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10 Jan 2015

Assets, assets, assets...

Asset creation is by far my least favourite part of game development.

I am gifted neither musically nor artistically. I can do some basic concept art sketches to use for spritesheets, provided I have grid-lined paper to give me some spatial reference in drawing, and I can do some basic 3D-modelling with the right tools. I don't really enjoy doing any of it, though. I find it tedious and time consuming, but the fact remains that it's an extremely important part of a project that has to get done before I can move on to the parts that I love doing.

With that in mind, here are some resources and tools that I've found shave off a good bit of time that otherwise feels like walking a marathon in the desert, and can even make asset creation semi-fun.

First off: Open Game Art:

Open Game Art is a great resource for finding 2D and 3D art assets and music with various licenses, all offered for free. If you not only dislike asset creation but are actually incapable of it, Open Game Art is exactly the place you need to go. A lot of the assets available are of good quality too, if you're wary of anything free.

Next: Piskel:

Piskel is a nifty little tool for doing pixel art that allows you to create full spritesheets frame-by-frame, online or locally on your own machine. It can export PNGs of the sprites that will be ready to use, and you even get a nice little preview of your animation frames in action in the app with adjustable frames-per-second rate. I struggled for a long time with pixel art and making sprites the way I like before I randomly happened upon Piskel in a thread on r/gamedev one day. 

Speaking of which, reddit's r/gamedev is also a great place for any kind of information, but various users will routinely post links to free assets they've made for the community. In a lot of cases there's overlap between the forum and Open Game Art, but it's a really great community to keep tabs on.

After Piskel: Paint.NET:

Paint.NET isn't something I use or recommend for simply creating assets from scratch. It's the software I use to touch up my Piskel .PNG exports to add effects that aren't in Piskel, such as glow or transparency; to draw over concept art that I've scanned into the computer to create non-pixel art sprites for use in games; and to make textures for models I've made in Blender.

Oh yeah, Blender:

I've been working on a 2D game with sprites for the last while (actual announcement of that game coming soon) so I don't have anything specific to say about the new Blender 2.73, which looks as though a number of fixes have been implemented, but I will say this: Blender has always suited my needs for a few reasons: It's free, it makes 3D models, and it exports a wide variety of file formats. That said, there are a few kinds of 3D modelling I'm horrid at...

Which brings us to MakeHuman:

MakeHuman makes human models that can be imported and edited in Blender in an easy-to-use fashion. It's a nifty little tool for when you need humanoid 3D models that can easily have skeletons added to them for animation. I will note that the various Blender plugins you're meant to use to add to MakeHuman models such as MakeClothes and MakeWalk have given me some headaches in terms of actually getting them working in Blender, but for what it is MakeHuman is a great tool with real potential going forward.

Getting noisy: Bfxr:

Bfxr makes excellent 8-bit sound effects for games. It has a wide range of characteristics of each sound to edit, and you can combine and alter base sounds to achieve a unique sound effect to use in your game. As with everything else I've listed, it's completely free for commercial and non-commercial projects.

Finally, PulseBoy:

PulseBoy is a neat little flash application that acts as a virtual Chiptune. It's free, and it makes great chiptune music. I'm not sure what else to say aside from go download it now! This is one of those rare apps that I've found actually made me enjoy asset creation, even if I waste a good chunk of time just playing with it and having fun.

Well, this has been a late-night ramble about assets, because I hate making them and it's all I'm working on at the moment. I wanted to update the site but I didn't want to spend the whole time whining about assets so I've tried to make something productive for anyone who might read this.

Oh, one last thing I'd be remiss if I didn't mention: A book for which I did a technical review has been published recently by Packt Publishing, titled Unity AI Programming Essentials. It's a good read for anyone with some programming experience but not a lot or exposure to the artificial intelligence plugins available for the Unity game engine. Having read it and tested the examples, I'd recommend picking it up if you're in the audience I described.

Thinking about it now I might add a similar post to this one at a later date detailing various Unity plugins and which ones I've found most useful. (hint: the answer is always RAIN)

Until next time, I hope you've enjoyed reading.