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An open letter to all MUGEN coders (Read 3317 times)

Started by Graphicus, February 16, 2017, 10:56:29 pm
An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#1  February 16, 2017, 10:56:29 pm
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Hey everyone.

Just wanted to revive a discussion I started long ago now that I've had more time to go over things and gather real-world examples of the game development process. The original thread, which I haven't revived because it's 4 years old, can be found here: http://mugenguild.com/forum/topics/coding-art-assets-are-done-143822.0.html

In case you don't want to go back and read it, the gist of it is:
  • Spriting is hard and time consuming.
  • Having to throw away a sprite/animation that you've spent hours working on because it just doesn't work with your gameplay is heart-breaking.
  • Wish I could just sketch out a sprite sheet super quick to see if the gameplay works/how many frames each move needs/is fun before having to work on the final version with all the minute details, especially if it's an original character whose gameplay I'm still designing as I draw the sprites.
The answers were:
  • Having to re-do an SFF is a pain in the ass. Don't want to waste time making one that I'm going to have to throw away later.
  • I'll probably have to re-do all the CLSNs again if the final sprites don't match the sketched ones exactly.
These are all valid points. I'm not in any way, shape or form trivializing the effort that goes into completing any of the tasks mentioned. It simply might be (and probably is) a much bigger effort to replace things in MUGEN than it should. What I've noticed, however, is that this is the way game development seems to work, regardless of these annoyances. Here are some examples:


I recommend watching the whole thing if you're designing/spriting a character. For a direct example of what I've discussed so far, start at 9:30.

Here's a lost game for the Neo-Geo that was never finished that someone discovered in a test board. They've shown example videos and, as you can clearly see, many frames of animation are already implemented while still in a draft state:



I know there are some crazy talented people that can give you final sprites from the start and have all of the gameplay already pre-designed in their head and barely need to replace anything later. It's not something that's going to happen often, though.

Here's my scenario: Even though my computer is broken right now, I'm still working on Pegasus Seiya on paper. I must have redrawn his basic attacks 15 times over by now. I've never designed a fighting game character. I have no idea whether an attack will be balanced or not. I can make combos look good, sure, but I have no idea how to tell if they're truly going to be functional, gameplay-wise, down the line. It would really help me A LOT, if I could just sketch something out (not a stick figure, but a semi-final looking one) and have it implemented as-is, just to see if it's a bad idea, or if the timing is wrong, or if it needs more/less frames of animation to work, or if it's broken.

I also wouldn't mind helping coders who don't have a spriter but have really great ideas do their characters in sketch form, just so they can at least get SOME playable version of how their dream project would look/play. This is not I've brought up just because I want help with MY project. I'm talking about what I genuinely believe would streamline the development process to be more efficient for everyone, coders included. As a coder, you'd to end up having to scrap part of your work in an SFF anyway if one of the animations you've been sent doesn't work, pretty as it may look.

Sorry for the wall of text. I hope some of you will take the time to give this a read and let me know what you think.  ^_^
Last Edit: February 17, 2017, 05:58:52 am by Graphicus
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#2  February 16, 2017, 11:18:37 pm
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I kinda agree with ya... I want to make a character myself from scratch (Peridot), but as a person with very little spriting experience (just started like a few months ago) I wasn't sure how I would go about doing it... I thought about just doing rough drafts and coding the char full, and test them out with other people (online and offline) while I finish them. So, in a sense, I guess it's similar to what you said (I think...). Even when I think at times that I will never get to make her even when I have her move set, gameplay, and even sprite references to what the moves would look like, I still want to SOMEHOW make it (and not a shit job, like a decent character). I'm really not sure if I'm still on topic, but yes, I feel the same way.

Also, I saw that SG vid a few times, nice presentation.
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#3  February 17, 2017, 05:14:35 pm
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I thought about just doing rough drafts and coding the char full, and test them out with other people (online and offline) while I finish them. So, in a sense, I guess it's similar to what you said (I think...).

That's EXACTLY what I'm saying :)

I'd love to hear more peoples' opinion on this subject, even if it's just to bash me.

Even when I think at times that I will never get to make her even when I have her move set, gameplay, and even sprite references to what the moves would look like, I still want to SOMEHOW make it (and not a shit job, like a decent character). I'm really not sure if I'm still on topic, but yes, I feel the same way.

If a character is well coded and fun to play as, having its sprites in a incomplete state is NOT going to change that (as long as the incomplete sprites are functional, of course). I still argue that it would probably be the most effective way to get a spriter on board with your project. I've had people share WIP characters using placeholder sprites with me and even though the characters were incomplete, they were a ton of fun to play with. Having so much fun with the char and feeling disappointed when the sprites would change to something random mid-move was a great motivator to get me to want to help with the development. It sort of made me feel like "This thing is great! It DESERVES to be completed".

That's the main difference between someone saying "Hey, I have this AWESOME idea. I need a spritesheet before I'll get started" and "Hey, I have this AWESOME character. Let's make it look pretty!".
Last Edit: February 17, 2017, 05:33:50 pm by Graphicus
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#4  February 17, 2017, 05:24:00 pm
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There was a guy who released a HnK character like that some years ago. Most animations were just outlines and flat colors. I wonder if he actually finished it.
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#5  February 17, 2017, 05:46:28 pm
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Did that with ahrimanes in 2008 or so.

ahrimanes uses "the blob" method, which is the same that styleos uses (try to follow the yatargarasu dev/blog for more info on that).
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#6  February 17, 2017, 09:39:37 pm
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There was a guy who released a HnK character like that some years ago. Most animations were just outlines and flat colors. I wonder if he actually finished it.

Fixxxer did finish the character (Shu of the Benevolent Star).
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#7  February 17, 2017, 10:56:05 pm
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I've worked with incomplete frames before to check move behaviors, no problems there. I just don't like releasing the thing until all the frames are done.

Funny you mention Skullgirls since that series has a bunch of unused frames/animations (ie: Samson ripping Filia's shirt open in a tantrum, Peacock drawing a tunnel and a train coming out of it). They still have the same problems as spriters here, but that's just the nature of the thing. Like when I was working on BHM, there are some animations that sound okay on paper but in gameplay severely break him. Of course as a coder, if you're resourceful enough, you can make subtle changes to the timings/hitboxes to make the move more fair, but sometimes you just gotta throw something out.
Last Edit: February 17, 2017, 11:00:55 pm by Jango
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#8  February 17, 2017, 11:07:46 pm
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This was a great video to watch, and had me reconsider a few of my animations.  Particularly the details regarding "anticipation" - which really makes a huge difference,

Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#9  February 18, 2017, 01:08:20 am
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What you want to achieve is pretty easy. The issue would be purely the cleanliness of the sprites. See if you just want to know what it looks like in game and don't give 2 shits about the palette or transparency, shoving in a cropped sprite and halfassing the alignment (the feet are basically in the same spot) you are looking at maybe 5 minutes work to get it from images on PC to playable in mugen. The big bit is you have to not care about a bunch of stuff because you are testing an animation, not quality of sprite or even alignment of sprite. You know WHEN the hitbox will happen, and you know about where it will go, changes in size for most are not an issue and the boxes are an abstract as well, so you don't need them to be final, just approximate.

Is 5 minutes too much? I don't know, i do frankenspriting with tweaks when i need it, spriting as a whole bores the living fuck out of me. But chucking a couple sprites into an sff is pretty quick if you don't bother about palette or transparency. If you then export what you added as a file you can chop and change the images in the folder and then reimport the sff with the new images in place, so it becomes an image replacement job rather than messing with the sff itself each time.


In M.U.G.E.N there is no magic button

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it's not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.

ink

Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#10  February 18, 2017, 05:05:23 am
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This is how I always wanted to work! But not coding myself makes this a big hurdle.

This would be really great if Fighter Factory had a sprite editing set up similar to photoshop, where you could directly edit animations and them already be indexed. So you could do all the work right there, start to finish.

Maybe something like that will come out eventually.
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
New #11  February 18, 2017, 09:40:34 pm
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...Of course as a coder, if you're resourceful enough, you can make subtle changes to the timings/hitboxes to make the move more fair, but sometimes you just gotta throw something out.

Of course. I don't expect to have zero waste by following this method. I just think it'll greatly reduce wasted effort on both sides. It's not just about balancing, either. There's also the posibility of having a sprite artist giving you moves that simply DON'T work together and expecting you to figure out ways to make them comboable while still looking good, or expecting a move to behave in a way that simply doesn't make sense (like expecting a move that hits low to behave as an anti-air, to put an extreme example).

I've worked with incomplete frames before to check move behaviors, no problems there. I just don't like releasing the thing until all the frames are done.

It's different if you're the coder and already know exactly what you need the move to do and how many frames it has. If you're the artist, then it's harder to know what the requirements are until they're actually implemented and you see that something works/doesn't work ;)

...

That's why I specifically said that even the draft sprites have to be functional. I believe the examples shown in the videos I posted meet those requirements, at least. If the spriter can't even be bothered to do the minimum that is expected of him to produce something workable, then you have my full blessing to tell him to shove it where the sun don't shine. Heck, if anything, the spriter should be the one to add reference lines for alignment in all sprites so you don't have to make those guesses yourself (like an upside down T, where the horizontal line is floor-level and you simply align the shape in all sprites. If you DO want to change the alignment in one sprite or another, then it's your own choice later).
Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 07:57:07 pm by Graphicus
Re: An open letter to all MUGEN coders
#12  February 22, 2017, 03:27:02 am
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This was a great video to watch, and had me reconsider a few of my animations.  Particularly the details regarding "anticipation" - which really makes a huge difference,

My thoughts pretty much exactly.