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ninjadodo

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For anyone wanting to learn animation or expand on existing skills I compiled this list of recommended books and websites, originally for Pixel Prospector, now updated here:

http://www.ninjadodo.net/animlinks.html

Thought you guys might find this useful. Applies to 3D animation as well, but I figured I'd post it here. Basically this is my "I wish I had these when I was starting out"-list.

I don't believe this one has been mentioned but I am suddenly very impressed with open source 2D digital painting software Krita, especially given that the next, currently pre-alpha, version can even do animation:


Will definitely be using that if I need to do any detailed colour 2D animation in the future.

I get a similar feeling from games that are close but not quite, or ones I mostly like but that have some aspect that just infuriates me... makes me wonder how I would fix it or approach the problem from a different angle. I actually make lists of positive and negative bullet points sometimes for games trying to understand what I like and dislike about them.

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It started with playing King's Quest 1 for me: just the idea of creating a world that you could walk around in and interact with... I immediately started making my own games on paper with drawings and paper cut-outs, acting out the game by moving characters around on hand-drawn backgrounds. Via Gamebuilder and Superlogo, and later modding levels and tilesets for Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and 3D animation with trueSpace, I kept making things and I eventually ended up getting into the games industry as an animator, but always kept the urge to create my own games as well. Realized a couple years ago Game Maker could pretty much do everything I wanted for 2D games, and have been using that ever since.

These days I'm inspired by everything... art, museums, travel, history, mythology, books, cinema, and of course other games.

Soon as you have something playable that gives a sense of what the game will be like.

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Generally I'll buy anything that seems cool for a reasonable price, but these days I'm reluctant to buy new games because my backlog is so enormous it would take a lifetime to play all the games I already have to completion. Not that I would want to finish every game, but it still comes down to "I could buy this new thing, or I could play the 5 games I bought in the last Steam sale that I still haven't touched". I still make an exception if something is especially cool though, or if I just want to support the developer.

As for convincing me a game is worth checking out: basically, have a great gameplay trailer... no cinematics, no endless logos and backstory... show me the game. Word of mouth helps, certainly, but the game needs to look interesting.

Well, above list is as much from things that have worked for me as from mistakes I've caught myself making. Getting lost in iteration, especially. My rule now is if I haven't made visible progress on new features (that were already on the list) in months, it's time to move on. I think keeping a video devlog helps, because if I can't make a new video of it it's probably just tweaking that can wait. Plus if you want to get a handle on the scope of your project, you need to have it all there before you can see how much work it will be to finish.

That said, for bigger projects my notes are somewhat longer, and I do design certain things, like levels, on paper first... and I tend to develop character movement in animation thumbnails.

How about "Break free from a looping apocalypse, which only you can remember already happened"?

I'm generally a fan of implementing spur of the moment ideas immediately while they're fresh (with the "iterate but move forward" caveat) as it keeps the energy and inspiration going, so I just implement them without even writing them down, or they go on the short list. If they're too big or I'm not at that stage yet I either break them down into smaller tasks or they go on the long list.

I don't believe in overly detailed prescribed design docs. I prefer to find the game as I'm building it and those lists are just there to give some direction, figure out the next step and to not forget any good ideas I have along the way. For my fish simulation game, Guppy, the long list was never more than a few pages of notes.

Thanks. :) Usually I do use the simulation line, though "swim like a fish" is the shortest.... but you're right, absent other information it's easy to think of the familiar with the short version.

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Swim like a fish: http://ninjadodo.itch.io/guppy

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I do work on multiple projects, but I tend to focus on one at a time (not counting switch back and forth between day job and personal work), and try to avoid starting new things mid-project, instead writing ideas down for later. I'm definitely not fast, so the only reason I ultimately finish anything I think is just sheer persistence and being really really stubborn.

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Some things I do to keep making progress:

- Separate short- and long-term to-do lists: One is a short notepad txt with a list of small tasks I could do in a day or less, the second is a larger document with notes, goals and ideas for later. If I run out of tasks on the short list I add something from the long list. Less intimidating that way and easier to see the immediate next step.

- Make it scalable, so that you can easily build a base game that's shippable, then if you still have time and ideas you can add more to it... This way you can bail out and call it "complete" at any time, but you can keep going as long as you want.

- Pick a concept that's rich enough to keep you inspired for the duration of the project. If it's a tiny jam game this is not important but if you're trying to build something big, make sure there's enough there to keep you interested.

- Avoid getting lost in iteration on parts you've already built. Iterate, but also move forward.

- Try procedural generation. Testing linear highly scripted games gets reaaaally boring fast. If you make some parts randomly generated it keeps things interesting, both for you and the players, increasing replayability by a lot.

- Also: get some exercise, sleep well, eat healthy and talk to people.

If possible, please add thread icons (percentage completed, done, cancelled) for devlog thread titles, like this: https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?board=27.0

This way you can see the status of a project at a glance.

Separate forum user profiles have already been suggested I guess, but it would be nice if you could see "All posts by user" on a profile and a "Show new replies to your posts" button which shows all threads where you've posted that have new replies, plus a separate "All new posts" button.

... also probably put the current version number and major announcements in the thread title (if it's possible to change this after posting).

Please make it so you can invisibly edit your post for a couple of minutes after submitting, or at least remove the "number of times edited" and just have it say "edited". I seriously doubt I am the only person who compulsively fixes typos and wording after hitting submit and when a post says Edited 6 times it's kind of embarrassing. :P

On the TIGS forums generally people make a single thread for a devlog and then post updates in replies. This is one of my mine, for example. Optionally, you can update the first post from time to time to reflect the latest version, but probably stick to a short summary with any edits. Seems like a good format.

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I use GameMaker Studio and Photoshop mainly, but when doing more detailed 2D animation I use Plastic Animation Paper, which is great for pencil- or ink-style animation (bonus: it's free).

I also have this neat tool called Autostitch, for making panoramas out of photos. Not something I use for games often right now, but pretty handy if you ever need to do a skybox.

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Hi,

My name is Christiaan. I do 3D animation and make indie games. I made Guppy, a game about swimming like a fish, Rosetta about the deciphering of the Egyptian Hieroglyphic script, and I'm working on Hellas, a game about Greek mythology, which is not on itchio yet, except for a small environment test I did for procjam. I also made Pause Pirate with my brother, for molyjam.

Cool to see the site continue to expand and improve! I look forward to discovering many more interesting games and hopefully releasing a few more projects of my own.

@ninjadodo on twitter