Prototype-ready Art Assets for Game Programmers

Prototypes are tough for game programmers. If you have a competent artist involved on your project, your game might look way better than it is, which makes it easier to show off the potential of your designs, but it also sets expectations higher. Since most programmers haven’t honed their art skills, programmer art tends to look pretty lame, which makes your game look pretty lame, even if it isn’t. Still, you probably want your game looking its best if you want to attract not only customers but talent.

So where do you turn if you can’t afford an artist’s help yet and don’t want to spend the time plotting pixels yourself? Here’s a few options.

Dave Toulouse of Over00 offered up some free spaceships graphics for your prototypes. Originally made for Star Corsairs, Toulouse is offering them up for no charge for non-commercial use.

Dan Cook has offered lots of free game graphics in the past. There is a fairly complete futuristic RTS graphics set (Hard Vacuum), hand-drawn textures, a Zelda-ish RPG set, and more. So long as you credit Cook and don’t use the graphics in a clone of one of his games, you’re able to use these high-quality assets.

Chris Park released some free graphics for indie developers from an older version of AI War. Some of the art is Dan Cook’s (see? Free assets are great!), some revised and updated. Others are original.

OpenGameArt.org is interested in providing a resource for quality, freely available art for games. Since some of the licenses aren’t ideal for people who don’t want to release the source of their game, you should make sure that the art you do find is something you can in fact use.

Reiner Prokein offers Reiner’s Tilesets. Besides 2D tiles and sprites, you can find 3D models and textures, and sound effects.

Having ready-to-use, high-quality art is great for non-artist game developers. You can concentrate on your strengths instead of trying to struggle through a weakness. Plus, you can always pay someone to replace the art later when you have enough interest.

Do you have a favorite art resource not listed here? How do you make your prototypes look good?

Merry Christmas!

Since I’m driving six hours to visit family, a lack of snow makes for safer travels, but it sure didn’t feel like Christmas.

That is, until we had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Lots of family, seafood, movies, and poker made it feel like home. B-)

Before family arrived, I spent some time checking out the Ludum Dare 48-hour game development competition entries. There were over 891 entries this last time! Imagine the effort to judge all of those games in a matter of weeks!

I’m also a bit antsy. It feels worrying to me, but I need to take advantage of this rare break from work. Stop That Hero! might have had its alpha release in the last week, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

I hope you and yours are having an enjoyable holiday season!

Announcing the Stop That Hero! Alpha

“Bringing Evil Back.”

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m proud to announce the playable alpha release of the first major game for GBGames: “Stop That Hero!”, a deceptively simple strategy game that puts you in the role of the evil villain.

As your evil spreads and you conquer the various territories in the world, you’ll find that the locals aren’t terribly pleased and have found a few champions to defend them.

How cute.

Unleash your monstrous minions into battle against the heroes of good and champions of right! The do-gooders will be attempting to storm your castle and take back what they think is their land.

Stop those heroes, and keep the world safe from Good!

The 0.1.0 alpha of “Stop That Hero!” features:

  • Four evil minions to summon
  • Five different types of heroes to fight
  • Multiple structures to control such as towers and dragon nests
  • Five sample levels
  • Easy to learn game play
  • Quick play sessions, allowing you to finally fit “running an evil empire” into your busy schedule

Order the game for Windows and GNU/Linux at http://StopThatHero.com and play it today, plus as a customer you’ll get access to all new updates and features as they become available. You can also order the game as a gift for a friend so you both can try your hand at being evil.

Stop That Hero! Bringing evil back...
Stop That Hero! Bringing evil back...
Stop That Hero! Bringing evil back...

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the United States, it’s Thanksgiving, which is a great time to reflect on all of the opportunities we have as indie game developers.

Here’s a short video from my “As an Indie” series I made for today:

Personally, I am very thankful for everything I’ve learned in the last year and a half, for my supportive friends and family, for my “Stop That Hero!” pre-order customers, and to you, my readers.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Where Were You On September 11th, 2001?

10 years ago, I was up early finishing math homework at the desk in my dorm. It was due for that morning’s class, and I had procrastinated during the weekend. It was my junior year of college, and I didn’t know that classes would be canceled that day.

I had two roommates in an apartment-like dorm. The one I shared a bunk with was still asleep, but the one who was usually secluded in his room came out and told me to turn on the TV news.

I watched a building with smoke billowing out of it, and there was some speculation that a plane had accidentally flown into it. No one knew if it was an attack. Shortly after, I saw live reports of the second plane flying into the World Trade Center buildings, and it was clear that it was no accident.

Our neighbors across the hall knocked on the door, and we all watched the news in silence. Footage of the planes slamming into the buildings repeated, and news anchors provided what info they could, even though no one knew what was happening. Occasionally someone would say something, but we were otherwise numbed and unable to speak.

My other roommate appeared and asked what was going on since so many people were in our living room. I remember feeling a bit guilty that I didn’t think to go wake him up. He did a literal double-take when he saw the TV footage.

People were reported to be jumping out of the burning towers, which eventually fell as well. The Pentagon was attacked, and we heard the relatively good news that one plane crashed in a field instead of hitting its intended target. One neighbor said it looked like the fall of Rome, and I remember being bothered by the statement at the time but in a way I couldn’t put to words. It was all horrific, and the footage was on constant repeat.

I remember my mother called me, which was difficult since the phone lines were tied up. Everyone was calling everyone, it seemed. “Where are you?”

“I’m at school.”

“What are you doing there?!”

“Mom, I live here.”

Even people who live in the Chicagoland area sometimes think that all of Chicago is Downtown Chicago. Even though I was miles away from downtown, my mother probably thought I was hanging out near the Sears Tower, which I’m sure everyone thought would be a potential target.

I knew of only one person in New York, a prominent QBasic game reviewer, and I was relieved to find out he was safe.

The school set up some TVs in the cafeteria, and I spent part of the day with friends there. Eventually I realized that I was getting fatigued by the news on repeat. It was a lot to process and take in. There was so much death and destruction, and while I was aware that people might be used to such attacks in some places in the world, it was the first time I can remember seeing such an attack so close to home.

I recall the face of Osama bin Laden appearing on TV, with people speculating about his involvement, and I remember thinking that we don’t know who did it, and yet now everyone in America who looks remotely Middle Eastern will be suspected of being a terrorist. I was reminded of “The Siege,” a movie starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, and Annette Bening. There is a scene shortly after a terrorist attack with talk radio personalities arguing that we should deport all Arabs, since we “know” they’re the ones responsible. Everyone was afraid of everyone, and I worried it was going to happen in real life.

One Muslim friend of mine reported being on a crowded El that week and wondering why no one would take the seat next to her, until she realized it was because everyone was afraid of her. If you knew her, you’d realize how laughably absurd it is to be afraid to sit next to her, and yet that was the climate of fear the country was in.

I remember going to class downtown the next day, and while waiting for the elevator, a friend asked me if I was nervous. I said I wasn’t, because I figured the day after an attack is probably the safest time to be anywhere. In the days that followed, though, I was incredibly aware of the fact that the Sears Tower was mere blocks away, and I couldn’t help but imagine how terrible it would be to stand where I was and witness it burn and fall.

There was a lot of ugliness on September 11th, and at times you couldn’t believe that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself the way the media and politicians went on, but I remember some things that weren’t horrible. While I didn’t know anyone who had died in the attacks, and I don’t think I knew anyone who knew anyone either, there was a lot of goodwill and love. I remember a number of us were being turned away when trying to donate blood because so many people were trying to help. It seemed every other person had shirts proclaiming that they hearted New York. Everyone was a New Yorker. The outpouring of support from the nations of the world included statements like “We are all Americans.”

With so much support, goodwill, and strength, how could the attacks possibly compare to the fall of Rome?

In the years to follow, I remember recounting the day with friends every so often, and I realized that “Where were you on September 11th?” was going to be a question along the lines of “Where were you when John F. Kennedy was killed?” A friend said his alarm woke him up because a radio personality was saying that if you’re just tuning in, you’re waking up in World War III, which he initially dismissed as some alarmist version of what might likely be a relatively benign event. Another was interviewing for a job and saw the flags at half mast upon arrival.

In all of these stories, it seems as if time stands still for the person when he/she realizes what happened. Priorities become reevaluated. And there is always this feeling that it was an unreal experience, as if this remembering was not of the past but of a bizarre dream.

I wish I had a good moral or point to tell. Maybe if I was a better writer, I could turn my story into a point about the dangers of fear, about how terrorism is about terror, and when we allow ourselves to be afraid, the terrorists have done their job. Maybe I could even throw in the well-known quote by Benjamin Franklin on those who deserve neither liberty nor safety. But in the end, it was a horrible morning involving a lot of suffering and death and destruction, and this article was merely my memory of it.

The End of the World

According to some people, the rapture is scheduled to occur today, with the end of the world to follow shortly. I don’t normally write about religion or politics on this blog, but I’ll relate a story I was told in high school that really impacted me. I am probably remembering parts of it wrong, but I think the basic gist is still there.

There were three priests playing pool. One of the priests asked the others, “If you knew that the world was going to end in the next 10 minutes, what would you do?”

One priest answered, “I’d go to the church and lead the people in prayer. I’m sure there will be plenty who are afraid or lost, and I would want to be there with them to pray for forgiveness and strength.”

The next priest said, “I’d go home and pray alone, as Jesus suggested was best in the gospel according to Matthew. I’d shut myself in my room, and I’d pray for forgiveness and strength.”

The two looked at the third priest and asked him what he would do. He replied, “I’d finish this game.”

Merry Christmas!

This past month has been a bit stressful. I moved, setup a new office, and unpacked for what seemed like forever. It took much longer than I expected.

Of course, I was hoping to tackle quite a few things once I was settled in, such as getting back to game development and shopping for Christmas presents. Since settling in took longer than expected, I didn’t realize how close December 25th was or that a month had gone by since my last significant game development effort. Stressful indeed!

Note to Self: when moving in the future, make sure the calendar is the first thing unpacked!

Even with all of the stress, I’m able to enjoy this Christmas with loved ones, and I know how fortunate I am to live in a warm home with a fantastic girlfriend and our three cats.

I hope you and yours are having a great one! Merry Christmas!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m in the middle of packing and moving this week, but I’m taking a moment to reflect and be thankful. It’s been an exciting year, especially since quitting my day job and going full-time as an indie game developer!

I’m especially thankful for the love and support I’ve received from friends and family. There’s been a lot of big decisions, and as independent as I like to think I am, I know I couldn’t have done so well on my own.

Thank you to the people who follow my adventures on this blog, on IRC, in the ASP newsgroups, on Twitter, and elsewhere. It helps to know you’re there and keeping me honest. B-)

I’m grateful for how close the Internet makes everyone. 20 years ago, it would have been unheard of for me to get feedback almost instantly after sending a question at the same speed. Now, I can come in contact with so many people and learn so much.

I’m thankful for the opportunities I have.

What are you thankful for?

The World Cup is Here!

Besides not having Internet access at home yet, the other reason why I won’t be able to write many blog posts here is because I’m a big soccer fan and am watching the World Cup!

Yes, it isn’t exactly a stellar start for me in terms of being a full-time indie game developer, but I’ve made this decision, and I’m going with it for now. Part of the reason why I’m an indie is so I can decide what to do with my time, and right now, that means feeling perfectly comfortable sitting in a bar and watching soccer multiple times a day. It’s quite liberating, actually. B-)

If you really want to read what I have to say, I have gotten a few things written down at my other blog: ModernAmericanSoccer.com, where I try to cover all things about American soccer and what makes it unique in the world.

Tomorrow is the big, highly anticipated game: USA vs ENG! What are your predictions? Do you think the Yanks can win the match? Group C? The Cup itself?

Merry Christmas, Blog Readers!

I hope that everyone is having a relaxing and enjoyable time during the holidays. Last minute shopping, gift wrapping, and driving through horrible weather should all give way to the fact that you’re spending time with loved ones.

Two years ago I took a picture of me with my cats for a Christmas card. It came out funny, partly because it was obvious that the cats wanted nothing to do with the camera.

Recently I tried again, and this time I put some more effort into it. The end picture came out great, but I had to go through over 170 pictures, my ineptitude with a camera, and two cats who wouldn’t sit still no matter what treats or toys I presented.

I hope you enjoy this video I made of the process!

Merry Christmas from me, Diego, and Gizmo!