Player pieces, for augmented reality board game.

I wanted to research and develop my skills in a number of areas this tri. One of the areas I looked to explore, as part of my independent study, was how to create art assets for 2d games. Seeking out games students for collaboration, I agreed to make some player pieces for Jacobs game. His brief was to create some player pieces for an augmented reality board game. The pieces were to be picked up and placed down on the board, they also needed and idle and death animations.

I knew I had a limited time frame with which to complete this project, because I have assigned myself other projects this trimester, and Jacob needs these a few weeks before the end of trimester, so he can integrate them into his game. Knowing this and working within Jacobs brief I pitched a simplistic, stylised art style, that I was relatively comfortable working with, and that would lend itself to stylised puppet like animations, constrained to limited perspectives. Originally we had discussed working in both face on and side perspectives, but due to both, the time constraints, of both parties, and the technical limitations, of integration into the game engine, we decided to limit the perspective to front only.

As discussed in previous posts I looked in to several software applications, with several methods of exporting the animations. I was interested in using something like Spine or Toon boom which has the ability to import the complete rigged 2d skeleton in to unity, to use for ragdoll or dynamics. Although this option was appealing I decided to use sprite sheets to export my completed animations. These would import to unity without needing any extra plugins, and using power 2 resolutions, with the spirites laid out on a grid should ensure import compatibility.

To prepare the characters for Spriter I needed to cut out an import individual body pieces, to parent to an armature. This could be done applications like Photoshop or Illustrator. In this circumstance I used Flash, I had already prepared one of the characters for bone tool animation in flash, before I realised that the bone tool was dropped in the change from cs 6 to cc. Not wanting to discard the work I had already done, and knowing Flash’s brush tool gives the line work a distinctive look, I created the other character in Flash and exported all the body symbols as png files.

After building and parenting all the body pieces you get a basic rig that you can key, similar to most bone based animation apps. Once I built and animated one character I could replace the body pieces with the other. This modular workflow allowed me to create both a male and female character for Jacobs game. Reflecting on my experiences, next time using this method, I will need to consider each character and what extra bones they would need prior to building the rig. For example the girl character needed extra bones for her hair, so I built them in to the rig. She didn’t need both upper leg bones since she had the dress, when importing in the male character I needed to adjust the rig, something that could have saved me more time if I had thought more deeply.

I used the free version of Spriter and was constrained to FK limbs for my animations. Overall Spriter was fairly useful, there were some negatives; there was difficulty in selecting and manipulating the smaller bones, difficulties with the layer order rearranging itself when keyed (possibly a bug), and a too simplistic curve interpolation for my needs. It did however get the job done. If it were to include are more detailed curve editor I would look in to using it for future projects, however with Toon boom now having a subscription option available I may use that instead.

After animating I exported out png sequences. Spriter does have a sprite sheet layout function in the full version, however I used sprite sheet packer.

A free app that allowed me to select my padding amount, and whether I needed the sheet to be power 2 and / or square. It also exports out a .txt with the frame image locations, if your game engine accepts that. From reading up on sprite sheet packing I know they could be packed in a more compact and efficient way, however I believe that this would make it more difficult for Jacob to import them into his game.

At this point I have handed off my animations to Jacob. I do not yet know if any revisions are needed. I did quite a bit of research to avoid any problems importing them into game, however this is my first project that has required sprite sheets and I have allocated some time to troubleshooting if it is needed.