8-Bit Sprite-Sheet Insights with Dojo Storm

Hello once again, fellow game artists!  It's been a ridiculously busy month since our IndieGoGo campaign ended (135% success!!) and I've had absolutely zero time to dedicate to 3D work.  The closer we get to our September release for "Super Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Dojo Storm: Championship Edition", the more dedication needs to be given to the project.  So unfortunately there will be no 3D modeling tutorial this month.  However, I DO want to share some insights with you that I've learned over the course of the last ten months from my first-ever 2D Sprite project.  That's right, Dojo Storm has honestly been my FIRST time even touching sprite work, as I've been focusing on 3D modeling and texturing over the past three years.  So those of you already deeply familiar with sprite art will likely also be familiar with some of these lessons I've learned.

Disclaimer:  AGAIN, I use all freeware for my work.  So in the case of Dojo Storm's 2D sprite art, that means I'm using GIMP.

0.  A still from one of the many areas of Dojo Storm:

1.  We're hearkening back to the 'days of old' with Dojo Storm, and so that means the extremely low-pixel 8-bit sprites reminiscent of handhelds and game systems of the late-80's/early-90's.  For Dojo Storm, that means "16x16" pixel sizes for each tile.  To make this process infinitely easier to work with, I've turned on the "Show Grid" option under "View":

2.  GIMP gives us a default grid that's far too large for our modestly-sized tiles.  So let's tone them down to 16x16:

NOTE here how the grid on your canvas changes in real-time:

3.  Over the course of several months I proceeded to draw all of my tiles within this space, with 16 columns across, and unlimited rows going down.  Nicholas developed his map-reading algorithm to work within those confines.  As time went on, I made sure to not only draw my tiles in tight groups (grass section, trees section, water section, etc.), but to also leave one or two additional empty tiles for future sprites that I hadn't yet thought of.  I coincided my tile work with Michael's level design, as well, and so the sprite sheet you see in this image is heavily evolved from its original layout, but my points still stand:

4.  For some of these images I have two "borders" around their central object.  Here I have a blank grey border for one tree, and a fuzzy "leafy" border for the identical tree above it.  This gives us more dynamism and diversity when we're polishing up our levels:

5.  The same goes for this mailbox sprite.  Countless other tiles are made this way for a larger realm of diversity in our levels:

6.  My basic "grass" tiles are used the most often across all levels, and so I made sure to give them a large unique set all their own:

7.  For other ground tiles, I made inverted versions of alternating "dirt/grass" and "grass/dirt".  I had to be very careful to make sure they could be fitted together in all conceivable ways with no obvious disconnection.  That is to say, they are seamless with one another no matter which tiles of these sets you put together:

8.  For building exteriors, I made sure to be especially careful with their borders, as well as add decent shading to each type (one is aluminum siding, the other is brick).  Alongside each distinct wall type you can clearly see their matching window types.  Many of these are identical to their opposing wall types' windows, to allow Michael (our level designer) more dynamic freedom:

9.  I do precisely the same thing with these buildings' rooftops.  Each of these rooftops are unique, and interchangeable with all building pieces:

10.  On to building interiors, I created 15 different floor tiles for Michael to choose from when he's fashioning interior levels.  Many of these can also be used in exterior shots to act as wood walkways or stylized concrete:

11.  Back out to the exterior, I had to design *multiple* billboards for actual Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu companies actively participating in the Dojo Storm experience.  I still have many more to do, so these are merely the first few (Polaris and Scramble are here, as well as a few fictional billboards I threw in for character):

12:  I also designed multiple fictional billboards to add more personality to the game world:

There are many, many more (over 600 16x16 tiles total so far, with a few hundred more I still have yet to complete) but this is just a taste of what I've gone through so far.  With that said, it's time for me to get back to work, but I will leave you with a few more shots of actual in-game levels.

Have a great week, everyone, and keep gaming!!

~Anthony