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Topics - astraldata
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2D & 3D / 3D2D Animation Workflow Proposal
« on: April 27, 2016, 02:14:11 am »
2D Animation is HARD work.

It is oftentimes A LOT of work too. That workload only increases the more you want to animate a character in a 2D game. There must be another way for people with little time who want to develop cartoon-looking art. And, if the ideas/workflow in the video below could be expanded upon into a more user-friendly way, we could really be onto something:

As a die-hard 2D artist AND animator, I have often envied the fancy toolsets 3D artists have available to them. Many 3d apps have tools you can just click a button, slide some edge-loops and vertices around, and then BAM, you have a sword, or a barrel, or even a full-on character, all prepared for you to spiffy-up and throw a skeleton on to animate it with as many different animations as you'd like (many times this involves simply reusing other pre-made animations with a whole different visual representation thrown on top of the nice animation!) -- and even with all of that, the most time-saving thing is -- you never have to worry about drawing your subject ever again! You can simply animate -- and give life to your otherwise static drawing. The problem is, 3D, unlike 2D, isn't really "drawing" in the traditional sense... but it can definitely be just as much fun.

While creating sprites and drawing frame-by-frame is easy enough for me, I've often wondered whether there is a better way to save time on developing assets that aren't aimed at being photo-realistic.

If you've watched the video above, especially all the way to the end, you should probably be aware that this stuff isn't /easy/ to do -- at least not yet. However, what they did do -- and shipped as a AAA game, I might add -- is surprisingly low-tech for what's possible with the visual style they've accomplished.

Speaking of what's possible -- although they mentioned (sadly very short-sightedly, I'll admit) in the question/answer session that something like an RPG isn't quite possible with this technique they've used, if you think about TRUE classic top-down RPG's of the past (or even something like Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, for example!), a visual style like this could work /very/ well. You wouldn't need a global light source to do that (as you have a 'sprite' layer!), and most importantly, your art style would mimic the beautiful sprites of the past, each having their own light source (mostly similar, but still independent of the environment they are a part of) -- and these 'sprites' would simulate "infinite resolution", which is the secret to all really great pixel art. And, to think, creating epic games like this with minimal man-hours in art would be many people's dream. My own included.

So... A proposal.

I want us, as a community, to consider developing a more general-purpose workflow to create 2D3D 'sprites' like the ones in the video. If we gained enough support, we could have dedicated tools to make developing these 2d3d sprites much easier than using something like XSI Softimage to wing them -- which XSI is nice, but is quite obviously not optimum. And perhaps a shader and workflow in some currently-available 3d programs could be used for now to suffice until then.

Any technically-inclined fellow 2d3d animators/programmers up to a challenge...?

If so, feel free to post any potential workflows you have to accomplish something like this here in this thread. We can all tweak and discuss these workflows in order to potentially come up with something reasonably faster than the one they came up with for this Guilty Gear game (that could work for top-down RPG games too, for example!)

I've got a few workflows in mind myself, but I'd like to hear your input first!

PS: Here is some additional information to consider:

Guilty Gear PDF (unofficial)

Japanese Cel-Shading Plugin

Softimage Video of Cel-Shading Normal Process

Older Discussion

General Discussion / Game Environment Composition Techniques!
« on: October 27, 2015, 09:02:13 am »
Composition of gameplay environments, particularly of the 2d variety, is rarely ever discussed anywhere on the net, so I would like to to attempt to fix that by asking you guys to offer input on any composition techniques you use to design gameplay environments.

I personally use a modified application of the "value-planning" technique alongside consecutive thumbnails to design my environments.

If you have never heard of the term "Value Planning" before, here's what I'm talking about:

Now that you're all read up, I'd like us to please post screenshots (multiple in the same level if possible) of where the concept of "value planning" is applied and executed well and then offer ideas on where or how the 'composition' could be improved or why you think it works as it is.

Let us also think about and discuss how we, as game artists, might even apply other traditional composition techniques in new ways to game environments (and the HUDs and characters that go on top of them) to achieve the same level of control over game environment composition that painters command.

As this is a concept I don't think many hobbyist pixel artists are aware of, it might be worth it to show example shots of games with a higher color-count (i.e. modern 2d games -- even mobile phone games -- rather than just games w/ pixel art) to give us some idea of possible ways and varieties of implementing composition techniques such as value-planning to games, but if you can find good pixel art examples, then, by all means, please post them!


One of the biggest issues I had when I first started learning how to do game art was trying to decide how bright or dark to make the characters, props, mid/fore/back grounds, power-ups, HUDs, and so on. This was because I knew that making any one of these aspects too bright/dark/dull/saturated could easily lead to distraction and/or unsightliness without the artist ever really knowing why.

In a painting, the artist doesn't have to worry about a HUD or the character sprite moving around or the screen scrolling to new areas that become uninteresting because they rarely change the basic white/gray/black setup defined in the first screen, leading to visual fatigue. The painter never has to worry about having an onlooker's eyes stay in one place too long or move outside the focal area of the painting because the skilled painter can lead the eye within his static frame's boundaries. To this end, the painter has total control over the eyes of the onlooker while the game artist does not -- this is due to the unpredictable camera positioning in the game world by the player. Suddenly, all the nice "look over here, this is the main subject of my painting" techniques seem to rush out the window in your typical action game, and almost everything you've ever learned about image composition follows it out that window for one simple reason -- there is no frame.

Thumbnails of portions of the level with proper values laid out might help with this!

Let us discuss and show examples of all the specific ways how we might be able to give control back to the game artist when designing 2d gameplay environments (TopDown and SideScrolling) using the classical composition techniques such as "Value Planning" and so on in new and creative ways.

If you have an idea on how to apply these, or a neat technique of your own, please share it! I will share my techniques as soon as a few other people share theirs!


General Discussion / Tiled -- Automapping Rules
« on: September 13, 2014, 01:37:48 am »


I don't know if it's just me, but I'm just not following this stuff.

I know some of you use Tiled to make your level designs, so I was wondering if anyone here would please explain how to make automapping rules for a platforming tileset in Tiled?

I got how the layer-naming stuff works -- I just don't understand the logic behind the "rule" stuff (regarding placement of which tiles on what layer to get what result), and the website is no help, nor is that video.

This is the tileset I'm using and trying to make autotile/automapping rules for:

General Discussion / Visual Designs for Sidescroller Levels
« on: August 11, 2014, 03:37:51 am »
What process or methods do you use to come up with specific-looking terrain, backgrounds, and set-pieces (tilesets) for side-scrolling / platform levels? How about when all you have to go on is a very general theme or vague idea?

For example, say you need to come up with X number of levels for a game, but you only have vague ideas from the game designer -- i.e. I have to make a mansion level, a desert level, and a highway level for example, but I need to come up with a way to convert the vague themes to more specific-looking locations and create tiles, props, and backgrounds for them without any further specifications.

I've had this issue on many occasions, as I'm sure someone else out there has too, but I personally have just winged it with random references as best as I can to generate ideas for my set-pieces, but it's hard to find good references without solid ideas as to what you're going to put in the level in the first place, so it becomes pretty tedious in the long run to do it this way, and thus I'd really like to find a better way to go about this sort of thing, especially for larger projects (where good inspiration might be lacking). What would do you do in a situation like this?

Is there a better way to go about converting such abstract ideas like these into specific platforms & slope tiles you can walk across, or props/variations that fill the middle-ground spaces behind the player? How do you go about generating ideas for such things?

Do you just write out a list of stuff you want to include in the level and google a ton of random refs with those keywords, hoping you can find stuff whose visual style and photo angle matches close enough to what you're looking for? That just sounds too impractical imo, but maybe it really is the way some of us work??

Unpaid Work / Art/Multidisciplinary Team-Partnership
« on: May 17, 2014, 09:18:35 am »
About me:

I've been doing pixel art on a professional level for more than 8 years, and in that time I have accumulated skills in a wide variety of pixel art styles and techniques, including animation. I've been composing illustrations most of my life (25+ years) in various media, so I know my way around asset-creation, composition and design too. More recently, I have been developing knowledge of making 3D games (and assets), programming tools, and developing new workflows to assist in daily game development processes in everything from programming down to art and animation in 3D games. However I love (and started with) 2D games, so I still do try to find ways to combine the two wherever possible! :D

For the past 15 years, in addition to art and animation, etc., I've been studying business, marketing, programming, and both game design and development nearly every day on my own time. I've been the lead designer, software planner, and project manager across a variety of projects, but I've since put this on the back-burner to hone my overall design skills across all many disciplines -- especially game design. I've got an extensive list of skills, but art and animation is one of my true passions, second only to game-design. Unfortunately, I can't afford time-wise to do an entire game's art all by myself, so I have to choose my projects very selectively since that time.

I have been studying 3d art and animation, as well as playing with unique visual styles and gameplay elements for years now. I'm really into experimental game concepts, preferably small (but robust!) concepts, so if you're interested in stuff like this too -- drop me a line! I'm also a huge fan of experimental games with little (but impactful!) story -- I enjoy using narrative with very limited elements (visual, gameplay, and otherwise!) and how that can still create meaningful experiences, not unlike how many games (now considered old-school) impacted me as a child. I was always a big Nintendo and Capcom fan, so anyone who loves their older games/designs might truly enjoy working with me! I've gotten these companies' approaches down to a science to understand exactly how and why they worked so well (and how and why they've botched them in recent years!) I'm interested in the future of the video game industry and would love to make an impact on that, however little, in my time here as well!

What/Who I'm looking for:

I'm looking for, at the minimum, a fellow artist who enjoys creating backgrounds, tilesets, levels and environments to work with me on creating fun and unique games. Character design and animation is my forte, but background concepting is also something I enjoy doing. A fellow programmer/artist who is also passionate about game design would be ideal too, as I haven't much time to offer either task myself, and it would be great to be able to swap tasks back and forth.

I aim to form a group of moderately-skilled *independent* artists, preferably with other passions (such as artist-designers or artist-programmers) with whom I can contribute my own art and animation skills to in order to publish promising game designs (with initially low asset-requirements) in order to ship many well-designed games to eventually position us as masters of game-design in the industry at some point. Yes, a lofty goal, but with the right minds, we can totally do this.

Ideally, the games we produce would be novel, have little overhead costs (both in project time-tables and asset-turnaround times), offset by top-notch design, planning, and execution by an overall highly-skilled creative team that we would be a part of. If you are wondering of what kind of team we'd be, think of what old-school Super Mario Bros. did with its bushes and clouds to save time and memory, and you're on the right track! Our development time would only increase from our own love for our projects, and of course, any sustained popularity of the games we create. We would aim for a Nintendo level of polish and quality at all times, but as indies, shorter projects would still be preferable to longer ones for a while, since each of us volunteer our time towards creating the greatest products we can create in the time we set aside to create them (i.e. if I can offer 16 hours this month to the project, and you can offer only 8, we may decide to tackle only a project whose scope would account for those 24 hours). Depending on the team we form, and the hearts and minds behind it -- this could very well become very lucrative for us all, as the things we create are, at the utmost-importance, a product of our own love and passion for the project and the time we have to create it. What separates us the most from indie startups today, however, is that we have the know-how to do it efficiently and we already know exactly what we are capable of! If you are an artist that has failed or has indefinitely-delayed projects under your belt, then you, my friend, are our partner.

Because you have experienced the soul-crushing defeat of a project of passion's failure, -- with that -- you now understand just what exactly will take a project of passion down the road to failure a hundred times better than anyone who has not failed so gloriously. So don't give up. Join us. We will make something great together.

If this kind of thing sounds like your cup of tea, then hit me up yo~!

The idea with any near-future projects I work on with our team, is to get a few very manageable projects off of the ground and make a name for ourselves in our spare time.

I'm a firm believer in the "you get what you give" philosophy.

The more work you put into yourself, the more work I (and I expect the team to) put into your development as a partner, a fellow artist, and as a friend. There isn't a lot of incentive to do other people's art for free, therefore you have creative control over the art you do, and, as a partner, we would only expect you contribute that to the project we are working on together, and ask that you simply don't offer us more hours than you will devote. We're all independent, and we all respect that in one another. We all pick the projects we do (as a unified whole) rather than as individuals. If we all aren't passionate about the project (through ALL stages of its development!) -- then it isn't a feasible project -- and we pull the plug. It is up to us to give all of our projects the 'shine' each deserves. Above all, we create the games we love ourselves. Nothing more. Nothing less. The world's full of shitty games already. Why add more to the pile?

I'll give more specifics as to how the partnership would work exactly, but this is an arrangement between independent artists and designed to empower you with the group's name and resources to help you make a name for yourself as an artist/designer/programmer/etc., by being part of a top-notch team who has shipped actual game titles. Monetary stuff should just be considered a side-effect. Our focus, at first at least, would be in creating a strong team to act as the backbone behind some very recognizable games.

We will need to see examples of your work as a game artist, so consider this as you would an application to any serious art job (in the sense that you'd not only be sending us your work (i.e. a portfolio), but the process/steps/tools in which it took you to arrive there). Regarding your secondary passions, please, show us whatever proves you are also passionate about these other interests as well. Remember, this is a small team, so we can only accept a limited number of people. If you're interested even remotely in a team like this -- now's your chance to join us! :)

Contact Info:
Send samples of your art to me via PM to apply. Tell me about yourself and your goals in art/games and in life in general. I'll get back to you asap.

Some info about my art:

mixed and newer examples of my artwork:

random examples of my work (very old art,  game-related art, and recent-ish art):

I've seen some nice looking modern-platforming game backgrounds recently and have really been wondering about the techniques behind drawing them so they work with the tileset and the specific level layout. I know some of you have worked on big name titles requiring a seasoned workflow, so I was wondering if I could get some insight on how you approach some particular things:

First of all, how do you determine the number of background images/variations needed when also approaching the layout and design of those backgrounds so they will work with non-specific level sizes and layouts, and account for all possible color schemes and variations of the tilesets? And lastly, with tilesets, how do you determine the number of, and what type of, stuff needs to go into the tilesets (and how many variations of each you need) so that you know you have enough variation to keep it interesting?

How do you approach these different tasks when it's all up to you to do the job of coming up with the list of specific visuals required on a project? Certainly you can't know everything you need asset-wise beforehand? Especially when the level layouts haven't been solidified at all, right??

General Discussion / Modular Background Designs
« on: February 18, 2014, 04:16:40 pm »
If you've no idea what I'm talking about, think about Super Mario World for a moment. Remember how the gameplay was based around the variation of blocks around a level, but the background elements were always reused from previous levels? For example part of the BG was generic clouds, the other part was hills, and possibly more clouds in the distance. Or, in a different level, it was all clouds on every layer, and the furthest BG was sparkly stars. The hills/clouds of, say, the background's middleground layer could be interchanged with a different set of hills/etc. if they wanted it to. They were modular and allowed the game to be stretched over as many worlds as possible, with a limited number of assets.

Yeah, so, I was wondering if anyone here had considered such a concept before? If so, has anyone attempted it with any success?

I'm trying to design backgrounds with this concept in mind with a more mature style of artwork that can work with any set of tiles in a similar vein to the way SMW did it, but I'm coming up blank. I've scoured the internet for ideas on how to design like this, but I've found nothing at all. I'm looking for ways to design to keep the layered look, while being able to swap out the tileset or any background layer I want and still have the whole thing visually cohesive. Any ideas on how one might go about such a thing?

Pixel Art / Statusbars [C+C]
« on: February 12, 2014, 10:45:29 pm »

I've been messing with these for far too long trying to come up with a good style and arrangement that I'm pleased with, so I'm looking for opinions of this. Fyi, the playable screen size will be 1024x640. I'm also having trouble coming up with something I can use for the icons representing lives (the little red dots currently). Generic is okay, I just can't think of anything cooler at that scale.

Not looking to put the player's icon/face/weapon there or anything like that in, but I am concerned that the floating 3 dots will look too separated in style from the rest of the hud design (though not sure if this is a bad thing since it doesn't appear to clash and seems to add a little contrast to the design -- thoughts??)

Forgot to mention the HP/SP meters will be able to increase in size from the default (though, not by much). And the length of the bars isn't set in stone. Also, I'm going for simple/clean/functional, so I'm not looking to adorn the bar with too much flair/artistry since these are going into a fighting game and need to be practical/functional with people coming at you from all sides.

Pixel Art / Mechanical Sky Sanctuary
« on: December 11, 2013, 09:49:10 pm »
Looking for some critique on this and would like to know what kind of props I could add to a level like this. I'm going for a sort of "mechanical-sky-sanctuary" sort of thingy here, but I'm at a loss for stuff to add. I'm not aiming for the Sonic version of Sky Sanctuary, but more of a factory-ish styled landscape with some form of buildings/ruins or something the player can jump on.

My main issue isn't the pixel art itself, but more with designing the tileset + background concepts themselves based on a vague idea of where I want to go.

The grey-blue shiny looking blocks are going to be the top of a cube that will extend up to 4 tiles into the distance. The purple+mechanical tiles are the front of the cube and the player will see these most prominently.

Players will fight DBZ-style on platforming-styled levels with scenery props & jumpthrough platforms represented by 2d sprite props, which is mainly what I'm having trouble coming up with ideas for in a level like this (think Smash Bros. 64 -- without the blurry textures).

I am having a lot of trouble finding references to make the current tileset work with such a vague idea. How do other professional artists do it?

I've put the tileset in the level against a sky-blue colored background but am at a loss from there. More than anything, I need some way to generate ideas here. I don't need it to be pretty, just functional for a platform fighting game and appealing to the eye.

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