Recently I’ve had a blast working with some wonderful people here in Chicago. But what’s this about pixels? Well we are making a retro game and almost all of the art is in pixel stlye! I have gone from knowing absolutely nothing about pixel art, to creating pixel versions of my character concepts for the game in a week. Now I call that progress.
A development house here in Chicago has some wonderfully dedicated programmers who are taking their spare time to create a HTML5 game. When they asked me if I would hop on to help with creating some of the visual assets I was excited and a little scared. They were doing pixel art, something I was utterly unfamiliar with. However the plan was for me to provide sketches and concepts. No big deal right. So I joined the team, unsure of how my style would fit in, but so happy to be a part of it.
I don’t know if any of you out there have worked on an indie game project before, but it’s awesome, complex, and almost overwhelming. You need game design documentation so everyone has direction, a story, artists, people to put together sound files, and some pretty stellar programmers to make it all come together in a big collage of awesomeness. It’s a lot to have going on. To my knowledge everyone else working on this has programming skills, even if they’re working on another task like sound, writing the GDD (game design document), or art. Everyone except for me. It’s been a very humbling, educational, and insightful experience.
Crash Course from an Illustrator Ninja
What was my pixel art indoctrination? Well the person who was originally doing all the pixel art wasn’t able to work on the game for a few weeks. So, not wanting to halt progress, he kindly offered to give me a crash course in how he was doing the pixel art, and hopefully I could take it from there. This man is an illustrator ninja. In less than an hour he walked me through the tools and settings I would need, talked about grids, and even gave me some keyboard shortcuts. I was pumped and ready to go! Fingers crossed that the few scribbles I wrote down would be enough to set me on my way once I was at my computer again. In hindsight I would definitely bring my laptop next time, I think a lot more information would stick faster that way, and I wouldn’t have had my two days of pixel art blues.
Pixel Art Blues
Of course things do not always go as planned. I got home, and started trying to overlay my little vector pixels over my sketches. One problem, I forgot the grid. I felt so stupid. Then I couldn’t get one of the Keyboard shortcuts Ben had taught me. He had been on a Mac and I was on a PC. I thought he had done something with one key, but the one didn’t seem to be working for me. I kept working at a slightly slower speed, using other techniques to try and compensate for the time.
Pixel Art is My New Best Friend
By the end of the week and completely by chance I realized the two key combination I had been looking for. Now I was in business. I was creating aligned pixel art fast on a grid, and all keyboard shortcuts were a go. Just in time too. That Saturday we had a 12 hour internal hackathon for ourselves to try and burn through most of what was missing. My very first hackathon! We still have more work ahead of us before level one is complete, but golly gee did we get a lot done!. Here I have for you the hero and leading lady.
Next I decided to test drive the animations for the sprite. You know, just to be sure it worked fine… and because it’s really fun.