle, a horizontal movement, a vertical movement, and some sort of action. For a humanoid player character these most commonly come in the forms of standing, walking/running, jumping/falling, and likely an attack. And there may be a few others you think of, such as crouching and crawling and climbing and pushing. The original Mega Man’s a good example of this simple setup:
From an unexpected upcoming title from A Jolly Corpse and Fallen Angel Industries. This is the (nearly) finished box art for SmashBox. Character design was done by myself and David, whose ludicrous demands had me working until 3am on the color of his gloves. But he turned out pretty fun. I take credit for the hair.
This is the first time I’ve used SAI from beginning to end on a piece of art. Was actually quite impressed with its painting tools. May continue to use it over Photoshop.
Watch for the game very soon on XBLIG and then later on PC, Mac, and Linux!
One invaluable program in my repertoire is a strange little painting tool from the land of holographic pop idols and gameshows that hit guys in the balls: Japan. Unlike American comics, which take their time inking with heavy, shapely lines and large pools of black and color panels to make pictures readable, Japanese manga is generally done in black&white and is hundreds of panels long, and since no color will be applied requires a very fine attention to creating thin, perfectly readable line art quickly. Drawing these lines is an incredibly difficult and arduous process – one that aspiring artists go to school to master and then do for years tracing over a manga artist’s sketches before ever dreaming of drawing something of their own. Sound like fun? Nope. In comes Easy Paint Tool SAI, an awesome line art tool from tiny developer Systemax, who apparently still exist, but you could be fooled by their website. It may not compare to the professional hand-drawn techniques used by manga artists and their tireless teams of assistants, but thanks to a few ingenious tools, it can provide editable, pixel perfect line art quite quickly and much more easily than other vector-based art programs.
There exists in game development a question we all see being discussed constantly, that I myself am asked directly fairly often, and whose resolution seems to continually elude us. That question is “How in the name of the Greek god Hades can I stay motivated?” Wording and religious context may differ, but it’s an Alundra-esque conundrum with which nearly all of us struggle. Game development is one of the most involved and protracted creative processes out there. It’s especially daunting for tiny independent devs, who are generally tasked with such a huge amount of work it makes constructing the Death Star seem feasible.
Okay! So last time we talked about how to select which features in a subject need to be emphasized in order for it to read well in the miniature, and saw that these attributes had to be overemphasized in order to make this happen. Now let’s get into the dirty of it, and make the damn things!
Beginning the Sprite: Painting
One of the common methods for beginning spriters is to start with an outline and then go from there, much as we do with a basic drawing. This is because these days a lot more of us grow up doodling with pencil and paper in classrooms and in sketchbooks much more than we paint.
For larger sprites, this is a perfectly fine method. You can see this quick pixeled outline of the larger Keep is reading fine, and we could go on from here filling in, shading, highlighting, and anti-aliasing. But when it comes to the smaller, actual sprite on the right, it’s clear that we’re going to have a massively tough time doing this. The hair and face are still mostly present, but pretty much everything else is just a mess, and we can’t tell what’s outlining what, or where color should go, or… well really anything. So it’s unlikely you’d want to even attempt to start from here when working in the miniature.