Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Suite Symphony Playing in the Key of 'Free' - Part One

I'd wager that most code hobbyists, like myself, lack the resources (read 'cash') to blow on expensive tools for their projects.

For that reason, I just thought I'd pass on a number of awesome - and totally free - goodies to help create your project content. Just because they're free does not mean they aren't powerful. Also, this does not necessarily mean that they're lacking in complexity and have no learning curve.

I'll start with a few of my favorite graphics tools.


GIMP - Gnu Image Manipulation Program [http://www.gimp.org]

Gimp is truly a powerhouse among 2D photo editors. Boasting most of the editing capabilities of expensive photo editors, like Adobe's popular Photoshop, Gimp is often the top free choice for spriting and other 2D graphics manipulation. There are numerous free plug-ins and brush packs available to extend its capabilities, as well.

Gimp handles all popular file formats like a champ.

Inkscape - Vector Drawing Program [http://inkscape.org]

Inkscape is a fairly simple, yet powerful vector graphics drawing program. With Inkscape, I found it tremendously easy to generate beautiful images for things like graphical buttons and logos. Of course, this is only scratching the surface of Inkscape's capabilities.

There are some really helpful tutorials and demonstrations of Inkscape's capabilities out on YouTube, and I found them to be very instrumental in getting me started.

GraphicsGale - Pixel Art & Animation Maker [http://www.humanbalance.net/gale/us/]

I only recently discovered this amazing little gem and it has totally altered my approach to pixel art and has dramatically decreased the amount of time it takes me to create sprites, icons, and tile objects for my games!

As a wanna-be game designer, I've found it surprisingly difficult to produce pixel art of any quality, and the more powerful photo-editors tend to only complicate the fine art of pixelcraft by possessing countless functions and menus that are really of little use for such up close and in-your-face artwork.

It really is so simple a seven year old can use it, but in its simplicity it is mighty.

To sweeten the deal even further, it can also be used to generate animations. This is a must-have tool, if you're designing your own 2D game!

Blender - 3D Modeling, Animation, and Game Creator [http://www.blender.org/]

Blender... Wow... Where to even start?? I still can't believe that this magnificent beast of a modeling program is free! Blender is right up there with the top dogs of 3D modeling. Possessing incredible 3D modeling, rendering, and movie production capabilities, countless plug-ins and extensions, scripting capabilities, and even a built-in game design environment, Blender stands in a class of its own.

I could rant and rave about it all day long, but I think I'd best just let the work of the Blender community stand on its own and show you what it can do:

Blender Art Gallery


Big Buck Bunny

More Blender Made Movies

Most of these are fairly old. If you Google about a bit you'll find tons of mind-blowing art produced with Blender.

Awesome as it is, one major drawback with any major 3D design suite is the learning curve. Be prepared to invest a great deal of time in conquering this behemoth.

Lucky for us we can stand on the shoulders of the Blender heroes that have come before us and kindly created countless awesome tutorials.

Several Blender masters have produced tutorials that are an invaluable resource to the aspiring designer. Among my favorites are:

Good luck out there! If you know of any other awesome [FREE] graphics tools out there that you'd like to add to the list, then please feel free to share!

Take care, all!

~ Aardaerimus

Monday, July 11, 2011

Your thoughts on mundane items and activities in game?

Many games feature mundane activities, items, or objectives.

A few, for example, might be:
  • Feeding your characters
  • Day/night cycles
  • Resting for character/party recovery
  • Crafting

Numerous games have foregone such things, and have still been wildly successful - games like the Final Fantasy series, for instance. Many others, however, feature systems for time cycles, resource gathering, crafting, and other tasks that could be considered irrelevant to play or the general game objective - yet have found tremendous interest in game communities.

My question to you is:

Do you feel that adding mundane articles to games brings added realism and depth to a game, or do you feel that it's pointless or could possibly even detract from the enjoyment of a game, or simply should not be included unless it somehow adds to the story or is specifically required to complete a game?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Visual Basic Game Programming Tutorial - Part 7 - Saving and Loading Map Data

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

The 7th installment of my Visual Basic 2010 GDI+ game programming series.

In this video tutorial we're covering how to read and write comma delimited map data from/to a text file.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Part 6 - Terrain Collision

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Part 5 - Transparent Brushes and Custom Dialog Boxes

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Part 4 UPDATE - Improved Key Input and Character Movement

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Part 4 - Key Input and Character Movement

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Part 3 - Graphics and Tile Mapping

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Part 2 - Handling Mouse Input

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Part 1 - Building a Game Loop and Frame Counter

[Watch in 720p High Definition]

GDI+ Game Programming Series - Introduction

I've decided that I'll share my progress with GDI+ game programming in Visual Basic. This series teaches the basic principals of game programming. It's still a work in progress, but should kick-start the young VB game programmer and get you on your way to developing simple classic style, 2D RPGs and such.

You'll learn how to use a tile set for tile-mapping, how to create and move a character around the screen, how to track mouse movement and input, how to create semi-transparent menus, and more.

In terms of performance, GDI+ is horribly inefficient, but should still work for creating games like you might see on the old Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis consoles. As long as you don't use too many on-screen objects simultaneously and keep the number of drawn tiles down, it should perform fairly well on most modern machines.

If you want to dabble in 3D, arcade style games, I recommend learning XNA or DirectX programming in C#. These environments will make much better use of your graphics hardware and allow you to produce many more rich environmental effects.

At any rate, I hope this helps get you started and feeds the creative fire that all of us aspiring game programmers have burning inside. Good luck with your project, and feel free to share your progress with all of us! It's always encouraging to both share and see other peoples' success stories.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Heavy workloads make for slow starts... What happened?

XNA... That was a much bigger mess than I'd anticipated. I dabbled with it for a few hours and found some more information on project conversion, just to make the "content pipeline" work, and it was a rather huge undertaking.

I'm the type of person that wants to understand how it all works, as opposed to simply copying and pasting someone else' code into a project... But - WOW - what a colossal failure. hahah

I'm certainly not giving up, but I was getting a lot of pressure to release another GDI+ game programming tutorial. That is on top of my actual job, which had me pinned down pretty tight, these past few days.