Global Game Jam 2019!

04/02/2019

This year I participated in the Global Game Jam! I had a great time, and I was super proud of what our team accomplished, our cute little game Adopt a Dog!

I didn't program this time though, as much as I intended to when I walked in the door. Whilst I was looking for something to do (and whilst people set up the repo), I started making some toy sprites based off of Undertale's cute dog...

Although I was very headstrong about being a developer, my team kept requesting more sprites and the fun of making the art pulled me in... I became the teams artist!

I was very uncofident as I was always terrible at art. Fortunately for me, I learned very quickly that pixel art is art that almost anyone can do!

Some general tips/points that I learned about pixel art:


1. You should create patterns and re-use them!

Take for example the feet of the dog, you'll notice they're all exactly the same! They are indeed the same foot copy-pasted 4 times. Even in different poses like this one:

You'll notice the feet are still the same, especially at the top (just that the right one is flipped to face the right direction). Even the head of every single dog animation is the same one copy/pasted every time! You'll notice the feet of the Undertale dog are all the exact same ones too, although the middle two are stretched a pixel down to give the illusion of perspective.

Establishing patterns in pixel art creates a consistency to your characters/scenes/objects that allows viewers to identify them easily. Since very blocky pixel art has low detail to it, inconsistencies are spotted quickly... Which allows you to find and fix them quicky :)


2. Referencing art techniques is more important than ever

It's incredibly easy to reference other pixel art. If you're copying a 5x5 sprite, you can afford to give a frame by frame and pixel by pixel level of observation when trying to study something that's already been done.

For the dog pose above, I struggled for about 30 minutes to develop a 'sparkle' effect. I tried little stars flying around, using patterns from Conway's Game of Life, etc. but nothing could give me the simple sparkle I was looking for...

However, when I looked for references and I found this picture:

Very quickly, I understood that to get a good sparkle happening:

  1. The sparkles should be out of sync
  2. The sparkles should follow the same in-out pattern (which I noticed many other examples used variations of...)

And within minutes, I was able to get the above effect happening. Nice!


3. Simplicity is key!

With pixel art (especially blocky pixel art) you don't have the space to create intimate details that you can create in other forms of art, thus, it's important to keep things simple!

Aiming for immaculate details or super smooth animation will result in rage as you realise that you'd need to double your canvas size (for maybe the second or third time...) to make your animation just the right level of smooth, or give that one feature just the right amount of detail.

For the dog leap in our game, the animation for the legs moving from the standing position to the stretched out position doesn't even exist.

When a dog leaps, it's a 1 frame snap to the animation. Keeping the legs relatively close together between the walk and leap animations makes the transition look normal, and avoids the weird 'ripple' effect of pixels disappearing and reappearing (the same one that appears often in Conway's Game of Life examples).


To sum it up...

I had an awesome time! Definitely doing this next year :) Check out our page on the GGJ site!