Jump to content

Game Development Guide - Part 2


Atari 5200 Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

GDG_Part2.jpg.bfaf8a4879a0315f0701247ca152fb38.jpg

WHAT ARE GAME DEVELOPERS?

Game developers are to the video game world what Disney is to the animation world.  In short that is.  "Oh Great!  You just had to scare me out of doing something like this!"  Not at all.  That's not the reason why I said what I said.  It's actually the truth.  In modern times video games are made by a team between 3 to 2,000 people or more, each responsible for specific tasks during a game's production progress from start, which is the initial concept, all the way to the final product, which would be the games we choose to purchase and play.  It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years for a single game to be ready for the public to view and play.  During the Atari days most games were done by one person, sometimes a few more, but nothing on the scale of what is used today.  So, just for simplicity sake we will stick with a single imaginary person named Joe.

THE GAME CONCEPT

Joe has a game idea in his head inspired by two of his favorite games and he thinks a collaboration of both would make for a great new game that he would enjoy playing.  He grabs some scarp paper and begins drawing out a few character designs along with short notes saying things like colors to use, what this or that is for, what this or that is suppose to be, and other things.  Before Joe knows it he has created a whole universe centered around one game idea.  What Joe doesn't realize at this point is he just gave birth to a game world that is his and his alone.  Only he knows about it, only he has seen it, only he can revisit it anytime.  He also has the ability to change or modify this world.  It's his to control and give life to.

And that's why the concept portion is the most important part of game designing.  It is at this part in game development where ideas are born, characters are made up, environments, and even entire worlds and universes, are made up, along with the stories that make each part of the game's design come together.  Everything thought up at this point should have some relation to other objects or environments put down.  If something doesn't make much sense at the moment don't scrap it but instead set it aside because it might come in handy later.  You might make a killer looking UFO with no purpose starting out but realize later that one of your levels in a space shooter is missing a level boss.  Ah HA!  Now try to put that UFO in your game to be used as that missing level boss.

This part of game design comes from the story made in the first part of this guide.  It's why I waited so long to get the second part down.  It was to give time for stories to be made and for them to make some sort of sense, have a purpose, have a goal in mind, things like that.  It also allowed myself time to come up with a game idea I could use to get ideas across.  The concept building part is going to be the hardest portion because of transferring ideas from imagination down on to a sheet, or sheets, of paper.  What is seen by the imagination is not always easy to get on paper exactly as it was seen.

GAME DEVELOPERS ARE MORE THAN DISNEY ANIMATORS 

It's true.  All Disney animators have to do is draw, frame by frame, the artwork that makes up an animated movie and make sure the animation flows well and is in time with the soundtrack.  I'm sure there's more to it than that but that's the basics.  A game developer has a lot more to do, however, because not only do they have to come up with the concept but they will also be involved in getting the game programmed, putting the artwork in a form the targeted hardware can understand and use, get any sound effects and/or music just right, make sure controls work as intended...the list goes on and on. 

Why?  Because unlike a Disney animated film a video game is an interactive form of art.  All of the visuals on the screen have to be drawn by someone, all the sounds and music someone has to make, someone has to animate what needs to be animated like a ship firing or enemies flying around, someone has to make sure the controls work as planned.  And once that is done there are bound to be bugs or issues to have to resolve along the way and someone will have to deal with that.  It doesn't matter how old or new a game is someone, somewhere, put their heart and soul into the work they are presenting in a single game for others to enjoy.  In most cases of modern video games most of the work and artwork goes by unnoticed.  If you are playing a game sometime where you can actually stop for a second to soak in the artwork of the environment by all means stop and take a good look.  It took my wife and I playing Borderlands 2 over and over for a couple of years to see a few details we never seen before.  And they were cool to look at.  

Getting back to Joe...in Joe's case he is most likely going to be the artist, animator, musician, sound studio, environment creator, game tester, and game debugger all rolled into one.  In short, Joe is going to be the only one making the game so he will be doing everything.  This may not be the case for everyone but we are going to just say Joe is making his game by himself.  

GRAPH PAPER AND PENCILS ARE OUR FRIENDS

Two things I highly recommend keeping around are graph paper and pencil.  Graph paper especially.  With graph paper you can easily draw out art to be used in a video game in a pixel-like form by shading in the squares on the paper.  When the shaded boxes are combined the visuals of what was in your imagination should be seen.  Sometimes you might have to look at the graph paper from a distance when you are finished drawing but it should still be somewhat visible.  Use the eraser to remove some areas that are not quite right, shade in others that might help, make use of the eraser and empty squares to get the details right.  These two items will never go dead from a drained battery, the paper can never get attacked by malware or viruses, however the paper can run low and the pencil will need to be sharpened or, if using a mechanical pencil, may need lead refills.  That's about the extent of what can go wrong using paper and pencil...unless you have a goat that likes to eat paper.  

TO SPRITE OR NOT TO SPRITE? 

Sprites?  No not the soft drink.  A sprite in video games is the artwork that makes up a single character to be used in a game.  Let's use Centipede for an example.  The player's character called "The Wand" is a sprite, the spider and scorpion are sprites, the mushrooms are sprites...even the Centipede is made up of a series of sprites.  Those are all sprites.  Don't let it confuse you because not everything in a video game has to be a sprite but the controlled characters in a video game are almost always sprites.

On an Atari console/computer a single sprite is usually made up of 8x8, 16x16, and 32x32 sprite grids.  What is a grid?  Oh, I guess I'm jumping ahead of myself.  A sprite grid is the enclosed area used to draw an object to be used in a game project.  We will use the 8x8 grid as our example.  In the 8x8 grid are 64 "dots" known as pixels.  Each square on the graph paper within a 8x8 sprite grid represents a pixel.  A pixel is the single dot of a TV screen that is lit up.  The first number, 8 as an example, is the number of squares or pixels from left to right or horizontally.  The second number, 8 again, is the number of squares or pixels from top to bottom, or vertically.  In our 8x8 sprite grid we have 8 squares horizontally and 8 squares vertically giving us a total of 64 squares we can place any pixel or series of pixels.  

To create a sprite grid on a sheet of graph paper draw a vertical line on one side eight blocks down.  Double check your counting because it is very easy to miscount the squares on graph paper if they are really small.  Next, starting at the top of the line you just made draw to the right eight squares.  If done correctly you should have somewhat of a triangle made.  Now starting at the right end of the line you just made across go down eight squares.  When finished you should have a box with an open bottom.  Finally, close the box...make a line from the bottom of both lines on the left and right.  VIOLA!!  You just created an 8x8 (pronounced eight by eight) sprite grid.  This small grid gives a total of 64 squares that can be used to design characters, objects, and other aspects of a game.

Depending on your project's requirements, and the targeted hardware's abilities and limitations the project is being designed for, sprite grids can be many different sizes.  Some systems allow for 8x16 sprites, some allow for sprites much larger than 32x32, it all depends on finding that fine line between what your imagination wants to see and the abilities of the hardware you are wanting to design for. 

The bigger the sprite grid in both directions the more detail that can be expressed.  If you have ever wondered why Mario on an NES game is not as detailed as Mario on the Super NES it's because of the sprite grid size.  Granted, sometimes Mario looks good, sometimes he doesn't, but it's all down to the grid size that was used to create him.  The same goes for Atari games, too.  Just be sure to research the max sprite size the targeted hardware can handle or you may find yourself going back to the drawing board.

BONUS TIME:  Atari Fonts, as well as most computerized letters and numbers, are small sprites preprogrammed into the computer's hardware.  These are usually 8x8.  However, have you ever wondered about the extra small sprites found on some Atari games, especially on the Atari 7800 games?  Those are on a 3x5 sprite grid.  Try it out sometime...make some 3x5 sprite grids on graph paper and try to draw out every letter and number of the English alphabet in those.  Also, the Atari 2600 & 7800, unlike the Atari computers and 5200, do not have any fonts programmed into them.  Those have to be done by the programmer and put in their games.  So if you are designing a game for the 2600 or 7800 you might as well start making your own letters and numbers to be used in your game now. 

HOW TO USE A SPRITE GRID

Now that you have a sprite grid how do you use it?  This is the easy part.  Using your pencil...fill in a square somewhere in the grid.  That square you just filled in represents a pixel you would like "on" on the TV screen during the actual programming phase of your game project.  Each one of those squares on your graph paper inside that sprite grid represents a series of pixels that will be used by the hardware to put your sprite on the screen at some point.  If you want an airplane draw an airplane as best as you can.  It doesn't have to be perfect and you can add and erase any shaded square at any time.  This is why this part of a game's development is so important.  This is laying out all of the artwork that will make up the visuals of the game.  It's your game, your world, your baby, get it all out.  If you find yourself stuck take a break and come back to it later.  Ideas will hit you when you least expect it.

HOW TO MAKE ENVIRONMENTS

To do an environment, say like a side scrolling level like in Mario for example, you would put multiple 8x8 sprite grids together all the way across the paper from left to right.  Each 8x8 sprite grid will be a small puzzle piece used later to build up the environment.  You can use larger grid sizes later but for now let's keep it simple.  Use 8x8 sprite grids and I would probably limit yourself to using a total of eight sprite grids.  Are you starting to see a pattern here?

END OF PART 2

And that concludes the second part of this guide.  We actually went over a lot of stuff.  Hopefully that will be enough to get started.  It should be enough to get the game imagined inside your mind on paper and closer to reality.  Remember...it's your world.  Build it up as you see it and as you see fit.  Again, if something doesn't fit right away set it aside for future use.  And, above all, have fun!

I'm going to post this now and then I will come back later to add reference images.  I still need to make those 😉

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Attached are some PDF files that print graph paper pixel grids to draw on.  The difference is these are (more or less) scaled to the aspect ratio of NTSC color clocks.  These would be good for any system that outputs pixels based on the NTSC color clock timing.  (To a CRT, of course.)   That should cover Apple II (at least high res, not sure about low res), Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit computers, Amigas, and others.

The "11x13" in the file name is the aspect formula from an Amiga RKM on graphics.   This aspect is good for those modes that have square-but-not-quite-perfectly square pixels --  half a color clock wide, and a scan line tall.  Examples:  Amiga Low res (320x200 or 640x400[interlaced]) or the Atari 8-bit high res (320 pixels across), or any other Atari 8-bit graphics mode that appears square using the same multiple of color clocks and scan lines (i.e. 160x96, 80x48, ...)   Also,  Amiga sprite pixels fit this aspect, and Atari double-line resolution Player/Missile graphics pixels are this ratio.   And of course, text modes based on this pixel aspect can also be designed on this paper.

The "22x13" is the aspect for a single color clock that is one scan line tall.  This extrapolates to pixels that are equal  fractions, or equal multiples.  On the Amiga this is interlaced low res 320x400.  On the Atari this is "medium res"  for 160 pixels x 1 scan line tall.   ANTIC text modes 4, and 6 are based on single color clock pixels.  Also single-line resolution Player/Missile graphics are single color clock pixels.

 

Thanks,

Ken.

GraphPaperAspect11x13.pdf GraphPaperAspect22x13.pdf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, KenJennings said:

 

Attached are some PDF files that print graph paper pixel grids to draw on.  The difference is these are (more or less) scaled to the aspect ratio of NTSC color clocks.  These would be good for any system that outputs pixels based on the NTSC color clock timing.  (To a CRT, of course.)   That should cover Apple II (at least high res, not sure about low res), Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit computers, Amigas, and others.

The "11x13" in the file name is the aspect formula from an Amiga RKM on graphics.   This aspect is good for those modes that have square-but-not-quite-perfectly square pixels --  half a color clock wide, and a scan line tall.  Examples:  Amiga Low res (320x200 or 640x400[interlaced]) or the Atari 8-bit high res (320 pixels across), or any other Atari 8-bit graphics mode that appears square using the same multiple of color clocks and scan lines (i.e. 160x96, 80x48, ...)   Also,  Amiga sprite pixels fit this aspect, and Atari double-line resolution Player/Missile graphics pixels are this ratio.   And of course, text modes based on this pixel aspect can also be designed on this paper.

The "22x13" is the aspect for a single color clock that is one scan line tall.  This extrapolates to pixels that are equal  fractions, or equal multiples.  On the Amiga this is interlaced low res 320x400.  On the Atari this is "medium res"  for 160 pixels x 1 scan line tall.   ANTIC text modes 4, and 6 are based on single color clock pixels.  Also single-line resolution Player/Missile graphics are single color clock pixels.

 

Thanks,

Ken.

GraphPaperAspect11x13.pdf 10.04 kB · 1 download GraphPaperAspect22x13.pdf 9.99 kB · 1 download

Awesome stuff!  Thank you for this.

Edited by kamakazi20012
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...