The best way to achieve that ‘hand made’ feel? Hand make it.
As we push on into milestone two, a significant amount of art needs to be created. Our world will be populated by many little large-headed inhabitants, which are all two dimensional, so we’ve been embarking on getting them to suitably fit into our bizarrely scrap-book style world.
Joshua, our animator, opted to manually create each and every sprite, the prospect of which makes the mind meander over to the corner of its skull and weep quietly into the pituitary gland in the hopes that its tears will act as a conductor to send an electrical impulse from a nearby synapse directly into it so it can die an early death, just to make the sprite-producing nightmare stop.
Or something like that.
Josh’s approach is based on the problem of procedural generation of sprites being too restrictive, insofar as it limits our ability to add too much variety to the characters, requiring a one-size-fits-all direction.
The greater the variation in characters and animations, the less and less useful the procedural approach becomes.
Moreover, the style of the game is a bit cardboard cut-out, so a slightly imperfect manual creation regiment sees the characters become that little bit more individual. Uniformity isn’t necessarily a virtue in all cases.
That said, we want to create a library of individualised pieces we can use again and again to shortcut the creation of new characters down the line, so our character artist Justine has been hard at work busting out a huge bank of gloves, boots, tunics and trousers which which we can Mr Potato Head our way to a populated world.
Josh’s trick to getting through so many animations so quickly is to not be too precious about the particular thing you’re working on at any given moment, and be fast and loose, occasionally checking in on the final animation to remind yourself of the bigger picture.
Even with a few minute’s worth of quick adjustments in Photoshop can give a good idea of how well it functions as animation.
Having a template of existing movements from other characters helps too, and you can even borrow the odd element to avoid having to redraw them for each single frame.
Slowly but surely, the characters begin to come to life, roaming around the environment with determined eyes and a telltale waddle, harvesting everything in sight.