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DvDmanDT

Need strategy for developing content (graphics)

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Hi everyone,

 

Me and a friend are developing an RTS inspired by the Settlers and Anno series. We are both programmers and the technology is progressing great, but we are severly lacking in the art department. Ideally, we'd bring someone in, but the short story is that it's not really realistic at this point. This means we pretty much need to create some content ourselves.

 

Our game is top-down and the engine can handle both 2d and 3d. At the moment we are using 2d graphics hand drawn in Paint.NET. It kindof works, but it feels like I spend very much time on each asset with very mediocre results, in particular when it comes to lightning and shadows etc.

 

I'm currently tempted to switch to 3d, either going full 3d rendering, or just rendering models to sprites. Using the latter seems like the best option at this time since I can get consistent lightning/shading while not having to worry about things like polycounts, texture count etc. The game doesn't really benefit from full 3d anyway. Is this a good route 2016?

 

What are some tools for me to look into? Note that I'm not even aiming for AAA quality, simplicity is much more valued than capability etc. There is a very limited budget, maybe a few hundred dollars total, but free is preferred. I have an old Wacom tablet and a Surface Pro 2 with stylus if that matters.

 

I also know that there are a fair amount of free or cheap assets out there, but consistency is a major factor which is problematic with that route.

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To be honest, I think all the approaches you have used and are considering using are a waste of time. If you can't achieve decent results, why put much time into it? 

 

I suggest keeping with sprites, but switching to simple colors, letters, simple icons etc for everything. Give all the art enough information so it's quick and easy to tell what you are looking at (i.e. different factions are a different color, or some such).  This approach should take much less time than everything you mention, but should keep the work of design and programming from becoming blocked by a lack of assets.

 

Then, later on, worry about getting acceptable art made. It sounds like you need to hire an artist for this. If your budget is still super limited, make sure your requests for assets is realistic (i.e. as few different sprites as possible, as simple an art style as possible, and an art style that can be achieved by pretty much any artist).

 

Super crappy art just isn't worth it. I think it would be better to ship the game with simple colors and letters than really bad sprites (although hopefully it won't come to that!).

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We've tried that, but it doesn't really work. It's a bit of a chicken and egg problem. We kindof need something in order to generate enough interest to be able to commit to it enough to hire someone. Colored squares works for strict debugging, but not for showing it to friends or play testing.

 

Most stuff we need are buildings and similar. At the most zoomed in level, a big building might occupy something like 256x256 pixels on screen, and at that level it doesn't have to look great. I'm thinking primitive models with high-res textures, then apply some lightning. I think I could do that. Then perhaps apply some variable fog and some particle effects in game to make it slighly less static.

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As a programmer, I look at doing my art assets a bit the same as I do programming. What fundamental components can I create, what can I reuse, and what sort graphics functions do I have available to make things easier. Ultimately, I guess, it's sort of a paper doll approach. Layer individual components on top of each other to get the desired results while making sure the original components will be available again for reuse. I'll go so far as to keep a copy of a single curve on the off chance I need it again for reference against something.

Having a sense of what you can do with colour modulation (if I have a white hat, I have a hat that's any colour I want), arithmetic operations, and alpha blending also helps. You can do this sort of stuff programmatically but similar functions should be available in some paint programs. See what tools various paint programs offer and think about putting larger images together from small parts.

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My advice is use Blender and Gimp, saving your money for more important things.

 

 

There is a lot of free 3d models on the internet, you can download these and then render them at a angle that is good for your game, even add some basic textures to get the basic colors.

Then using Gimp you can draw on the renders to match them to your style of game. With some basic 3D modeling skills and 2D skills you can create amazing art this way and make large changes to the art that there is no license problems.

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