Character Sprite Creation in Inkscape

Prepare for the coming of the Space Octopods!

Inkscape is a poweful tool for creating vector graphics. For those who do not know, Vector Graphics are images created with math-based lines and colors, that can be scaled larger or smaller infinitely without losing resolution. This makes vector graphics ideal for designing logos, or images that have to be printed at a variety of sizes. Did you know that 3D graphics in video games and computer animation are also vector graphics?

No element of graphic design exists in a bubble though, so after playing around a bit in Inkscape, I got to work designing custom graphics for a video game project. I created a logo, a space ship to be controlled by the player, and an enemy space octopus monster with two versions to be combined and animated within my game engine of choice.

A breakdown of the shapes that are grouped together to make the Octopod.

Creating the Sprites in Inkscape is all about combining shapes and editing them with the suite of tools that Inkscape provides. The Align tool set allows me to line up my shapes and and put together the parts into a finished whole. The Group function is particularly useful for keeping sets of shapes together as single elements. In the case of the Octopod, I created the eye out of a set of colored circles and ellipses and then grouped them together into an eye object that I could then duplicate and arrange into the many eyes of the monster.

For more complex shapes in Inkscape, the Path Node Editor tools are essential.

The custom shapes for the Octopod were made by starting with basic primitive shapes, such as a circle, and a rounded 8 pointed star. By converting these shapes into paths, and then editing the points on those paths, I was able to create a custom shape for the body of the Octopod. I was also able to convert a simple circle into a tentacle for the Octopod, by converting it to a path, and then adding more and more points. The different styles of path nodes such as the auto-smooth node allowed me to smoothly control how I moved the tentacles.

When making sprites for games, it is necessary to make different image files for each frame of animation in game.

These two Octopods may look different, but one is a copy of the other that has been altered using the path node editing tools within Inkscape. Both are necessary to create an animated sprite within a game engine. By switching between the two Octopod sprites, an illusion of movement is created.

Even simple games require many images and sprites, as well as sound bytes and other types of component files. These are called assets, and their production is essential to game design and development. As I further develop "Space Octopus Attack!" folks who pay attention will see that game development is all about creating the pieces of a puzzle and then putting them together into a finished game.