Concerned About Visuals

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by Feather Dreams, Jan 23, 2019.

  1. Feather Dreams

    Feather Dreams Member

    Jan 21, 2019
    I'm looking to vent a bit about a brick wall I'm hitting with my game, and looking for potential advice:

    I've been brainstorming and poking at this project for a while, and while it's my first game, it also feels like a labor of love, because I've been looking for a creative outlet for a while and it's been working out quite nicely.

    Now, then, so far:
    • I've been playing games for a long time, and enjoy the occasional read about game design, so I feel I have that down pat.
    • I've been working as a programmer for three years and have graduated in software engineering, so GML is no big challenge for me.
    • My first few forays into sequencing some music are, if nothing else, at least encouraging and I feel like I'll have that part handled.
    The thorny issue comes to graphics.

    I feel absolutely hopeless at producing anything resembling a decent sprite. I was never good at drawing, and I have no patience for it. I've been able to do some minor scenery decently, but anything larger and more complex feels like pulling teeth. I start something, get frustrated because I can't get it to look any good, even with tutorials, and toss it out.

    I'm not looking to make anything that's particularly impressive graphically, I'd be happy with something that's quirky and distinctive while being very simple, but even 8-bit feels beyond me when it comes to putting together a nice-looking human.

    I've pondered the idea of getting further along with placeholder graphics, but for some reason, I feel extremely bothered by the thought of doing that. I suppose it's because this is a project very close to my heart, and I would rather be the sole contributor to it, to make it truly mine and mine alone, but I'm not sure how healthy an idea that is...

    If anyone has some wisdom to impart, or can recommend a tutorial specifically aimed at people with absolutely zero pre-experience in art, that would be very appreciated. The tutorials I've found so far seem to be very general. "Draw a base shape with these curves.", "Add shading." "Add more shading." "It works if you're good."
  2. Zep--

    Zep-- Member

    Jan 1, 2019

    I'm a programmer, going on 30 years now, not gaming related stuff.

    However, I've also done game programming as a hobby during those 30 years, even published some games in magazines (back in the olden days)

    What I've found is, I'd lose steam on my hobby projects because of my 'programmer graphics'. I am NO ARTIST, in any sense of the word!

    I've found I can keep the momentum going on the coding part, if I use some stock graphics I've found on the net (and replacing them later while working with an artist, if need be). It's just better (for me) to look at something 'pretty' instead of moving my colored blocks around... :)

    So, don't be ashamed to use free art assets to keep you motivated until you can hook up with an artist.
    Sn3akyP1xel and Elodman like this.
  3. Rob

    Rob Member

    Jul 12, 2016
    I was/am in the same boat as you. I find making sprites the hardest / chore-like thing to do and so far, the options I've found are the ones you've already thought of:
    • Get sprites from t'internet for free from sites like opengameart
    • Pay an artist to make them for you (don't do it until your game is done, in my opinion)
    • Spend many hours learning and improving your art skills
    • Find a very basic artform that you can use and do yourself
    • Collaborate with an artist - work as a team (if you have real-life friends who do this, this could be a good option)
    You're not gonna become a pro artist after a few hours, nor a dozen, but maybe after you've spent a good while doing it, you might be OK with the result.

    This guy was very helpful as a tutorial as well as Heartbeast. I'm still a bad pixel artist but I have more of an idea of what I'm doing now.
    Zep-- likes this.
  4. Sn3akyP1xel

    Sn3akyP1xel Member

    Mar 13, 2018
    Placeholders are actually useful, as they will force you to concentrate on the cogs more. No point having flashy graphics with poor gameplay, get your mechanics down.

    Might be worth grabbing some sprite sheets feather, look at how people have done theirs to get a better idea of the process.
    Sprites are easy to make, but good sprites take time. Bringing a sprite character to life requires subtle touches and experience.

    The Ori game in early mechanics phase
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
    Niels and Zep-- like this.
  5. Feather Dreams

    Feather Dreams Member

    Jan 21, 2019
    Thanks everyone for your comments and advice, a few points I want to address, also for the benefit of anyone else who may be facing this issue:

    I am right there with you on that part, but I've found that stock graphics don't really help me get past that. I suspect the idea that I'll be able to make my graphics, or at least make some approximation of my graphics that an artist can later replicate in much greater quality.

    This was something I needed to hear. That's a thing where it's easy to say "I know that," and yet easy to fall in that trap.

    It's pretty fascinating to see the early days of Ori.

    With all that said, again, thank you everyone for your support.

    After some further research, I was able to find a tutorial that actually led me somewhere, and I'm in the process to putting together a sprite, and from there, a general character art style for my game.

    Attached Files:

    • boy.png
      File size:
      808 bytes
  6. Danei

    Danei Member

    Mar 23, 2018
    My technique is to draw a rough draft sprite that is the general size and shape I want, put it in the game, see how it looks, and visualize how it could look better, then I shuffle individual pixels around in the sprite basically by trial and error in an attempt to make the changes I visualized, then try it out in the game again, see how it looks, etc., repetitively, for hours and hours. It's horrible. But I've actually been pretty pleased with the results. Not that my art is gorgeous but it's good enough for the types of games I want to make.

    I find that without the context of the game environment, staring at a sprite by itself leaves me with no idea what to do, but often when I see it within that environment, it becomes noticeable that something needs to be done: "Oh, this one pixel is standing out way too much, let's remove it. Oh, this character's arms look too much like a butt when it's moving, let's change something."
    And eventually, after you've whittled away a bunch of visual problems with the sprite, it starts looking all right, and then before you know it, you actually drew something decent!

    I also recommend, as practice, finding game art that you like, and shamelessly ape that artist's style in your own original work. Don't draw the same thing as them, just draw something else, the way you think they might do it. You can learn a lot about shadows, lighting and colors that way.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
  7. Taddio

    Taddio Member

    Nov 16, 2018
    If you know how to use (or want to learn) Dragonbones or Spine (or equivalent), you can get by with bought/paid assets which you can then tweak in Photoshop for colors and details, make your animations, etc... Once the original mask is there, switching palettes or tweaking the movements a bit is way less of a hassle (to me, at least) than doing the whole thing from scratch. Also going to be way less expensive than hiring an artist for custom work. It's your call, money talks, but you can get by with a lot of free/cheap stuff that's very high quality. Just my 0.02
  8. Feather Dreams

    Feather Dreams Member

    Jan 21, 2019
    On a related subject, can anyone recommend a place where I could get some critique on some early sprites? I don't think there's a sub-forum here designated for this, and I'm struggling to find a good source for such a thing.
  9. Niels

    Niels Member

    Jun 22, 2016
    Wow I love how Ori's programmer art footage looks exactly like half of my gamemaker platformer projects :)

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