Friday, November 9, 2012

Episode 52: Graphics and Tile Design part 2

Welcome to Roguelike Radio episode 52. This week we continue our talk from the last episode about Graphics and Tile Design. Talking this episode are Darren Grey, Ido Yehieli, Jagosh Kalezich (Cardinal Quest artist), Thomas Whetnall (Fuel and others) and John Attea (DCSS artist).

You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.

Topics discussed in this episode include:
- Programmers and artists teaming up so each can work on what they enjoy (and why this doesn't actually happen much)
- Opportunities and challenges in finding good and reliable artists
- Licensing of artwork and sharing of tiles, and how sharing can sometimes be bad for a game
- Using Zeno's Necklace of the Eye as a graphical frontend for curses and libtcod games
- Tools for drawing, with graphics tablets being highly recommended
- Software used, including Photoshop (most used, but expensive), GIMP, Paint.NET, Grafx2 (this is amazing for tile drawing!), Acorn (OSX only image editor), Pixen (OSX only pixel art editor), Inkscape (vector graphics editor)
- Wistfulness for Deluxe Paint V on the Amiga...
- Vector graphics, which are used in HyperRogue, but could be great for more roguelikes
- Beyond tiles - 3D graphics and other non-tiled styles
- 3Dish roguelikes: Pitman Krumb, Wayfarer, Delver, SWOOOORDS!
- Animation and some tips/shortcuts for animating pixel art tiles, with the best being Cardinal Quest's style
- What tilesets everyone likes (with disagreements)
- Shot of Rogue on the Atari (it's worth remembering for ASCII enthusiasts that Rogue got graphics as soon as it could - the original makers had no attachment to ASCII)
- Boxart for Rogue on the Commodore 64 (also check out Pitfall)
- Time taken to make graphics and setting realistic goals

Useful resources:
- List of free tilesets on RogueBasin
- Colour Scheme Designer (this thing is awesome)
- Juice it or Lose it vide
- Game Icons (as used in ToME)

Join us next week for discussion of game design in academia.


  1. Vector chat with font musings and such? = Gotta get Wouter on here for Triangle Wizard one of these days as that's pretty well core to the game. Having a "K" pretty well gallop into you with the force of knockback impaling you on a wall spike and all that.

    3D Roguelike ponderings: Um...Japan has been on this since the PSX/PS2 days on up---the Mystery Dungeon series which was greatly inspired by Nethack. I'd recommend anybody to emulate, purchase, or Youtube trawl it up on the lot of them---pretty sure Harris got into at least some at length. Far as PC goes as far as "The Past" on the whole before these few 3D newcomers of late---Scallywag: In the Lair of the Medusa is about it as far as the more traditionally understood hardcore versus the great many ARPGs that can generally fit the bill if one is so inclined.

  2. Do keep in mind that Academic licenses of software CANNOT be used for commercial purposes.

  3. Finally found the time to listen through the entire episode, and thanks for all the great tips. Color and silhouette theory is so hard for us programmers, so having some tools for help on making the right choices helps greatly.

    For me, the 3D I've seen towards roguelikes kind of kills the charm for me... Like have been stated before on this podcast, too detailed graphics can kill the use of imagination (filling in the gaps)... It's kind of like when the adventure games jumped over to 3D as well, they lost that charm. Or perhaps we just haven't seen a good roguelike do 3D graphics really good yet.

    I too think that there's a lot to be had utilizing voxels in a roguelike, even if graphically it's topdown orthographically projected, the information stored in a voxel grid could be used for a lot of cool effects I think. I guess Dwarf Fortress kind of does this already?

  4. Holy shit, not only does the client work, the client works under linux.

  5. There's a fantastic beginner-oriented pixel art tutorial online, covering things like color choice, breaking up patterns in tiles, looking at what commercial 2D games have done with their pixels and basic mistakes to avoid. It's oriented at 2D JRPG-style games, but a lot of its advice transfers nicely to roguelikes.

  6. I think a companion episode to this - of ASCII enthusiasts talking about the strengths of ASCII versus tiles (usage of imagination, not having a visual representation of "what a hero should look like", ease of reading and use), of what makes "beautiful" ASCII, of contrasting (say) Dwarf Fortress vs. Nethack in terms of "ASCII style" - would be very interesting.

    And Darren, if you're going to take their advice and get someone on board to help with visual style while sticking with ASCII, I'd be intrigued to try my hand at it. I don't really have much "experience" in such a thing, but that's mostly because I don't do programming. But I do love thinking about font choices, color, and manipulating things already on screen to be visually appealing and useful, so I'd love to try my hand at it! Let me know.

    1. An ASCII episode will indeed be done. Actually after this episode we did carry on talking for a bit and I tried to defend ASCII as having advantages over graphics. The three artists were not in the least bit receptive to my arguments :P

      If you'd like to help with any of my games you're very welcome to. All my work is open source, so anyone if free to lend a hand or take it away and do their own thing.

      As it happens I've started doing graphics for a jam game this week, so I'll have my first graphical game out in a few days! My artwork is fairly crude, but I've kept the style simple and it looks all right overall.

    2. Incidentally, I would recommend you try to learn to code a little. It's not that hard for a roguelike, especially if you use libtcod or the T-Engine. The most complex code you ultimately need is nested if statements. I'm pretty poor at programming (and that's not just modesty - I really am bad with code) but with a lot of trial and error I get by. And it is so so rewarding! There's nothing cooler than seeing your creation come to life.

    3. libtcod just got support for multicolored tiles also, as showcased in Cult RL's latest update on Kickstarter:

      Looking forward to your jam results, Darren :)

    4. I wouldn't get overly excited, I think it's just his own patch and we won't see this feature in main libtcod for a long time :]

  7. Great episode. Wonderful to hear artists being as well informed and as enthusiastic about the RL genre in particular. And of course Darren trying a polemic intervension ;) Cool that it comes at the same time as the episode about designing for the visually impaired; that says something about the genre's breadth.

    As always, Minotauros

  8. You all might be familiar with this already but there is a really nice looking first person 3d sci-fi game in development and it employs permadeath. There are not a lot of other details about the gameplay but it might be worth keeping an eye on. It's called Routine. Not sure if we'll be able to call it a roguelike in the end but who knows?

  9. Excellent icons you can use for skill trees, ability icons and a lot more, look like ToME's (please add this to the post Mr Grey!):

    Best of all, they come in both vector (SVG) AND raster (PNG) formats! Enjoy.

    1. Ah, good shout! I forgot about those, which is rather silly because I was the one that suggested they get used in ToME, and indeed I made quite a few of the ones in use in ToME. They are great since with the stencil style they're easily editable to your liking.

  10. Regarding software long time ago, there was PaintShop Pro, I remember it from times when JASC Software was doing it. For me it was way better than Photoshop.
    And what Ido said, people are just used to Photoshop.