Saturday, March 14, 2009

Danc's Miraculously Flexible Game Prototyping Graphics for Small Worlds

Don't you think it is time for some new free graphics?

The originals
The original set of miraculously flexible prototyping graphics have been out there for a couple of years now. In that time, they've been used in mini-MMO's, shooters, RPGs, platformers and dozens of various projects that lurk in the dark squishy nooks of the ever fermenting, communal indie mash.

However, they had some issues.
  • They were in a format that wasn't readily accessible to most users. In particular Flash games didn't make as wide a use of them as I would have liked.
  • They required a rather tricky placement system that most tile based engines had difficulty handling.
  • Very few games used the shadows system and without the shadows, they tend not to look very good.
There were also a couple other areas I wanted to explore.
  • HD pixel art: There is an emerging artistic style that showed you could keep the intricate iconic style found in pixel art, but modernize it in such a way to take advantage of the crispness found in modern high resolution displays. The result found in games like Pixel Junk Monsters, Patapon, and Loco Rocco is distinctly game art. It tends to be 2D and highly evocative. But is also is information dense and full of distinct iconic symbols that have meaning during game play. When there is a trade off between realism and functionality, functionality wins.
  • Vector art: I've done immense amounts of raster art over the years, but lately I've been playing with more vector art. The tools have gotten to the point where you can do some pretty nice stuff rather rapidly without needing to ever go to bitmaps. They are rendered natively in Flash or Silverlight and you can play with scaling without worrying about loss of detail.
  • Arbitrary placement: Once upon a time, you needed to use little square tiles for everything. Nowadays, there is no real need to make a tile based 2D engine. With arbitrary images with full alpha and lots of fill rate, you can put together a game like a sticker book. Drop down your graphics at arbitrary positions and layer like a madman. Games like Aquaria look great and tiles are nowhere to be seen. There's a good tutorial on the topic here: http://gametuto.com/in-game-c-map-editor-tutorial-with-indielib-engine-that-dosent-use-tiles-but-pieced-images-like-in-braid-or-aquaria-games/



Small World

So I started a new graphics set that took all these into account. The theme I chose was the 'Small World', an intimate place of green trees and blue ocean seen from above. For ages I've been fascinated by tiny worlds that you could imagine keeping like a bonsai garden on a table top.

What types of games can the Small World graphics be used for?
  • Turn-based strategy games
  • Real time strategy games
  • RPG's
  • God and Sim games
  • Tower defense (the original inspiration for this set was Pixel Junk Monsters)
  • Crazy innovative games that will shock and amaze the world.
What does the set include?
  • 70 high quality sprites
  • The original Illustrator CS4 .AI file
  • The exported Flash CS4 .FLA file
  • The exported Flash CS3 .FLA file
  • The exported Flash 10 .SWF file (with linkages)
  • Land
  • Forests
  • Buildings
  • Dialogs and buttons
Having the source files allows you to easily manipulate and edit the graphics so you can make variations or combine pieces together. You should have enough pieces to easily prototype attractive little worlds full of forests, fields and cities.

What doesn't this set include?
  • I have some characters that fit this set, but those will be coming along at a later point.
  • I haven't had time to cut out all the bitmaps. This is coming shortly unless someone else cuts them out first.
  • Other formats: In general there are a billion minor formats that all have their passionate proponents. Convert at will. :-)
The License
Much of the email I get involves questions about how various graphics can be used. Though I love hearing from you, it has become apparent that the license needs to be clarified so that I can spend more time making stuff for you and less time writing back about the legal issues.

A second issue is that there have been some unfortunate incidents where players have taken talented developers publicy to task for 'stealing' my artwork or 'copying' game designs. 'Open source game designs' are admittedly a cutting edge concept in our IP-clutching world, so there is some education to be done.

As of today, I've created a separate Lost Garden Licensing page that outlines the license for these graphics. If you plan on using these graphics, be sure to read it. The basics are that they are free to use in both commercial and hobby projects under a standard Creative Commons Attribution license.

The goods
So what are you waiting for?

I'll be releasing some prototyping challenges that make use of these graphics in the future, but for now just have fun and give them a shot. They were a blast to make.

take care
Danc.

PS: I also included graphics that allow you to make arbitrarily sized islands composed of splotches of land stuck together. This is a tricky technique that only advanced users will undertake. First lay down the water. Then lay down all the Land-Bottom graphics. Then lay down all the Land-Mid graphics. Finally draw all the Land-Top graphics. By layering the graphics in this order, you can create islands that merge together visually.

PPS: The trees in this art set were very much inspired by the art in PixelJunk Monsters. Such a lovely game.  I owe the artist a beer or three.