I’ve been getting some questions and interest in how I go about making my sprites for my games. I’m no fan of pixel art or hand-drawn animation. I respect those who are good at it, but I like to focus on more efficient methods, since I have no choice but to do all the work for my game project on my own.
I like to use the common and popular modular animation method, which is basically putting together characters in a ‘paper doll’ like fashion, moving at the joints, rotating the parts and substituting them as needed to make animations as effective and efficient as possible.
Here’s a quick rundown of how I’m putting together the latest addition to my Jet Dancer game, the shield trooper:
First, I started with the same file I used to create the game’s sniper mook. As you can see, every body part is a separate drawing on its own layer. I’m using Clip Studio Paint here, but this is a PSD file.
I imported the parts into Flash using its ‘Import to Library’ function in the file menu, played around with scaling and proportions until I put the shield wielding trooper together like so. I wanted him to be a bit bulkier than the sniper goon.
I spend time making animations in Flash. I don’t use tweening; I just make the animations frame by frame, positioning the parts as I go along. I don’t really NEED Flash to do this, but since Flash is a vector program, rotating the body parts doesn’t cause them to degrade as it would in a raster program like Clip or Photoshop, and drawing in Flash itself is a bit tedious (though that’s exactly what I did when I made the Jet Dancer sprite). And Flash’s animation tools make the actual animation process easy (or at least, I’m used to using it so it’s easy for me).
Once I’m satisfied with an animation, aware that even if it’s a bit choppy, it’ll look better when scaled down, I move to Game Maker. It might seem like a strange choice given that I’m building my game in Construct 2, but while I’m not really fond of Game Maker’s actual game-making IDE, I DO love its internal graphics program. You can easily resize, edit, alter animations, add glow effects and such to your sprites, and export them as perfectly-arranged sprite strips that it and other programs (like Construct) will read. All I have to do is export the frames from Flash as individual PNG files and then import them into Game Maker all at once. They’re immediately lined up in order and you can preview the animation at any speed you want, make any changes, and then save it out as a sprite strip without changing the original files.
Once I have a satisfactory sprite strip, I add it to my game project file in Construct 2 and get ready to add logic to it, which is where the real hard work begins.
That’s pretty much it. I would say the hardest part is drawing the body parts in such a way that they can easily be assembled to make a whole figure. They have to properly overlap and they also can’t be too ‘flat’–not too far sideways, not too far forwards. To save work and keep them looking somewhat dynamic, I try to go for a slight quarter turn with sprites that aren’t going to get a lot of elaborate animations. For instance this enemy will never show his back or need to have any super-smooth turning animations, so one facing direction is fine. For Jet Dancer, I did a lot more. She has front, side and back facing parts and I did an absurd amount of work on her hair (if you can’t tell by how it moves in the game). Speaking of which, in case you haven’t seen it, I made a new gameplay video showing some updates including use of new hazards I’ve been creating. You can check it out below: