It’s time for another update. A few weeks ago I got a bit of support from a friend who created some character concepts for me. When I saw the first drafts I was immediately excited! I hope we can align the concepts with some final artwork that fits to the more old-fashioned look of the game. The humor is definitely a fit and I’m very excited!
This week I wanted to write a bit about Game Artists and technology. In game studios it’s common for a Technical Artist to take over when things become too, well, tech-y. A Technical Artist communicates with the art team, the developers and, well let’s just say with pretty much everyone involved. He (while writing ‘he‘ I actually think of my colleague Szymon Kościelniak) knows the requirements that a programme must fulfil, so that the final product will not only look amazing, but also won’t cause devices to explode. In the best case scenario, he can even code, but he doesn’t need to go this far (right, Szymon?).
Technical Artists are rather hard to find on LinkedIn, compared to Game Artists. I guess a reason for this is that no artist, who has gone through a classic Graphic Design/Art education, wants to deal with the technical background of his tools. If you’re involved in more than just creating illustrations, background art or assets, you have certain tools to work with. You learn how they work and then you use them to integrate assets, and that’s it.
When Unity was introduced at my previous studio, everyone, including me, was sceptical at first. I slowly got into it though. I wanted to, because this new technology gave artists more control over the layout, to tweak things in detail and, at the same time, there was this interesting challenge of making everything work at different aspect ratios. To make a layout work on very narrow and wide devices is like a small game itself, and I must admit that this was fun to figure out.
A year and a half ago I started looking around beyond the programmes I already knew, to build a simple game prototype. It took a while until I found one that worked perfectly for me.
The very first program that I tested out was Stencyl.
I should probably mention that, at that point, I didn’t have a clearly defined vision of what game I wanted to create, just that it would be something which included dialogue…
To sum up Stencyl: if you’ve never written a line of code in your entire life, you’ll have a lot of fun with this program. It is also good if, like me, you only have fundamental knowledge of how a program works behind the scenes. The functions of Stencyl are based on logic blocks, which can be more or less complex and encapsulated, depending on what it is you want to build. In short, the functions that are normally written in code, are shown through a graphical interface. As a creator you can tweak physics, can define input keys, when to play sounds or put together enemy AIs… and much more.
While I enjoyed going through lots of tutorials, I came to realize that I had enough and would not explore this program further for the following reasons:
#1 – Even though this has been promised for years, the developers still haven’t enabled the use of plugins like Spine. Animations are all based on particle effects and Png-sequences. I’m not a fan of that.
#2 – There are many annoying bugs which plague the programme, and which are especially obvious in the background and level editor. They can ruin your day.
#3 – Text is handled poorly. I’ve tried out some extensions, created by brave souls who wanted to make this feature a bit easier, but even here the possibilities are restricted.
My personal conclusion: Stencyl is the perfect way to build simple arcade games and to have a bit fun as an artist, without involving programmers. If you’ve never created anything entirely on your own, I recommend you just try it out. The free version has all the functionality of the paid one, and only blocks the output on platforms/formats other than Windows.