Gamedev Grievances #14: Pixel Art By A Non-Pixel Artist

Being a solo game developer is rewarding, but sometimes tough. One of the hardest things is having to do almost everything yourself, including all the things you’re not particularly good at. For example, I’m chiefly a coder. But I also have to make sure the graphics and pixel art is up to scratch – and I am definitely not an artist.

However, recently I decided it was time to give my character sprites and mugshots an upgrade to make them more humanoid and less, uh, spherical.

Screen 001 2016-07-01 Vulcan beat up
A very old screenshot from a very old demo, where all the characters were round.

So, after many long hours of spriting, pixeling, and coming to terms with the fact that “I have no idea what I’m doing!”, I’ve finally made some serious progress on the character sprites and mugshots! Of course, there’s still a fair bit of work to be done, but here’s some thoughts on what I, a non-artist, have made so far.

The Player


You might remember that the original player character was yellow, and has been for nearly ten years. To keep everything reasonably consistent, I transferred each character’s original body colour to their hair and/or clothes. Hence, our protagonist gets yellow hair. I spent quite a while trying to get the player’s hair texture looking reasonable, including making the spiky bit at the back stand out from the rest, but I still think there’s a bit too much contrast – the spiky bit’s a little too bright, while the lines on the hair are a little too dark.

The Henchmen


So far, the only Henchman I’ve completed is the vanilla grey one. I went for a slightly different approach here and made the Henchman entirely bald, and I also gave him a much thicker jaw to give him a more “thuggish” look. However I still think the jawline needs more work, and in particular his chin should probably tilt the opposite way to what it does now. I also need to change the outline colours a little as well, but it’s a start.



Clarissa’s mugshot and sprite are probably the most complete of all the characters I’ve revamped so far. She’s also the character I think turned out the best. One of the toughest parts of Clarissa’s mugshot was her lipstick – it’s surprisingly difficult to get that mouth into different shapes and expressions while still preserving the lip shape. I also decided to give Clarissa some upper body armour in keeping with her role as a military commander.



I decided to make Vulcan slightly older than I had originally envisioned him – for example, note the stubble on his chin. Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t still be rash and immature, and given his fiery personality I also gave him some fiery hair to go with it.



“Pontus the pirate” – or at least, that’s how I’ve re-imagined the leader of the underground rebellion. The hair on the mugshot took a while, especially the texture and shading of the hair, but I think it turned out okay.



Zephyr’s mugshot still needs a fair bit of work. For example, some the outlines on the hair are too dark, and while the basic shading’s mostly in place, I haven’t really captured the texture of her hair much. I’ve imagined Zephyr’s hair to be like a cloud (think: soft and billowing), as per her implied connection with the Ambience of Wind. Zephyr’s NPC sprites aren’t quite done yet either, especially her hair, which needs more shading and texture. It’s been a tough job getting her hair to look decent, probably more so than I originally thought it would when I started.

Revamping the UI


In other news, I’ve also been working on making the UI look a bit prettier than it used to. The HP and SP bars at the top of the screen are also bigger and a bit easier to see. I’ve also changed the font used in the bars and the damage callouts to be chunkier, making them a bit nicer on the eyes and, again, easier to see.

Right now I’m focusing on the graphics aspect of the game for a while, before diving in and finishing off the main story. Like I said earlier, things still have a long way to go. But they’ve already come a long way, too.

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