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Falcord

How to minimize artistic work for an isometric RPG?

5 posts in this topic

Hey there!

 

I'm planning to develop (as a hobby project) an isometric 2D single player RPG, and I'm willing to partner with an artist. The game is going to involve very little in terms of monster variety (it's pretty much all human characters) but I would like enough variety in terms of equipment, armors and weaponry.

 

Since it's going to be a small project, I want to keep the artistic work down to a bare minimum. And this brings me to my question: When it comes to a 3D game it's easy to work on armor pieces in a modular way. However, what I have no idea about is how to handle armour pieces and equipment when developing for a 2D isometric game. Think Diablo 2, or a better example: Wakfu.

 

Here's a wakfu trailer:

 

[spoiler]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWEF6CR1b5Q[/spoiler]

 

And a picture with some gear choices:

[spoiler]

hierarchie-amakna.png

[/spoiler]

 

All characters are animated the same way, regardless of the gear they wear, and new animations are being added to the game constantly (like new skills or emotes), so I'm wondering, how do they manage to retroactively make it work with all of their sprites? Do they draw their gear pieces in different orientations and then stick them over the character in the way that fits best? Or do they draw them for every animation frame? (unlikely).

 

I honestly have no idea, any guidance is welcome!

Edited by Steel Neuron
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In most isometric games that have character animation, the sprites are rendered from a 3D model with animation, hence there is little redundant work should anything change happen during production such as change of an animation sequence. So the equipments are naturally fit on to a 3D model and can be swapped in an out for other equipments, and then rendered again for various animation, usually without the body beneath.

 

Here's roughly how it works

  1. you have base animation of a character run, idle, attack (3 naked body animations x 8 directions)
  2. then you have equipment 1 rigged onto the model and render 3 more animations for run, idle, attack (3 equipment 1 animations x 8 directions)
  3. do the same for the next piece of equipment etc.

A few things to note, with 8 direction sprites 3 directions are mirrored from the other ones so you don't need to render all 8 directions. a lot of 2D games are also rendered that look 2D, but there are games I believe that would draw them too with few directions such as some face book flash games, it works the same way, except it is very tedious work to draw them.

 

If you need Isometric map items such as rock trees and other props for your game you can check our isometric game assets from Super Game Asset.

 

http://supergameasset.com/nature

 

Let me know what kind do you need, we have a lot of game resource in our database that is not up yet.

Edited by yinakoSGA
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Thanks for the reply! Now that's interesting, I didn't expect 3D-2D conversion to be the way it is done.

 

Is that always the case? It is a bit scary since the artists I've got access to are traditional artists without experience in 3D modeling, but I'll se what can be done.

 

Is there any specific software to make this conversion efficiently? Or is it done in Blender for instance?

 

Your asset page looks fantastic! I'll check it out in detail if my project goes beyond prototype stage. By the way, is there any place I could get 3D human models with multiple RPG-like animations that I could work with, in the manner you described?  (with a suitable license of course) so I can skip the steps of working on the base modeling and animations and focus instead on equipment.

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Dofus, and presumably Wakfu, are actually 2D vector art, not 3D.  Certainly you could accomplish the same thing with 3D.  But the way vector art equipment is made for an isometric game is that one versions of the equipment is drawn (over an example character) for each of the two diagonal sprite directions (away/up and toward/down).  Then either a sprite sheet workflow can be used or a bone animation workflow can be used.  Dofus, as a Flash game, used bone animation afaik.  In either case the image of the gear is positioned correctly on top of the example character for each animation frame of key frame.  If necessary the lines of the vector image can easily be tweaked a little to fit a particular frame or movement.  But it is not re-drawn.  Then, the positioning that has been established for the example character is compared to other characters (rather, an example of each race, gender, and class), to see if it still works.  If a change is necessary, a second copy of the gear animation is made for that race or gender or class or whatever.  Once the positioning and animation for a type of clothing, e.g. a cloak, has been established for all character types, it can usually be copied for all new cloaks.  Similarly, once a tassel has been animated it can be used in a variety of places, like on top of a helmet or on shoulders of armor or as part of an animated background involving tasseled furniture or tents.

Edited by sunandshadow
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Dofus, and presumably Wakfu, are actually 2D vector art, not 3D.  Certainly you could accomplish the same thing with 3D.  But the way vector art equipment is made for an isometric game is that one versions of the equipment is drawn (over an example character) for each of the two diagonal sprite directions (away/up and toward/down).  Then either a sprite sheet workflow can be used or a bone animation workflow can be used.  Dofus, as a Flash game, used bone animation afaik.  In either case the image of the gear is positioned correctly on top of the example character for each animation frame of key frame.  If necessary the lines of the vector image can easily be tweaked a little to fit a particular frame or movement.  But it is not re-drawn.  Then, the positioning that has been established for the example character is compared to other characters (rather, an example of each race, gender, and class), to see if it still works.  If a change is necessary, a second copy of the gear animation is made for that race or gender or class or whatever.  Once the positioning and animation for a type of clothing, e.g. a cloak, has been established for all character types, it can usually be copied for all new cloaks.  Similarly, once a tassel has been animated it can be used in a variety of places, like on top of a helmet or on shoulders of armor or as part of an animated background involving tasseled furniture or tents.

 

Awesome!

 

That's more what I had in mind, and the way I suspected Wakfu was developed.

 

I just wasn't sure gear would work for so many different anymations when drawn at such a set of "basic" positions, but I guess it's enough.

 

That sounds like an easier way for an indie team to approach it, I guess. Thanks!

 

If there was a tutorial for this sort of workflow anywhere, I would be ecstatic.

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I should probably make a tutorial article about this... except I'm not actually all that good at animation.  Especially isometric.  Best isometric sprite I've done so far is this, with its awkward movement and perspective.

goldfish.gif

 

But basically, first you need to decide the size and angle of the tiles the units stand on.  Then you need a reference image of a person or animal facing each of the two directions.  Then you need to know the art style: whether you are using lineart or not, the proportions, and the color palette.  Then you use Inkscape or Illustrator or Flash to do a rough drawing of the unit, with each moving part as a separate group of shapes.  For example in Dofus a cloak is made is a few segments so it can undulate.  Hairstyles are the same way, assuming they are for avatars or multiple units instead of only one kind of unit.  You can draw a box around the unit to help keep different frames synchronized if you are exporting them to png, gif, or some sprite sheet format.  Alternatively you save a whole animation as an flv or something like that.  And you make a list of the different animations you need for the unit - bouncing in place, walking or marching, some standard actions like swinging a weapon or tool.  Getting an avatar base to do all this is the hard part; clothing that avatar afterwards is comparatively easy.

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