Danc’s Miraculously Flexible Game Prototyping Tiles

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RPGs love PlanetCute
 So do platformers…

One of the commenters on the SpaceCute posts wondered what would happen if you visited one of those delightful spa-like planetoids that decorate our little galaxy of cuteness. Well, now you know. Here is a new set of graphics I’m dubbing “PlanetCute”

These are Lowest Common Denominator graphics. I put the challenge to myself: “What is a graphical style that is attractive, but are useful to both the widest range of developers and game genres?” Here’s what I came up with for an answer.

Useful to the widest range of developers
Very few indie developers want to spend time figuring out how to use a set of graphics for their prototype. Often a developer would rather build their own format specific to their design and hire some to make graphics to spec or horrendously mangle free graphics to fit their needs. For completely original graphics, MS Paint in all its heavenly glory, is a extremely popular choice.

Some of the fault lies with the existing graphics, be they free sets scrounged from the internet or leftovers from a previous project. 3D graphics are notoriously difficult to convert between formats, are optimized for use on a specific platform and often present a confusing technological challenges to student developers. What coordinate system are they in? How are they grouped? How are they animated? Perhaps Collada will make it all seamless one day, but we aren’t there yet.

Even 2D graphics are tricky. I’ve seen a simple system like auto-tile confuse new developers. There is typically a whole class of rules associated with any set of 2D graphics. What pieces go together? What is the render order? A set of a hundred graphics presents a puzzle that surprisingly few are willing to decipher.

The PlanetCute set attempts to wiggle past many of those problems.

  • Building blocks, not tilesets: Instead of having complex tilesets, each block stacks nicely with pretty much any other block. If you can understand Legos, you can understand how to put together these graphics. These tiles should be useful to children, not just uber-elite game gods.
  • Standardized format: All the graphics are uniform sized PNGs. The graphics will also work in almost any graphics engine out there that can do 2D sprites. Once you get your offsets right once, you never have to change them again.
  • Source files included: If you do need to make changes, I’ve included the source files. If you really need to change a color, go for it. If you need a big gem, just scale up the original. Everything is a vector so you’ll alway end up with clean results.

Useful to the widest range of genres
These terrestrial tiles that be used to prototype a shockingly wide spread of popular 2D genres. Some that come to mind include:

  • Console RPG
  • Platformer
  • 2D brawler
  • Pacman
  • Sokoban (Please don’t make this game again)
  • Match-3
  • Populous
  • Syndicate
  • Pong
  • Arkanoid
  • Marble Madness

I imagined that a basic engine that can deal with stacking blocks and a bit of collision detection could be easily adapted to new game types as desired.

This set is also quite amendable to original games. What could you make with destructible terrain, crowd AI and ancient treasures hidden several layers deep in the earth? I don’t know, but I suspect it would be a heck of a lot more interesting than yet another Match-3 game. 🙂 And this set can handle all those technologies with delightfully low-fi aplomb.

Why does the world need nice graphics for prototyping?
The whole goal is to get you to focus on building up your game mechanics, not on polishing your graphics engine.

Many developers are driven to improve their graphics. There is a common moment that is seared into most developers brains. Do your remember that time you were working on a new idea for days, perhaps weeks. Finally you showed it to your friend. Your code was tight. The idea amazing. Yet your friend took one look at the command line interface and the rectangular graphics and his eyes glazed over. He was bored before you even complete your first sentence. That moment can be devastating.

For the follow up, you spent half your time making your prototype pretty. Unfortunately, to be overly blunt, you suck at drawing. You spent untold hours on something that didn’t quite meet your vision. As a result, you didn’t get a chance to polish and balance the game mechanics. You know…the part that makes a game fun. There is only so much time in your day and you wasted a good chunk of it on getting past that first 15 second impression.

The next time you make a prototype, use these graphics. If you can reduce the time you spend on futzing with graphics from 40% to 5%, you can put more time into those fun game mechanics you’ve been dreaming about. The magic is that your graphics will now look good enough to get you through the first 15 seconds of your demo. Your friend will perk up and stay engaged long enough to give you feedback all the wonderful work that you’ve put into your prototype.

Let me know if there is anything major missing. These were surprisingly fun to draw.

take care,
Danc

Download ’em here
Vectors: Ideal for Silverlight or WPF experimentation

Bitmap: Good for that vast world of pixel engines

82 Comments

  1. 「インプラントにしたい」と思ったときが最も治療に適したタイミングたまに「インプラントにするには何歳ぐらいが適していますか」という質問を受けますが、ご本人がインプラントにしたいと思ったときに手術を行うのがベストと思います。 実際に当院でインプラント手術を受けた方は20代から70代と年齢層も実にさまざまです。

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  2. Will kittens die if I make Sokoban again?I see your request to not make Sokoban again, but I\’m learning homebrew Wii development and already started on a Sokoban clone.I think this engine could be extended to add different puzzle types. Also, I created Isometric tile versions of these graphics if anyone wants them.

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  3. There\’s a black border around the bottom of the block tiles that are not visible in the mockups – how do I avoid that?

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  4. Thank you for the tiles.Bill if you read the other sections on the site the tiles are released under the rule that you give credit back to this site. You cant claim the graphics as your own.On a side note I dont suppose it would be possible for you to create a menu / boarder box that text can be overlay on in a simalar style? I want to use it for player health / attack info

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  5. Great thanks for the tiles.I used a subset of the tiles in a rpg game – wiki hybrid. http://www.atavismo.org The site is under deployment actually. I would like to ask you to verify credits in the project.Best regards.

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  6. Hi DancThank you very much for some fantastic graphics.I have started to develop a game called titchy Big Kittens which includes some of the tiles.It's still in its early development stage but there is a development demo available to play:-http://titchyeye.co.uk/titchyBigKittens.aspxKind regardsAsa

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  7. Hi Danc!First of all, thanks for sharing this wonderful stuff.It's helping me a lot.I am developing a game based on your graphics and the mechanics from your CuteGod design. I would like to discuss with you about quality of the game and credits.Best regards

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  8. Hi Danc;I used the grass and heart tiles from planet cute in a snake game I made for the iPhone, imaginatively called \”A Snake\”.1.6 million downloads so far – your tiles are a big hit!Shen

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  9. Daniel is a great guy!Its so fun to see all those games made by his tileset. Myself made an iPhone / iPad game called Woolcraft. If anyone is curious read more here:www.woolcraft.netThanks again, Danc!/Patrik, sweden

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  10. Wait a min.. that cat girl isn't really a cat, she's just wearing a hat.Err, anyways, searched for free sprites for prototyping my RPG and found these. Thank you, these are just lovely and perfect for what I need.

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  11. Hey, I want to thank you for the excellent tile set. I began a tower defense game 3 weeks ago and this art is a lifesaver. Normally I'd spend more time messing around in Photoshop than coding, but this time around I was able to skip that part almost completely and focus on what I love, writing code!Anyways, check it out if you have the time. It's still a work in progress, but the main foundation of the game is complete. It's 100% original code.http://tndportfolio.com/TowerDefenseBlogPart3.aspx

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  12. Anonymous says

    Wow, what an amazing graphic set, I've edited several of the blocks hue/saturation/lightness to \”create\” several versions of things, such as autumn, winter, different coloured keys/stars/gems/hearts/stones/wood, lava, sand, mud, and a glass block which may or may not work.here's the download link if anyone is interested http://www.multiupload.com/2LSGYFVLPE

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  13. very awesome tileset, i use it for my projet (it will be a multi user online lego game where the players can modify the environment). it's possible to you to provide more view for the caracter (i mean left,right, and up)

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  14. Anonymous says

    This post is a gem. Found it just when I was in the exact same position you mention, even started doing my own art as I work fast. Thanks so much. ! 🙂

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  15. Anonymous says

    I've never made a game before, but I have a concept for a mobile turn based strategy I want to explore. I have complete capability with everything except the art and I've been scared to show my concept because of it. This is perfect, Thank you very much.One question, what is the reasoning behind the chosen 101×171 dimension of the tiles? Still have much to learn with graphics UI…

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  16. You can now also add Planet Defense to that list as well! 😀 I just made a shooter from the CutePlanet collection. I'd been trying to make a game from those graphics for a while and finally I did it! Please take a look if you have the time ^^You can find it here: https://www.scirra.com/arcade/addicting-rotary-games/796/tinyplanetThanks Danc, for your insightful blog too. I'm just starting, but I'm already learning heaps of new things in relation to game design! 😀

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  17. Thanks for the generous offer.Your explanation and intention for them is exactly what I want them for. Good Man! 🙂

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  18. We will shortly be launching issue #1 of an online magazine for Adobe Flash Games Programming.We need you to get involved in any of the following areas:-ArticlesProgramming TipsTutorialsGraphicsIf you think you can help, e-mail me idget.fish@gmail.com

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  19. I am making a point and click adventure.I have now got the shadows displaying so all you need to do too display it it load a map and it will automatically display it.Features included are:-continuous borders(it automatically loads the last tile if you go over the boundary) -shadows automatically are shown. It is programed in irrlicht and c++. The engine is at https://catprog.org/Games/Kitsune/Download.html

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  20. I know I'm late to this party, but this is awesome and generous. Thanks so much! (I'm also another one who'd love to have character side/back views, but I figure if it hasn't happened by now it's probably not going to.)

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  21. Can we have some left right and back variations for each character?We need them for development and I can't do that myself as I can't even draw them using Pen and Paper!Expect a good and positive reply from you…

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  22. Thank you for this very cool tileset!We are using it in our game Blockoban.A puzzle game which makes certain things different and maybe better than other games.The goal of the game is easy. You have to build ways for your nameless hero by moving blocks to collect all the gems on the playfield. There are a lot of features like switches, water holes, and more, which you have to use cleverly, in order to finish the levels.The game is easy to learn but hard to master. You can try to beat the records in all the levels and to earn special stars.Check it out here:bit.ly/V5ebiG

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  23. You're a rockstar, seriously. I'm a 45 yo mom just now teaching myself game design and C#. I don't have time to teach myself to draw as well 🙂 Thank you for helping me get an amazing head start. You don't know how much you've done to help me impress my 13 yo gamer son 🙂 As soon as I get a working prototype, I'll drop the name to you. Thanks again!

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