Starslinger Kings Dev Log

Starslinger Kings Devlog 04 - Finding the look for our game's hero

Today's post is all about how I took a piece of concept art and turned it into game art for Starslinger Kings - and it's a trickier process than you might imagine. The game's hero is going to be the most seen piece of art in the game afterall, you've got to get them right.

 If you've been following the game's progress on twitter then chances are you saw the live updates as progress was made (and some of you even helped me with super helpful feedback), but if not, read on! 

The Concept

Matt's King Concept

This guy was whipped up by Matt Carr to give me something to work from. In my opinion, he set the bar pretty damn high! I had no idea how I was going convert this thing to pixels, faithful to the original designs, in a 48 x 48 pixel sprite.

The Style

Prior to Matt coming up with those designs, I'd made this little guy up as a size test for the game, just to have something running around in the game world. It was also something of a style test: I liked the no outlines look and the limitation of only using a 5 colour palette. Plus, this is a game where you can customise your player by mixing and matching parts, with up to 4 players: red, blue, green and yellow. A small palette would aid fast asset creation.

Humble Beginnings

The first thing I made was the head (off a different sketch Matt had sent me) and felt like I had it right on the second iteration. Something about its character was just right for this game. 

Then I moved onto the rest of the body, and that's where things got tricky.

I whipped up these designs, but couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with them. They just looked... awkward somehow, like they really needed to use the bathroom but it was occupied. Some folks on twitter suggested the legs were too thick, but thinning them down looked even worse.

I sent the spritesheet to Matt, given his experience with form and traditional art, and he was most interested in a pseudo action shot I'd scribbled on the side. "It has the best silhouette," he said.

I took it as a base and riffed off some new designs.

We agreed the second looked the best, but it was an action shot. I still needed a basic standing/idle pose.

The Answer Lies in the Silhouette

The "silhouette" thing Matt had mentioned got me wondering, so I looked into it. There's a technique in pixel art (and probably other types of art as well) where you block out the general outline in solid colour, then go about filling the details in. The theory goes that this method is the best for landing on poses that are interesting and natural, as it stops the artist from being purely detail focused (which can wind up with pretty stale/static looking art).

So I drew up a silhouette...

And filled it in.

And it was like magic. The issues I was having with this guy looking awkward vanished, and in its place I was able to put down the sprite I had in my head. What's more, I was able to give him body language and attitude, which let me really capitalise on the pixels available. With a 5 colour palette and small resolution, you need to take every chance to give your sprites some kind of character the player can connect with, and I feel like this silhouette jazz helped me hit those notes.

Definitely one for the toolbox.

And here he is in game!

Next time: animations! Til then wreckers.


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