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OpenGL blackthorne - animation of man walking?

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Hello, i was going to try my hand at making a little 2D side-scroller game kinda like the old blackthorne on SNES. I've never done any games or used OpenGL, but I have plenty of experience programming in general, and I was looking at the NeHe tutorials and nothing seems like it would be impossible to learn, trial and error notwithstanding. I was wondering what you thought would be the best way to display the characters (e.g. the hero and the monsters, etc). These characters have to walk across the screen and do other animations like shoot and duck. Should the animations be a little slide-show of pictures? Should they be shapes drawn with graphics? Please let me know your thoughts on the matter. Thank you.

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