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Sprite Sheet Studio

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Hey there people. I'm a hobbyist game designer and mostly like to dabble in XNA and DirectX with C++. My art skills are garbage but I have a very good programming background. Awhile ago my brother who is an animator approached me about creating a program that would make sprite sheet creating a little easier. He had been using a program we found when we were kids called "Chara Mucker 1999". This allowed some neat little features that greatly helped in sprite sheet making.... 10years ago. The program has now been pretty much outdated. Nothing that I am aware of at least matches it in terms of focusing on sprite making. On the other hand it's missing some features common to most graphic editing software today. Real sprite based games are not that popular anymore of course but I know that many casual designers still love to make them as they are quite easy to work with. So with all this information in mind I set out to make a new program for him to create sprite sheets. Along the way I decided that if I was going to put all this work into this program I might as well design it so other people could use it too. So I now have a sprite sheet creating/editing piece of software almost in alpha release that I want to share with the world... maybe So I have a few questions for the community. #1)What programs do you guys currently use to make sprites? I know of very few sprite creating pieces of software. I am familiar with other things like photoshop and gimp but what is out there that you use that focuses on sprites? #2)Do you think it would be worth it to make it available to the public? I made it for my brother but hey if other people want it thats cool too. Here is a bit of a feature run down. -Layers: Like in photoshop and such you can separate elements of the sprite into layers making it easier to make changes to certain elements. Like drawing a basic animated form and clothing layers on top to make it easier to change the clothing later. Layers can have their opacity changed. -Animating: Once a sprite is completed you can proceed to build animations by clicking on the cells. (ie: walking cells 0-7 at 60ms a cell) a preview is shown of the animation and you also set what the animation does when it completes like looping, freezing, going to a different animation etc. What makes this a neat feature is that when you export the final sprite sheet an animation ".sas" file is spit out (really just XML). That can be used by a programmer to know what the artist had intended each animation to be and once the code is written can simply use the .sas file to load that animation info into a game. -Hue Saturation Brigtness shifting: Idea behind this feature is often times people will want to have very similar sprites with only a small colour change. Think like megaman or npc's in rpg's. This feature allows you to narrow down your colour selection and change the HSB (hue, saturation, brightness). This was done so you can do something like take a yellow piece of armor with red lines and turn it into a black piece of armor with green lines. The whole process would take about a minute or two while if you tried to do it using colour replace it could take a lot longer and might not look as good. -Tools: The usual painting pencil line drawing etc. It has a few tools I am quite proud of those being, colour replace: Click a colour and it will change every occurrence of that colour to your selected colour. Also an outline tool which will allow you to instantly outline an area with a specified colour. -Grid: Sections off the sprite sheet into where the cell boundaries are and can be further broken down to half and quarter cell boundaries. Finally it can display all of this and at higher magnification a grid of the pixels I know nothing in this program is new or revolutionary but as far as I know there isn't a program that combines sprite sheet making with some effects like layers and hue shifting. A screen shot of a semi recent build of the project So would anyone be interested in sampling the software? I am shooting for making the alpha release for June 28th. I'm not sure if there is a market to sell it. I know the main audience would be hobbyists so I couldn't make it more then $10-$20 or just donation based. For now though I just wanna know if people are interested, if there is similar software or if I should just keep it to myself...

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I have looked all around for a good program to help me make sprites and animated gifs and swfs. Only problem is, I make vector sprites, not bitmap ones, so I can't do much with your current program concept.

Currently I make my vector frames in Inkscape, then have to import them one at a time and hand-align them in Gimp to use its animation playback filter and export an animated gif file. This is very suboptimal because I can't edit the vectors natively in gimp, and I haven't figured out how to make gimp's animation playback thingy work properly with transparent backgrounds, so I've so far been limited to doing animations with colored backgrounds, which is almost useless for sprites.

What I'd really love is a module for Inkscape which can preview animations and export them as swf files or transparent png sprite sheets. This would require implementing in Inkscape some kind of sidebar where groups of vectors could be treated as layers/frames. Inkscape is free software, I'm not sure how open source it is though - since I'm not a programmer I didn't pay attention to that when I was researching the program.

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Quote:
#1)What programs do you guys currently use to make sprites? I know of very few sprite creating pieces of software. I am familiar with other things like photoshop and gimp but what is out there that you use that focuses on sprites?


I primarily use MSPaint and occasionally delegate to MSGIFAnimator and Graphics Gale for animation/alpha blending respectively. There's quite a few others available, but that doesn't mean people won't be interested in your program.

Quote:
So would anyone be interested in sampling the software?


Sure, i'd be interested in checking it out.

Quote:
I am shooting for making the alpha release for June 28th. I'm not sure if there is a market to sell it. I know the main audience would be hobbyists so I couldn't make it more then $10-$20 or just donation based.

For now though I just wanna know if people are interested, if there is similar software or if I should just keep it to myself...


2D artwork and sprites are still quite popular in the casual gaming market, just check out some of the artist communities in my signature, www.Tigsource.com, etc. I'd suggest you ask them what they think of your program, what kind of features they'd like to see in it, etc. It should help give you a better idea of your target audience.

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I mainly use GraphicsGale, but I have to switch to IDraw3 for animating since GraphicsGale's animation features are mainly suited for animated GIFs and not for sprite sheets. I think IDraw3 is what you call "Chara Mucker." It would be nice to have one program to do it all.

I mainly use 16 and 256 color paletized sprites, but my game is a bit retro. Anyway, to suit my needs, it would have to have good palette editing options, like GraphicsGale. For example, I like to use the load palette option for my NPCs sprites so I can see what it looks like with various palettes. Other palette editing features I use is color ordering. By placing different shades of a same color together and in order in the color index, my game can temporarily assign a gradient palette to the sprite and cycle it to create a nice palette animation effect.

The only reason I would use layers would be for "paper doll" style sprites like in Diablo 2, but I've managed to do it without that feature. However, my game has very low resolution (320x240). For a high resolution game, I'm sure it would be very useful.

Basically, if you can make a program that supports the sprite editing capabilities of GraphicsGale and add IDraw3's animation preview system, I think it would be perfect for me.

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Thank you for the interesting replies.

I will definitely have a look at that tigsource site some more it looks like a promising place for feedback.

Ya I don't really work with vector graphics often I find there is something really charming about 16-bit graphics

"Chara Mucker" is different then "chara maker". To your credit Chara mucker I believe is what me and my brother called it. If I remember correctly now it's actually called "Character Maker 1999" though a search on google only returned 2 results for that name. They were the right program but it appears to not be around anymore and virtually fallen off the internet.

Your pallet suggestions are fantastic. Currently I have it so that you can select a default pallet which is your regular old rgb mix plus brown added in for kicks. Then you can grab a pallet of every colour currently in use on the selected layer.
I was going to simply put off creating your own pallets and saving until later but from the feedback I have received I will implement it so that you can save and load your own pallets. As well there is a instant colour selector by holding down the middle mouse button you can instantly grab you current colour and then it will come up with 256 similar colours.

In terms of direct comparison to Graphics gale and iDraw3 mine lacks polish but understandbly it's alpha software. GG is quite complex and it has some very nice features. I will be taking a few of the things it does with pallets for sure. iDraw on the other hand seems inferior to my program but mostly due to age. Most specifically I think my animation method is much better.

On the last note I mostly added the layers as a way to work your sheet. The Idea I guess is basically be able to onion skin and put rough work on layers so you can model better work over it. As well it can be used to make more complex stuff like clothing layers.

If these are 2 of the more common programs I think there is room for my program in the hearts of spriters... with a little polish of course

Thank you very much for the feedback and I hope you will give the program a shot.

...going away from the net for the weekend I suppose I will write a manual for it

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