So I tried to actually use the custom creature sprite loading with some varyingly styled animals and plants that I scribbled. Apparently I’m not much of an artist.
The thing is, I don’t really expect the players to be either, but still I’d like them to be able to make some creative designs. So that poses an interesting question, can I even expect people to draw their own creatures?
On one hand I kind of like the idea of just handing the players a 32×32 pixel canvas and letting them go hog wild, but…can I really rely on that not going horribly wrong or even being compelling for new players? I can provide that functionality as an advanced editor, but I don’t think I can just expect everyone to make pixel art from scratch.
So… I need a system that keeps the art at least slightly functional and themed, but at the same time open-ended enough to support fun and creative designs.
Spore’s creature designer comes to mind immediately, and I think that’s a good point to aim towards. Only on a 2D plane and most likely as a static design, but it can still be an inspiration. But here’s what really ground my gears about Spore’s creatures – although it was an absolute joy to make them, most of the sculpting and kitbashing was largely cosmetic. I’d like to avoid this here – a creature’s look should be inspired by what it is. A creature that’s large and has a mouth full of fangs, stat-wise, should look large and contain something resembling a mouth on its body. Those features you must add to your design should also hopefully make it easier to get rid of the blank canvas effect.
As the prototype that BioGrid has grown out from already tracks individual creature organs, I think I can constrain the design around that. Currently I’m envisioning a sort of layered 2D creature designer with some basic basic sculpting using “organ blobs”. For example, the amount of “body” pixels on a canvas will be the same as the creature’s physical size and mass, “teeth” pixels control the attack power, large or multiple eyes modify vision and so on.
Nothing too fancy though, the potential of feature creep is high here…