Getting by without an artist
First, an update to my post from last week. Turns out Godot's Navigation2D pathfinding also has stupid problems. For example, here's the shortest path it generates for corners:
As you can see, the Blue square, or the one controlled by Navigation2D, has decided to leave the friggin tilemap entirely in order to get to the Pink square. There may be a way to fix this, but the answer I got from researching the problem was oh golly gee, just use A*.
Thankfully, while researching A* again, I bumped into references to "Smart Tilemap 2D for Godot": https://rebound-games.itch.io/smart-tilemap-2d
Smart Tilemap 2D isn't perfect, but it's easier to setup and get usable results from than anything else I've tried. And, the developer has stated they're open to feature requests and feedback.
Now, as you may notice from the gif above, I'm currently in-between art styles. The reasons for this are twofold: A tutorial series by a YouTuber named Heartbeast reminded me that animations can save you alot of coding time in Godot, and I realized my previous art style was a little too complex for me to make animations with my current skillset.
So, how to start over? I decided a more monochrome design would be easier to work with. Accordingly, I broke the problem down into one of contrasts:
With this image, I wanted to isolate a universal look for my game: dark characters on a light background, or light characters on a dark background. My roommate pointed out that a dark character on a light background is a little "intimidating," so I decided it might be the best look for my game. In order to confirm this was what I wanted, I made an additional color test:
I used GIMP to lighten the contrast and brightness on a free texture, and I drew a simple red version of my main character before combining both in Godot.
A lighter-colored background is interesting to me. I'm not sure if I'll stick with it long-term, but I feel like it can work.
I'm still a little iffy on the character color choice. I chose red because it apparently encourages viewing a character as brash according to some reference to color theory I saw online, and I want the player to always be thinking about moving forward. However, I also didn't like how the darker red looked against the tilemap above, and decided to go with a lighter shade. Below is the resulting sprite sheet I created in Aseprite:
Working with more monochromatic characters is definitely far easier and more enjoyable than what I had before. The first 3 frames are the idle animation: the main character blinking. The 4th frame is the only frame for attacking. The final 2 frames are the walk cycle.
A 2-frame walk cycle does look really weird. There's even more hitching in it than in Mario's 3-frame cycle:
However, I can't see a place to stick in a 3rd frame without muddling everything.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to turn my attention away from coding somewhat so that I can start generating more art. It's my hope that additional spritework, combined with Godot's wonderful sprite and animation systems, will help me speed up production and get a basic version of my game working for design testing.
The weirdest thing about developing a videogame on your own is the amount of time you have to spend waiting to test whatever design you've come up with. It's why I interact with a boardgame designers group and still tinker with boardgame ideas. Boardgames, from a design perspective, are simply immediately rewarding.
My next blog post will be on the 17th. Until then!