Lord Generic Productions

A Crash Course in Game Design and Production
  Week 4 - Basics of Computer Art and Art Specification

Welcome back! This is the fourth installment in "A Crash Course in Game Design and Production. Like last time, this lesson is in multiple parts. In PART ONE, we'll discuss computer graphics in general, and what we need to know before we can talk about ART. In PART TWO We'll discuss the ART Specification, what it is and what we need to put in it. In PART THREE we will discuss tile-based graphic screens and specifically how we're going to approach maze creation for our course project, as well as how to draw the tiles. In PART FOUR will write the fourth section of the Design Spec for our Course Project, the Art Specification.

Part 2 - The Art Specification

Our Screen Design and User Interface Specification describes in detail what each screen and control of our game will look like and what will happen on the screen. The Art Specification details what graphic images and animations we need to MAKE each screen look and work as described. Think of it as a PARTS LIST for your game. The SD&UI Spec is like the picture on the side of the box.You see what it's supposed to look like when you get done and the Art Spec is what we need to build it.

Anatomy of The Art Specification

I guess you're ready for another anatomy.

The first part of the Art Spec is called the Screen and Image Parameters. This is a list of art guidelines your artist needs to follow to make his art work with your screens. In this section you MUST HAVE:

Video Mode the GAME WILL BE RUNNING IN. 320x200x256, 640x480x16 or whatever.

Normal game screen size(s). Generally this is the same as the video mode, but it doesn't have to be. In JetFighter III for example, the video mode was 640x480, but they wanted all of our animation sequences letterboxed in 320x160.

Aspect Ratio. Generally this is the same as the video mode closest to the image size, but sometimes it isn't. For the above mentioned animation sequences, you would usually use an aspect ratio of .82 for 320x200 mode, but since they decided to double the pixels and play the animations in 640x480 mode they needed to have an aspect ratio of 1. If you draw all your art using the video mode the game will be in you will have no trouble with this usually.

Color Palette allocation. How will you split up the 256 colors you have to work with? Are some colors reserved for certain use and unavailable for any other? Say you have a windowing user interface with pull down menus and stuff like that. You want to set aside the interface colors so you don't screw them up if you need to change palettes or colors in your game. For OidZone, I set aside 128 colors for the background (so I could change it at will without having to remap all my sprites), 10 colors for my color cycling logo and explosions, 64 colors for my asteroids and 54 colors for my ship. Also list how many Color Palettes you need (if you want to change them during the game) and common colors between them.
Masking color. What color position is it in the Color Palette, and what color to make it. The COLOR is VERY IMPORTANT. If you choose to make it bright red (see part one on Masking) Write down the exact RGB (RED GREEN BLUE) values for this color (64,0,0 or 255,0,0 in this case depending on your art program) and use these exact values for EVERY IMAGE. If you have to remap your color palettes, the red in some images may not remap to the right RED in your masking position and the art won't mask correctly (at all)

Naming Convention. This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!! You need to have some standard filename system for your game art, as well as for any other data files, so you know what is what. Take some time and plan out your filenames.

The second part of the Art Spec is Background Art. Remember last time I made two categories for Game Art, Backgrounds and Sprites? Backgrounds are anything that doesn't move AND is NOT drawn on top of something else during the game. If it moves or if it appears in front of something else it's considered a Sprite, because it needs to be Masked with whatever else is drawn on the screen.

For the Background Art Section, you need to go through every page of the Screen Design Spec and detail all the background pieces. For each of these you MUST put in the following:

The third and fourth sections of the Art Spec detail Sprites. Sprites can be split into two categories as well, Characters and Foreground Objects. A Character is anything that moves and\or animates on screen, like Snacky or the Ghosts. A foreground object is anything that DOESN'T MOVE (much) that is drawn ON TOP of EVERYTHING ELSE. Characters can move BEHIND Foreground objects or run into them. In OidZone, for instance, asteroids move behind many of my game messages (prepare to enter, game over, title image, etc.) The asteroids are Characters, and the messages are Foreground Objects.

Part three is Characters. Again you need to go through every page of the Screen description and write down EVERYTHING YOU FIND ABOUT EACH CHARACTER. You must include:

Part four is Foreground Objects. For our Course Project, Foreground objects
include the Animated Logo in the title sequence, Get Ready! image, Game Over Image, and animated logo in the FeedBack Window.

Part five is the last part, this is FONT(S) You spell out the game's font requirements here. Some games do not require ANY fonts at all, they have word sprites for whatever messages they need, or use the normal bios print routine. (which sucks in 320x200)

By the end of the Art Specification, you should now every piece of art you need for the game. Make sure you go back through the Screen Design Spec and check that everything is accounted for. When the Art Spec is finished, you can give a copy to your art staff and they can draw while you go on to the Sound and Music Specification. See you next week.

If you haven't yet downloaded my version of our course project, Snack Attack!, do it now, and play it a million times to get an idea for the game.

End of Week 4 - Basics of Computer Art and Art Specification
Part 2 - The Art Specification.

If you have any questions for group discussion or have any other questions, comments or suggestions, email them to me to Pastor@BeRighteous.com

Mail monetary donations large or small to
 Lord Generic Productions 1218 Karen Ave Santa Ana, Ca 92704
  A Crash Course in Game Design and Production - Euphoria Edition
(C) Copyright 1996,2001 Lord Generic Productions - All Rights Reserved