Sketching: A part of game dev planning

Had a little bit of free time last weekend so I got to spend an hour or so deleting old and unwanted files from the hard drive. I noticed a folder named “Scanned Sketches” while I was skimming through the files and checked it out. As it turned out, it was obviously sketch works (duh). Most of them are for my clients and personal projects and a few are just for practice.

So why do I spend a lot of time sketching anyway? Since I've started to learn how to draw and until now that I emerged myself into game development I love sketching. I've been with other designers and illustrators in the past and I always find it extremely interesting everytime I see them doing a lot of scribbles before diving into the final form. I think sketching is an art of its own.

When I said sketching you probably thought on paper. You are right. Before I got my own computer and wacom tablet of course I use the traditional pen and paper combo. But even so, most of the time I feel more 'creative' when holding a pencil than a tablet or mouse. Most of you artists will get it. Not to mention it still is a hell lot faster to sketch multiple ideas on paper than in the computer. So how does sketching help you?

You may call sketching some sort of visual planning or brainstorming. Basically, concepts and more concepts, until you reach the final product. Concept development becomes faster through sketching. You can generate a bunch of ideas within a short period of time and best part is, you can clearly evaluate and see which of those ideas you tossed in is worth to progress and what to eliminate. So basically, it's a timesaver!

A poorly scanned masterpiece. Yay!

A line or a shape starts from a dot. Some of the best ideas start from a sketch. Let's say you have clients and they want your opinion of a character suitable to the environment that they want. Simple. Sketch three to five character designs so you can give them your vision of what you think may be best. You can use this to communicate with other people about your design ideas.

Sketching gives you freedom to illustrate what's on your mind. It's for everybody. It is a simple weapon but brings plenty of things to the table. And hey, it's fun!


Past works: Freelancing start

So some time ago I worked for clients who's into the mobile game business. Most of them are reskins stuff right by the time flappy bird became a hit. I'm not really a fan of it but it's time for me to learn about the world of freelancing. I remember it was also around the time when game developers just change the theme and appearance of popular games but the gameplay remains the same started to become a trend. My clients wanted to improve the graphics or maybe, you know, just going for a fresh look overall. They have programmers working with me and I'm stuck with the drawing board. These were some illustrations I did in a short span of time. I believe some of these games were pulled out by my previous client lately from Google Play and iTunes. Maybe they aren't working well enough in terms of downloads or revenue? Just my guess, but most likely. 

Here's one of 'em. Your usual action platformer with a viking-ish character as the main player set in a Norse mythology theme. You can collect coins to buy items and unlock other characters as you go along. The characters, environment, and user interface elements were all created using Adobe Illustrator with a little bit of editing in photoshop. I do my sketches in AI as well.

Main menu screen

Grab all the coins!
Ever heard of the popular infinite jumping game Doodle Jump? Had the chance to create graphics for that same gameplay as well. This however with robots as your hero/heroine trying to endlessly jump as high as you can on platforms while avoiding obstacles and getting power ups without falling.

Where are those power-ups when you need one!

Well this one is a reskin from the viking platformer example above. Nothing much, just instead of Norse myth, it's zombie-themed this time. Seriously, you're not a true-blue graphic designer without a zombie investment in your arsenal right? Zombie apocalypse games are so prevalent nowadays they keep popping out of nowhere so why not join the bandwagon at least once. The characters wound up looking a bit too funny but they had a good feel. 


That's all for now! I just wanna put it out there. Personally there are a lot of things to improve on. These were all made within a short time when I was doing freelancer jobs. Hope these would help you with some ideas. More updates soon!


A look back at unfinished projects

Long ago when I first had the determination to seek game development, we gathered together with my friends one time to think of an art concept for our supposedly “first game” to make for android and maybe iOS further on. It's our first step to game development. Apparently it did not go the way we wanted to. For whatever reason, that first project did not come to life. It's like it suddenly was left in the dust. I guess it's normal for projects especially if you're starting out. Everyone has a story of unfinished projects to tell.


One of our first concepts is about a side-scrolling shooter game that for us sounds totally awesome. Steampunk-themed, arcade style shooter with a Zeppelin as the main ship or player. Kind of like the style of Progear and Gradius. You can unlock other ships as you progress in the game and each have their own unique abilities while you course through many levels and battle challenging bosses. You can see some of the sketches above.

Great. That was the plan. I think it's worth checking out why it did not continue. Coming from our own experiences, I could tackle a few points on which I think we hit a bump and later realized the project just passed us. 

We didn't have enough feedback. Since it's our first idea, we just discussed it among ourselves. We never got to let other people give us opinions and suggestions or criticisms. You can have your friends check it out, but keep in mind that most of the time they give you positive feedback. A person you may not know could be the one giving you honest critic on what the game is lacking. 

Lots of cool ideas always come. But among those, choose what you and your team can do best at the moment. Making an RPG as your first project could be amazing but do you have the time and resources? If you can do with infinite running or jumping games or puzzles quickly go with it. Learn to walk before you run as they say. 

Prototype! This is where your ideas start to become visible. Prototypes don't often go perfect at first build, that's why it's called a prototype – a sample. This could be your backbone, as you can figure out instantly what seems falling short or excellent. Keep building prototypes and you can adjust from there. Use placeholders for your assets and avoid over analyzing so you won't end up inserting random ideas as you go along and eventually change the entire look and gameplay you had in mind from the start.

Choose a game engine you are comfortable with, not because it's popular or popular games are made with it. It's not bad to try different engines and compare, but stick to what's best you are familiar with for now. We've tried a number of free game engines and it just turned out we got tired of it and ended up failing the project.

Lastly, don't throw those old projects. You can always come back on it and finish it when the time comes!

Naturally I feel down for not getting anything done. But these unfinished projects help me learn a few things. It helped me become capable of finishing other projects. Well, it's all part of a learning experience.


FIVE TIPS: How not to forget your precious ideas!

This SPECIAL TIPS is brought to us by: GNOMICSTRIP, let's be naked about it!

1. Dear friends, be mindful that a notepad and a pen/pencil or any piece of paper are handy tools. Get one of those pocket sized notepads and bring it with you all the time.

2. Put your gadgets into good use, it's always best to have access on your notes wherever you are. Find apps and safe storage online that you can access through different devices.

3. Leave yourself a message like, "Hey dummy, in case you forget this part here is your million dollar idea." Don't worry nobody will think you are crazy as you will be keeping your notes for the time being.

4. In some cases when you don't have a clear view of your idea, just "take note of it" and look at it from different perspectives. We do get trapped by our own thinking. If still unsure you can review it at a later time or ask people for an alternative point of view.

5. Use colored pens or any marker to outline your BEST ideas! Remember highlighting those pointers you have in high school while copying notes? Also, do not be afraid to rub out what you think is not needed. Not all of our ideas will be converted to art. REMEMBERRRR...always trust your gut feeling.

Since we so love our readers, here is an EXTRA TIP --- READ YOUR NOTES DAILY! It will serve as good practice before putting those ideas to work. Let's share the good news!

That's it goodluck! For more awesome GNOMICSTRIP and game dev updates! Follow us @geekygnomegames.