Thank you, Spriter

I know full well my artistic skill are quite lacking and I’m okay with that. You can learn to do just about anything by putting a little elbow grease to it. This is one thing us Indie Devs excel at.  If we don’t know how to do something, we figure it out. I love the art styles of FF3 (FF6 for you purists) on the SNES and Odin Sphere on the PS2. One of these days I’ll get up to that level. While working on our current game, Shape Sprout, the main character, Kari the Shape Fairy (who is voiced by my 5yr old daughter BTW)  needed some…uh…tweaking. I believe one of the comments was something to the effect that her eyes creeped someone out and make them think of zombies. NOT the image we want to portray. I had spent a LONG time in GIMP working on each frame of the animation and was wondering how the heck I was going to redo each frame within a decent time frame.  There had to be an easier way. Enter Spriter! Thank you @GillisLLC for mentioning it in a Tweet. I have to say I’m very excited about this program, it gives you the same armature/bone control you have in programs like Blender but focuses it on the 2D realm. Now, creating sprite sheets for our games is a snap! All I have to do is get better with my artistic ability. I highly suggest taking a look at it, it is still in beta so there are some bugs (nothing major so far), but I see a LOT of potential in this program.  Give Spriter by BrashMonkey your support if you can, it’s only $25 to get an early adopter license. Price goes up when they announce the release of the full version. They DO have a free version that works great, just some of the features are disabled.

So, here was the first stab at Kari the Shape Fairy…okay, so the eyes do look a little creepy…

Shape Fairy v1
First stab at Kari the Shape Fairy

And here she is with a few tweaks.  Eyes don’t stand out quite as much anymore and the dress looks a bit bitter but I still am not 100% happy with the hair, but I think overall it is better.

Shape Fairy v2
Updated version of Kari the Shape Fairy

And this is Miss Shape Fairy in Spriter with armature/bones defined 🙂

Shape Fairy in Spriter!
Using Spriter to create animations

Unity what??

“So what’s this ‘powered by Unity’ screen I keep seeing when I play your games?”

I’ve never been more excited about game development than after discovering a little tool by the name of Unity3D about 4 months ago…and I use the term “little” very loosely. Why am I so excited about it? It takes a lot of the meticulous initialization and setup you used to have to do through code and handles a lot of it for you so you can focus on the code that handles the content and game play. Back in the days of C++ (am I showing my age now?) to do something like a simple animation, you had to load the sprite sheet, determine the location and size of each frame of the animation on the said sprite sheet, create a mask so the transparent parts of the image would be transparent and create an engine that would cycle through those images smoothly.  Yes, the “BitBlt” function was my friend during those times. That doesn’t even include the collision detection on the sprite itself! This was done ALL through code and was exceptionally tedious. Unity3D gives you the ability to do all of this without writing a single line of code.  Absolutely amazing. You can now focus your code on what your character DOES instead of how to just make your character appear on screen and walk. And that’s just scratching the surface, there is so much more to Unity3D that I haven’t even touched on yet. Oh, did I mention it also has this nifty feature for building your game on multiple devices and platforms fairly easily? How else could we get our games out for Android and iOS so quickly?  I’d really love to put together a 3D game sometime but I’ll have to get more familiar with Blender for that one. “Ummm…weren’t you just talking about Unity3D? What’s ‘Blender’?” I’ll save that one for another time.

So what exactly does Unity3D look like in action? Glad you asked 🙂 One of the powerful features of Unity3D is it allows you to “play” the game during development so you can see what each object is doing and how they are reacting to their surroundings. Debugging on steroids is what I call it. It also REALLY helps to have two monitors. If you are interested in game development, I HIGHLY suggest getting Unity3D and tinkering with it.

Unity3D - Shape Sprout
Unity3D – Shape Sprout

Shape Sprout Update

So after a bit of planning, configuring and development(a little over 2 months), “Shape Sprout” our second game is starting to take shape.  Pun intended!  I was able to take some screen shots of the game.  In the screen shots, I tried to get as much variety as I could.  Just realize the game is only 75% complete.  The pictures show the menu screen, Kari planting flowers, a rainstorm, drought and the flowers being harvested.  We are really excited for everyone to play the game.  Once we have released it to the App store, Google play store and Amazon App store, we will send out an announcement. It will even be available to play on Facebook! Let us know what you think of the pictures!

Michael and Nik

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Teaching a monkey to fly

There is a LOT that goes into the development of an app of any kind. Especially games. You’ve got to put together a plan of what your game is going to do and how it’s going to do it, figure out what kinds of media you will need for it, then collect or create the graphics, sound effects and music then FINALLY you get around to the fun part…the coding! For just two people, that is a lot of work. My strength tends to lie in the logical and less so on the artistic side. Luckily, we have the awesome music of Kevin MacLeod available to use, royalty free might I add, in our games. It’s the same with the sound effects from freeSFX. Although, finding the right music and sound effects to match the mood can be a bit of a challenge. So that leaves just the graphics…did I mention my strength is NOT in the arts? I’ve learned a lot about animations and whatnot over the last few months as our new game Shape Sprout has a TON more graphics than Shape Sense…by a long shot. I liken this to teaching a monkey to fly. Most people would probably say the monkey is falling. I prefer to take the more positive stance that he’s not falling; more like he’s falling rather gracefully.

What did you just say?

Recording audio with Kari the Shape Fairy for her games are a blast! You never really know what she’s going to say cause with a 5yr old, it is sorta hard to “stick to the script” even though she thinks WE should. I think for every 10 seconds usable audio, I’ve got 1 minute of her goofing off. She says she likes to help me, but I think she just likes hearing herself say silly things!

Kari the Shape Fairy
Recording audio for Shape Sprout

Shape Sprout?

So how’d we come up with the name Shape Sprout? Most little girls like flowers, right? Well, I can tell you for certain that Kari the Shape Fairy sure does. Just last week she decided to get the bag of potting soil out (by herself mind you) and plant some bell pepper seeds we had laying around…half the bag…because she wanted to make sure they didn’t get lonely. She’s pretty excited about the game, and so am I. She may not like messes very much, but even if you are Kari the Shape Fairy, planting real seeds with real dirt gets just a little messy.

Shape Sprout production

As of this time, Nik is working on the app “Shape Sprout”.  We are excited about it and hope after the creation and testing that you like it also.  Stay tuned for more from Nik as he works on the application!