Category Archives: Animation

Planning a game

Here’s a quick post about planning things that you want to make.

My advice: do it. Do enough, then spend some more time on it anyway.

Really, I know that sounds simple, but it makes it so much easier to make something if you have sat down with a pen and paper for a little while and sketched out the main features of levels, ideas about how things work, the way the player progresses.

I’ve got myself a little bit of work from a charity group to make a game for them (I’ll let you know when it goes online), and the process was going very smoothly until I hit a snag this afternoon… And guess what? That snag was precisely the point at which my plan had become a little vague. It’s nothing major, just presentation work, but it just demonstrates how useful it is to have a solid idea of how you are going to proceed with a piece.

Things to consider:

How are things controlled? Mouse? Keyboard? Getting this worked out first is important because it is the first point of contact for the player.

Keep it simple: you don’t want to make a game so damn complicated that people have to spend all day working out how to play it. There is a difference between complexity of interface and complexity of design. You want people to think as little as possible about how they are interacting with your game so that any complexity and subltly in the design of the game isn’t clouded by the interface.

How do things move? That sounds simple, but the movement around the screen really gives the game it’s feel. Do you want to add in intertia? If you have a character that jumps then how will this effect the way it responds to its environment?

Bear in mind your current experience: don’t expect to be able to make a scrolling 3D platform game on your first try. By all means work your way up to that, but try for something more easily achievable first.

Who is your target audience? Is it computer literate people or do you want this playable by anyone? If it’s the former then this changes some of your design decisions. I would suggest always aiming for the latter group when possible because if it’s a good game then those with experience will come and play too anyway.

Graphics are among the least important of components in some ways, but they do give a sense of style to a piece. Likewise with the music.

Don’t punish your players. There’s no fun in playing a game that doesn’t work in a way that isn’t suitable for it’s media. In my case I make games for the web, so I want a player to be able to see a decent section of the game within three minutes. If the game is not going to be finished within this space of time then give people a way of returning to the spot they left, such as a level password.

That’s enough tips for the moment. Is anyone interested in some of the design processes behind animations and games? This is a bit of a jumbled post because I’ve been in the world of code and in the sweltering heat for the last six hours and now my brain is frying, usually they would be a little better organised than this, but the question stands: are you interested in hearing about the design decisions made when creating an animation/game?

New Little Goth Girl animation

The new Little Goth Girl animation is online:

Little Goth Girl – Open Mike Night

I’m quite impressed, this took just under two weeks to make. Mixing the soundtrack actually took about six hours in the end. It’s amazing how long something like that takes! My microphone appears to have nearly given up the ghost, so I spent quite a lot of time trying to boost the volume without destroying fidelity. It’s perhaps a little quiet, but I really couldn’t amp it any more otherwise there was too much distortion. I’ve got some nice ambient effects in the background which people probably won’t notice, but I’m happy that they’re there!

Six hours on the sound… I hate to think how long these things take to make. I’ve given up keeping track!

I’m rather pleased with the look of this one. There is a nice 3D feel to it, but it was all done by hand. There is some use of standard perspective on the front of the club and a huge amount of motion-tweening plus some shape-tweening to achieve the on-stage camera pan. The results look really nice, I think, but so they should for the time that they take!

Some good news for fans of Mittens and Samurai Lapin: the chaps doing the merchandise for me have agreed to produce some things with these characters on. They’re playing it safe for the moment with the designs I was using before, but if you missed them when I was running my shop then you’ll have another chance by the end of the year.

‘Hope you like it!

GPS Tron!

How cool does this look?

GPS Tron

In other news, the animation side of the new Little Goth Girl episode is nearly done, so now it’s just the sound left to do.

I also have been allowed onto the beta test of the new Flash software, codenamed 8Ball. Sadly, I’m not really allowed to tell you anything about it, but I can confirm that it is very, very cool!

Façade + News

This sounds like an interesting experiment: Façade: a one-act interactive drama

Essentially it’s a 15 minute drama where the characters have AI and language recognition so they will adapt their behaviour to your input. I’ve emailed them to request a copy. I’ll let you know when I’ve had a go on it.

The new Little Goth Girl episode is progressing well. I’m not likely to make my hoped task of finishing it within a week of starting it, which would be tomorrow, but it is quite far along. The scenes will look quite simple when they’re done, but they have some nice small details and it’s adding those that takes the time. Anyway, I’m thinking that it will be ready by Monday next week. It probably won’t have a soundtrack, or at most it will be minimal music, so that helps speed-up the post-animation time.

I’m having a meeting with my tutors about the most recent chapter of my thesis tomorrow. I’m a little nervous because I wrote it using the Mind Manager software to help me arrange my ideas, so the flow might be different to previous chapters. I think it’s good, but I’ll soon know their impressions.

Feed The Nine-Mouthed Baby

I’m guessing that many of the people on here might not have seen this early game that I made:

Feed the Nine-Mouthed Baby

If you’re a person who knows a bit of programming in Flash you might be surprised to hear that almost the entire thing is driven by the timeline and not actionscript.

This was back in the days when programming something like my hedgehog game would have been completely beyond me, so I put all of the sound files on the timeline with a frame name then animated the mouth over the right place.

I found that the dropTarget command wouldn’t recognise a movie clip, for some reason, so all of the mouth movements are animated individually from their graphic instances.

Each of these one-phrase sections then only had one draggable object, the one being asked for. These days I would use an ‘if’ loop to make the correct object draggable, but this was the only way I knew at the time.

I then had a couple of simple scripts running, one to generate a random number between one and nine for the movie to know which one-line section to play, another for a timer, and another for the end of the timer to judge whether enough objects had been correctly fed.

Sometimes old methods can be the most effective! If you’re making something in Flash don’t always be obsessed with doing it the most technical way, sometimes a bit of the old-fashioned skills such as timeline tweening can be equally effective in achieving the results you want.

Kittens Though Time!

The new Mittens animation is ready: Kittens Through Time!

Sorry it’s taken so long, Shok was doing the music for it and has been really busy. You can read about what he’s been up to in Shok’s blog. I believe he’s out getting ready for/playing a gig as I type this.

He put together a bit of music for me, which unfortunately was a bit too short. He was going to do a longer version, but I’ve gone ahead and fiddled with the loops, so if anything sounds awry to you then that’s my fault not his! However, I’m really pleased with it, I think I’ve done a seamless job. I even managed to get the loops to correspond with things that were happening on screen. All in all, I’m very happy with the way it’s turned out.

Time travel opens up a whole load more things to do with Mittens & Snowdrop. You might wonder why it’s been so long since the last one, and the answer is simple: I didn’t want to grind the central joke into the ground, and without a new setting it was going to be hard to avoid doing that. I think this new angle will really help in writing future episodes.

‘Hope you like it!

The Brave Duckling

Okay, the music for the new Mittens is taking longer than expected, so here’s another quickie:

The Brave Duckling

I could do with as many hits as possible at the moment, so please pass this on to friends who you think might like it.

As a tip for anyone who might be wondering how to get the ‘wobbly outline’ effect I’ve used in this animation, rather than drawing the whole thing twice simply add a new keyframe in the timeline of the object, select the lines you want to wobble then use Modify>Shape>Optimise… . Have a look to see how many curves it alters and adjust the optimisation to fit with the look you want. If you don’t like it youcan always Ctrl+Z back and try again.

Clive the Giant Amoeba

This was actually going to be just a short picture of an awkward situation. The idea initially was to illustrate the problems of multi-species alien ballroom dancing.

Now I put it like that, it sounds very odd. It made perfect sense when I was thinking about it in the shower this morning.

Anyway, I worked with the idea for a while, trying to work out the best way to get the situation across as fast as possible in one image. I then decided that perhaps it would be better to have a few frames, those frames then led to the short poem, which led to the very silly animation. Have fun with Clive the Giant Amoeba!

Busily studying…

The best quote of the day: “Luck is the residue of design.” Branch Rickey

It’s actually quite appropriate. Today I’m using Mindmanager X5 to put together a mind map of the latest chapter of my thesis. It’s pretty cool software. Basically, it’s a system for creating mind-maps. These are branching diagrams that show the relation of ideas that you have. I’ve put the central idea of my chapter in the middle, then arranged the main subtopics and their smaller aspects around it. The Mindmanager software lets me move things around easily so it’s simple to create new connections and organise things before I start writing. At the moment I’m adding loads of notes to the topics, then when I’m done I’ll just publish it as a Word document and fill in the blanks with my interpretation… Easy… I hope… I’ll let you know how I get on.

Mittens: It’s been ages since I made a new Mittens animation. There is one waiting in the wings, it’s just on standby until Shok gets the music to me, which hopefully will be in the next 24 hours-or-so. It’ll be ready soon!

I’m off to continue piling through the books. See ya!