As I’ve been posting the occasional art update on Sproggiwood I thought it might be time to give more insight into making art for a game.
Sproggiwood is by far the largest game I’ve made art for, as I have history of smaller mobile game projects. As our personal indie project, it also came with all new freedom and responsibility. Being the only artist with very accommodating team members I was solely responsible for setting up the visual style and managing my workload.
I started designing the graphics with a few key pointers in mind. First of all, the character art needed to have easily swappable gear art. To the rescue came Spriter, which allowed us to use bone animations with easy to swap single pieces of art. As Spriter was still very much in development when we started using it I had more than a few frustrating moments when the old files stopped working or the ui changed so that I didn’t know how to use the program anymore. Overall though the project would never have been possible without it, and it made the animation workload much easier to handle.
The final animations in the game don’t feature the pixelation that seems to crop up in the exported frames.
As I wanted to be able to easily add more gear, the animations were designed so that a single image of the item in question would be enough, no different perspectives. For the same reason we also settled on one animation direction with horizontal flipping, no back views.
Spriter also allows for easy combination of frame by frame animation and bone animation, so I was able to do more frames for monsters that didn’t need to have parts changed.
For the general graphics style I knew there was no way I’d be able to fit in the painted look I love so much, so I went looking for a more simple style. I was kind of fond of the look of many retro pixel art games, but had no interest in actually pursuing pixel art myself so I ended up adopting a rectangle based aesthetic. I’ve long been looking to try out more simple, graphic design in my other work, so I saw a great opportunity to explore it here.
At first I tried to set myself strict rules to follow, but eventually I just started doing stuff that felt right and good. As time has ticked by everything has been getting more simplified and streamlined, especially the interface.
The game design has also been simplified along the way.
A few lessons I’ve learned along the way:
– Simple things can take more time do than complicated ones, as you cannot hide imperfections in the detail.
– If someone asks you to do a tilable river with animation, say NO.
– Good mockup ui graphics to make iterations easier.
– Tilesets have an unbelievable amount of tiles if you’re doing corners, and making good looking tiles takes forever.
– Things change, and graphics end up obsolete. It’s better to do placeholders instead of finals for big stuff that might change.
– You’ll never anticipate all the little stuff, especially when working with an iterative design.
Overall I’m really happy with the project. I’m proud of the art I’ve created and even though some of the lessons along the way have been painful they will make my work more efficient in the future. Of course the game isn’t quite finished yet, but most of the graphics work is getting there. Soon I’ll be able to count the remaining tasks with my fingers!
We’re entering the dreaded state of game development called “polish”, so in a few more months we might have a completed game.
More about Sproggiwood: