He walks! He talks! And his legs look attached!

Welcome to a new series about me trying to make games and how utterly shit I am at it.

I spend a good deal of time talking about other people’s games, and one of the overriding reasons for that is that I am infinitely more qualified in doing that than trying to make my own goddamn games. Even though I have made two. Well, three. Okay, four, if you count that little “let’s learn AGS” excursion. All right, four-and-a-half, if writing bits of the dialogue in Serena counts.

One thing that’s always held me back severely is my inability to draw properly. It’s very nice when people say they thought the art in What Spunky Found was cute, but let’s be honest: it’s crude at best, and it’s true when I say that this is exactly how I used to draw comics in grade school. As in, my “art style” hasn’t improved in the slightest in over 20 years.

But I still want to make games. And I do have that drawing tablet I, um, borrowed from work a long time ago and no one has asked for back yet.

I came home from work yesterday, determined for once in my life to make a game sprite that I could use as a base for building a whole batch of characters from.

Those are layers. Many, many layers.
Those are layers. Many, many layers.

My problem with game sprites is that, well, I’m a terrible animator. I can draw a static image of someone walking, and that’s great because I don’t have to actually move his goddamn legs. But getting them to move in a way that somewhat resembles real human movement is a whole ‘nother thing. So, the character sprites I’ve done so far tend to have rather weird, spastic movements.

Another problem of mine is that, up until now, I’ve been drawing the entire character on a flat layer. Which is stupid. I fucking know Photoshop. I know there’s layers in there. My style of drawing has just never been conducive to that kind of drawing; I never do “pencil outlines” or anything fancy like that. I do line-art freehand, and if it looks good, I keep it. If it looks like shit, I start all over again (or quit).

This time, though, I decided to make every part of this guy a layer of its own. Hair, eyes, face, mouth, arms, torso, and legs — all individual layers.

The purpose here is, of course, laziness. With this template character, I figure I can go back and just change one element, and not have to draw all the animation frames all over again. Most of my characters’ individual traits usually just come down to different hair, slightly bigger/smaller torsos, and different colored clothing, anyway.

Only thing left is to actually get the leg-moving down. My friend Kevin tried giving me a hand:

… but by that time, I was already cutting out the legs of this reference picture I found on Google and putting them in a transparent layer that I could draw on top of:

4-walk-cycle-animation

It sort of worked. With a little bit of tweaking (being the genius that I am, I accidentally switched two frames — which my wife loved, but it made things look very awkward), I managed to get him walking:

And talking:

And, with a little speed adjustment, it almost looked like he was taking real steps across the floor instead of sliding:

Although resident Wadjet Eye artist genius Ben Chandler has recommended a bit more of a speed boost, just to complete the illusion.

So, now we’ve got a working main character who actually looks like he’s walking. I’ll keep you updated as to where this is going. Next update, which is already half-written because I went off on a tangent with this post and realized I was going waaaay long already, is going to be about what type of game I’m actually making. And the third post will probably be about my struggles to draw females in my “style.” It’s harder than you’d think!

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