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InDee Toons: Customizable Animated Game Characters

  • Hey guys,

    I am currently running a Kickstarter for a library of animated game characters that can easily be integrated into Construct 2.

    The project's name is "InDee Toons" (easy to find) and the characters were animated with the skeletal animation tool Spine.

    I will provide 50 animated characters as precompiled sprites, the skeleton and animation data for Spine and the body parts as images.

    To create unique characters, you can combine the parts of different toons and adjust their size and color to your needs.

    On top of that, every toon has a (different) custom head generator that allows you to create individual faces.

  • Looks great. Would be awesome if the animations were spriter but since construct 2 has a sprinter plugin but I guess we could use the images to make our own animations

  • Thank you.

    The animation frames are actually pre-rendered images, so you don't even need a plugin.

  • I love the idea, but the characters seem to only be suitable for an undead game. Also, prerendered images are a bit bad for that style: I bet people would rather have you break them into components to use with 2D animation packages, instead of having to rely on your own animations.

    For instance what if I want the girl holding the axe while wearing the eyepatch?

  • Yes, so far there are a lot of zombies and "monstery" looking characters. But there are still about 20 characters to be made, and the backers are supposed to decide what kind of toons they want me to add to the stock.

    Breaking the animations into components is not possible, as they are different in size and animations, so I cannot provide them as layers.

    If we want the girl to hold the axe, the position and rotation would have to be changed, as she is smaller than him.

    The only solution for really customizable characters I can think of so far would be an ordering service where you can choose the features of the toon.

    If anybody comes up with a better solution to create customized characters out of a selection of premade body parts on your own, please let me know.

  • If anybody comes up with a better solution to create customized characters out of a selection of premade body parts on your own, please let me know.

    ...Spriter? Spine?

    How were you making animations before?

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  • Sure, providing the raw skeleton and animation data and body parts would be a solution.

    However that would limit the usage of the characters to the people owning such a tool. And it would be like giving out the source code of a program.

    Before using Spine, I used a very old tool named "skeleton".

  • However that would limit the usage of the characters to the people owning such a tool.

    Provide the files in a variety of formats, and also precompiled sprites for those who don't have the tools.

    And it would be like giving out the source code of a program.

    And? There are prefab animations included with most packages. The "meat" of your kickstarter are the characters, not the animations.

    If people could simply replicate the characters if you gave them the source files, they wouldn't be needing you in the first place.

    As an analogue, the source code for Angry Birds is worthless, every two-bit programmer knows how to code something like that.

  • Okay, I agree with you and I thank you for your feedback.

    However there are some things to consider:

    As the characters differ in size, bone length and other things, people would have to adjust the parts first to match the animations.

    Let's take the example of the wizard girl holding the axe instead of the staff, the glow effect of the axe would have to be repositioned onto the axe, as the axe is a lot shorter.

    What would a character pack consist of? Only the precompiled sprites together with the source files of the skeleton and the animations? So you would have to purchase another character that wears an eyepatch if you want your toon to wear one?

    Or would a complete character consist of all possible parts applicable to him, already resized and worked into the source data?

    (Of course the would have to be various different attack animations for each toon, as you cannot stab with an axe, compared to a dagger,...)

    I really love the idea of heavily customizable characters, I just don't see how this could be done for high-res sprites of that kind.

    *Edit:

    I discovered a kickstarter project named "Indie Graphics Builder #2":

    The characters can only be composed of different parts because they have all the same basic doll with the same shapes and sizes.

  • I don't know about Spine, but Spriter had plans for making animations reusable.

    Also an animation in Spriter can have many different animations, as the animations are just data.

    Check out Brashmonkey.com they are already doing what you are trying.

  • I know Spriter, I tested both Spriter and Spine, and found Spine a lot better.

    Spine has the option to attach different images to a bone (attachments) and you can also create different sets of attachments (skins) and use them with the same animation.

    Anyway, to use this, the skeletons have to be very similar.

  • Okay, I agree with you and I thank you for your feedback.

    However there are some things to consider:

    As the characters differ in size, bone length and other things, people would have to adjust the parts first to match the animations.

    Most animation packages already offer said customization easily.

    Let's take the example of the wizard girl holding the axe instead of the staff, the glow effect of the axe would have to be repositioned onto the axe, as the axe is a lot shorter.

    You can pin the effect to the axe. In fact, most effects can be done better with OpenGL/DirectX directly in the game engine instead of baked animations, so pinning the effect becomes even more desirable than precompiling.

    What would a character pack consist of? Only the precompiled sprites together with the source files of the skeleton and the animations? So you would have to purchase another character that wears an eyepatch if you want your toon to wear one? Or would a complete character consist of all possible parts applicable to him, already resized and worked into the source data?

    The character pack would consist of the skeleton, animations and parts in the form of spriter/spine source files, as well as precompiled sprites, each on a folder, in PNG format.

    If you want to mix and match characters, you have no choice but to use spriter/spine source files and resize/position them yourself. This shouldn't be hard for a game developer - programmers' difficulty lies in actually drawing the parts in the first place. Of course you'll need to put some effort into making sure parts are universally cross-compatible (ex: all hats should fit all characters).

    (Of course the would have to be various different attack animations for each toon, as you cannot stab with an axe, compared to a dagger,...)

    I discovered a kickstarter project named "Indie Graphics Builder #2":

    The characters can only be composed of different parts because they have all the same basic doll with the same shapes and sizes.

    There's nothing stopping you from using the same "doll" in your project as well - in the form of a base sekeleton. This way you can include animations for stabbing and swinging to the basic skeleton and apply said animation to all models.

    If you want bigger and smaller characters you can do that too, so long as you keep the proportions the same. Some animation packages are smart enough to apply animations to skeletons with different limb sizes, you should probably look into that.

    (Also I'm a backer on the kickstarter you mentioned. He's missing exactly what you're offering).

    I really love the idea of heavily customizable characters, I just don't see how this could be done for high-res sprites of that kind.

    I don't see how resolution is an issue.

  • So with all that feedback taken into account, my new concept would be this:

    You choose a pirate character, you get a premade toon in form of pre-compiled sprite packs.

    In addition to that, you get the spine skeleton file, including different pirate-themed parts like 3 different hats, an optional hook to replace the hand with and let's say two weapons.

    The spine file with the bones being the same for all characters, contains a lot of animations like different attack animations for all kinds of weapons you can think of.

    On top of that, you get a pirate head generator, which is an additional spine file, allowing you to create a custom head from various different hair styles, eyes, and so on.

    This individual head can then be exported and be used as the head of your character.

    If you want the pirate to hold an axe instead of a sabre, you can get a fantasy character that is made the same way, uses the same skeleton and provides compatible parts, so you can replace the sabre with the axe (and you would have to replace the glow effect sprites, too).

    How do you like that?

    I have been working on a custom head generator for female faces.

    In this video, you can see how the customization opportunities are almost endless.

    youtu.be/a2izozm_C_Q

    He's missing exactly what you're offering

    What exactly do you mean?

    I don't see how resolution is an issue.

    My tests for the sprites of a precompiled epic toon including all stretch goals except of the mounts (lighting layers and normal maps) resulted in a file size of around 50MBs for one character. Of course compressed. But with this new concept, there shouldn't be a huge increase.

  • So with all that feedback taken into account, my new concept would be this:

    ...snip...

    How do you like that?

    ...snip...

    I have been working on a custom head generator for female faces.

    Sounds exactly right

    Here are some tips:

    • Make sure to precompile *some* character+weapon+animations (for those that don't have spriter/spine and/or don't have an engine capable of animating skeletons) - doesn't matter really if the final file size ends up being 2 Gb.
    • Try to make a spriter version as well or you're severely limiting your target audience

    > He's missing exactly what you're offering

    >

    What exactly do you mean?

    He doesn't have any animated characters for a platformer/sidescroller/fighting game, even though he has platforms and backgrounds for those kinds of games. His animated charaters are for a top-down RPG.

    Now, that being said, keep in mind I'm not the target audience for your project, since I'm not interested ATM in an undead type game (maybe if you asked me a few years ago . Now I'm more interested in futuristic tile-based games). I advise you to look around at the kinds of games the community as a whole likes to make and work on them. The Zombies+variations (lich, undead sheriff, etc) are cool, but they are enough I think. You probably need a knight, an archer, orcs , ninjas, normal pirates, vampires - not to mention normal people with normal clothes. Those would see a lot more use than, say, this guy.

    Some other misc tips:

    • The sorceress/witch looks a bit too much like a vampire (was that intentional?)
    • Steam can distribute your package, even though you're not a software or a game (that kickstarter you linked to will be on steam)
    • If you ask for suggestion in gamedev forums, you'll probably get more publicity than saying "here's my kickstarter back pls" (dramatized for effect). Go for programmer-heavy forums, artists are not your costumers.
    • Create accounts and participate in the forums (even if only on the open-topic section) a bit before advertising, this should make moderators less wary of you. You may even get a pass (if you ask first) at posting to the more public parts of the forum.
    • Might make sense to split into precompiled per-character packages and sell them separately on sites such as graphicriver
    • Since you're using spriter/spine, it makes more sense to focus on faces/clothes/armor/decorations. You may be able to reuse the same body for different monsters.
  • Wow, that is a ton of wonderful feedback, thanks so much.

    doesn't matter really if the final file size ends up being 2 Gb.

    Okay, seems like I have to upgrade to a paid dropbox account

    Try to make a spriter version as well or you're severely limiting your target audience

    I can only think of this as a stretch goal with delayed delivery on the spriter files, as it would take a lot of time for me to learn to use spriter professionally.

    Now, that being said, keep in mind I'm not the target audience for your project, since I'm not interested ATM in an undead type game

    I know my samples are too much focused on zombies and the like, although almost half of the 50 planned characters are still open to the backers' needs.

    The sorceress/witch looks a bit too much like a vampire (was that intentional?)

    Yes, I wanted her to be a bit less cute than gnomes are usually depicted, by giving her a twist with those sharp teeth and dark eye sockets.

    Steam can distribute your package, even though you're not a software or a game (that kickstarter you linked to will be on steam)

    I'm going to take a closer look at Greenlight again, I thought you could only provide games and software there. I'm also not sure if they distribute a lot of different small packages of a project separately (but they should, like they do with DLC for games).

    If you ask for suggestion in gamedev forums, you'll probably get more publicity

    I started promoting the project way too late, as I was always afraid of theft of the idea (I know you shouldn't be).

    Selling packages via graphicriver and similar sites is a thing I will look into when everything is published.

    Since you're using spriter/spine, it makes more sense to focus on faces/clothes/armor/decorations. You may be able to reuse the same body for different monsters.

    Exactly this is what I'm planning to do. The body can actually be the same for all toons, as you can customize it in color and proportions anyway when working with the Spine files.

    And this is what allows for mixing and matching of the parts.

    *edit:

    Another question:

    When I provide the skeletons and animations and all the parts and the head customizing feature, everybody can create a unique toon in a few minutes or seconds.

    Does anybody know about legal stuff? How could I prevent people from creating a lot of toons and selling them on graphicriver themselves?

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