Archive | July 2012

Day 7: Flies

Topical, since the warm weather has brought real ones through the open windows. Mum is getting lethal with the fly swat.

Still, I suggested we do the bad fish today, but D didn’t want to. He suggested we do the maps, but because they don’t require animation, decided that the flies would be a better bet, so the flies we did.

Again a few practices of the simplified fly form, and D had the basic form mastered. Inked, scanned, and traced and there they were.

Today I wanted to talk about a different kind of animation. Rather than onion-skinned animation, I wanted to show D transform-based animation. Where you take some bit of art and squash, rotate or move it to give the impression of movement. So we made the wings separate art objects. To animate them, I showed how to squash them down. D used this tool to make the wings seem to flap. Giving us a mini-swarm of flies.

Coloring took another research trip to google images. The wings, D decided, should be white, but when I made them white (on the white background of the page), he rightly complained that they didn’t look like they’d changed. So D decided ‘yellowy-grey-white’ was the color we needed, and we ended up with these fine fellows.

I can’t predict what’s next. Plenty of art assets left to make, though. And I suspect we’re not too far off being able to put the bits we do have into a first playable demo.

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Day 6: Jumping Frogs

Today’s asset is the jumping frog. Again we had to find a way of drawing frogs that D was happy with, and that looked good, so another bit of research suggested this style.

The pattern was the same as days 4 and 5, we drew sketches, then a ‘good’ version, then onion skinned it to do a simple two frame animation with the legs stretched. Here is D with his hand-drawn version.

Then scanning (scanner worked first time), tracing and coloring.

There are two colors of frogs, because of D’s game design. The red frogs are angry and hurt you, the green frogs are friendly and let you pass. You can turn angry frogs into friendly frogs by feeding them flies!

It all makes perfect sense.

A brief hiatus for a day or so now, as we’re going to an Olympic party tomorrow afternoon, so the next step will probably be on saturday, when we get the last of the animated baddies in: the ‘bad fish’.

Day 5: Making Our First Sprite

Today’s task was to turn yesterday’s artwork into an animated sprite for the game.

Part one was to scan D’s line art in. This was surprisingly difficult, as the scanner decided to be awkward right then. It looked like we’d have to defer until after dinner, but it managed to come to life with just enough time to do the scans.

After dinner then and a bit of tidying up and we saw how the ‘trace’ tool worked, and ended up with a black and white version of our bats in both frames. A bit of dragging to get them to line up perfectly, and the flapping began. D thought this was very cool. His drawing, from paper to flapping on screen.

Then the all important color choice. Bat’s have grey wings, said D, so that was fine. But we got stuck on body color. Research to the rescue, and a trip to google images showed us lots of options. Reddy orange was the color, with red eyes, because the bat is supposed to be nasty. A little tweak and reconsideration of the color left it as you can see it. Scary? We think so.

Tomorrow we’ll have a go at a jumping frog!

(If you’re horribly attentive, you’ll see that the bat is a mirror image of the way D drew it in yesterday’s photo. This is deliberate. We used the mirror to make two bats, one going each way.)

Day 4: Flick-book Bats

Today’s job was to start on the long list of art assets we need for the game. The first stop was flying bats.

We first sketched some bats together. D had tried to copy the bat from his mood board, but drawing from life is a little advanced for five, I think, so he wasn’t happy with the result. Instead we looked for more cartoon bat designs, and I figured out how to condense them into the simplest set of elements. Draw a circle, two lines, to arcs coming from either side of the circle, then zigzag from the end back to the body. And we have a bat.

D did half a dozen, before ending up with one that was perfect.

Then came animation. I showed him, with my bat, how to put another piece of paper on top and onion skin the things we want to keep the same, but change the things that are different. Dan drew over the body, then made the wings more droopy. We then put the pages together and flicked back and forth, and the bat flew! What an exciting achievement.

So we have a flying bat, on paper. Tomorrow’s job is to turn it into an animated sprite for the game.

Day 3: The Name of the Game

It’s always nice to know what you’re aiming towards, and having a name is part of that, I find. So today’s challenge was to come up with a name and a logo for the game. It was the first chance D had to do some graphics on the computer, rather than drawing it by hand.

Complex discussions in the Development Studio. Yes, we do have worryingly coordinated shirts!

So first off we brainstormed for game names. We had

1. Save Persons, which migrated with a bit of grammar help into Save People.

2. Cave Rescue, clear favourite for Mum and I, but D didn’t seem to like it that much.

3. Get the Gold, despite Gold collecting being a minor part of the game, clearly materialism dies hard when you’re five!

4. Cave Save, again with a grammatical jiggle, ending up as Cave Saver.

D thought for a bit and chose Cave Saver. We tried to encourage him towards Cave Rescue, but no, Cave Saver it was. (Although at dinner, I asked “so what’s the game called now?” and he said “Cave Rescue”, before remembering and correcting himself. The old name, even though only three days old, may be difficult to leave behind, I think).

So then onto the logo. D typed the words in, and then we went font-hunting. There were a few that he liked, one particular Halloween font with bats that was in the running for a long time, until we came upon Bread, and decided it looked like rocky caves. D chose the green, and then decided we should have a light like in a cave, and a person, so I added the person and the two light beams. D then picked the colors for them, et voila. I give you “Cave Saver” – our summer game.

Tomorrow we start artwork. We’ll be learning how to do two-cell flipbook animations.

Day 2: Concept Art

Today’s task was to start thinking about what the game might look like. We’ll have to spend quite a lot of time drawing the art assets, I think, but today’s job was just to get some ideas down.

First we went through the design, piece by piece and compiled a ‘Mood Board’ full of images that D found that he liked. This was to inspire us, and to help for drawing.

With the mood board down, it was time for concept art proper. D set up his desk in the study, with the mood board as reference, and began to draw some level designs. Using the images as reference he added the jumping frogs, the bad fish and the bats, lava, water and ladders. And began to think about how the game should go together.

Some things that came out today from this process: D wanted to have a very distinct ‘above ground’ and ‘below ground’, with a contrast (you can see this with the very strong horizontal ground line on his picture). D also wanted to have some of the collectables you can only get to by jumping, while others can be accessed by platforms and ladders. And third, he decided that maps are shown on map-boards with a ‘you are here’ sign, rather than being collectible.

D was curious about how we are going to get the art on the computer. I explained that we’ll “digitize” his artwork. We’ll work on a piece of art (a frog, for example) on paper, then scan it, and turn it into pixel art. Finally we’ll color it on the computer. This way we can have fun with seeing the two-cell animation on paper.

Next job is to decide on the game’s name, and make a logo. (Why this next? Well, he wants something for the front of his file folder that he’s keeping his notes and designs in!)

Day 1: Designing the Game

So day one, and enthusiasm was high.

Today’s job was to work out what we are going to create: to figure out the basic game idea.

We talked about why doing a 3d game wasn’t possible (it would be very difficult for D to do the art), and we agreed he could try something 3d “when I’m 7 or 8”! Then we tackled some basic questions.

1. What style of game shall we make? The options were a platformer (Mario Bros style), or a top-down game (Zelda style). We did some research and looked at lots of video examples of both, and D chose to make a platformer.

2. What is the game about? We brainstormed some ideas: “cave rescue” (D has a book with a cave rescue hero in it), “fighting zombies” (inspired by one of the videos I think), or “circus” (where D went a couple of weeks ago). Mum exercised her veto on the Zombies (“It has to be a game we all want to play!”), and D chose cave rescue from the remaining two.

3. What do you have to do? D’s first reaction was “climb ladders”, but when I asked why, what was the goal?, he immediately said find people in the cave and take them to the doctor.

4. What stops us doing it? We tried to think of lots of things that might be in a cave that could make rescue hard. D came up with: waterfallsbad fish, jumping frogslavabig dropstall cliffs, and bats.

5. What helps us? Here D got his ladders, but he also suggested we could collect flies to feed to the frogs and fish to make them freindly. He was concerned about getting lost, so maps will also make an appearance.

D’s constellation of platform games orbits the star of Super Mario Bros, so he said that the player should collect stuff. Fair enough, so:

6. What shall we collect? After getting some ideas from Mum, D said fossils and gold. The former, I think, inspired by Animal Crossing (Mum’s favourite game), the latter by Minecraft.

We put the answers on post-it notes and put them on the wall. Here’s a photo of D with his game design.

Next stop: concept art.