We’re creating Alchemist, a procedural 2D animation and content creation expansion suite for our upcoming animation software, Spriter 2. You can get both Spriter 2 and Alchemist via this Kickstarter.
Spriter 2 itself will handle all the core features you’ll need for setting up characters, objects, and entire scenes and manually animating them.
Here’s a quick teaser video for Spriter 2 if you’re not already familiar:
and here’s how Alchemist will enhance the creative possibilities:
Alchemist will add to Spriter 2’s flexible and intuitive user interface and workflow to further increase your rigging and animation options. When you animate your character turning their head, or blinking, or anything else, you can tie these actions to control widgets of the type and position of your choosing (with customizable constraints).
These widgets will be part of the inheritance hierarchy, so they will be able to affect each other in whatever way you define.
Once you set up your animations and controls, you’ll be able to pose your character more like an action figure or armature than a traditional 2d rigged character.
During Spriter 2 and Alchemist’s development, there was a big emphasis on making sure that artists feel completely free to animate in whatever way they want. You’ll be able to effortlessly switch from drawing and frame by frame animation, to deforming and tweening, to posing with bones, to posing using strokes – and basically never be stuck with rigid limitations to how you animate because of how you had initially set up your character.
You’ll be able to import and use layered PSD files as though they are a single texture or as a fully assembled layered object.
And mesh deformation is hierarchical, meaning deformation meshes can be children of each other to help you easily achieve natural-looking animation, even for very detailed and complex characters.
But the real power Alchemist will bring you is its suite of procedural tools, which will allow you to have your characters and objects animate and behave differently depending on the context:
With Alchemist you’ll be able to set up your characters to automatically blend between multiple animations to reflect temporary states like mood, movement speed, physical state, etc, or more permanent states like gender, age, physical condition, and personality.
You’ll be able to tell Alchemist to create procedurally generated characters or crowds by choosing values for your predefined attributes, which will, in turn, define your characters’ animations, choose appropriate accessory objects, and select or cross-fade between predefined textures and meshes.
Alchemist will allow you to override and manually customize any of this for specific characters.
You will even be able to leverage these features into a character customization system for your game.
You will also be able to define probabilities for all of these properties in order to generate random characters and NPCs, each with their own visual style and animations appropriate to their unique attributes.
In addition to the manual controls we discussed earlier, you can use the relationships between objects and entities to automatically control aspects of your characters, animations, and interactions.
These are flexible tools you can use in endless ways. Here are a few examples.
- Creating characters that can automatically step over obstacles
- Using the speed of change in your head turn control to switch or blend between different head turn animations (normal, smeared/blurred, etc)
- A character reaching for a drawer and automatically blending or switching animations when necessary for the specific height of the drawer
- With just two keyframes to move your character, automatically blend between walk and run animations appropriately for the required speed of movement
There will be a variety of trigger types like random probability triggers, threshold triggers for when a specific value is crossed, area triggers, and several more we’ll discuss in the next section
These can trigger any internal Spriter 2 action, like playing or pausing an animation, changing an animation state or value, toggling the visibility of an object, changing character maps, or spawning and destroying entities such as sparks, dust clouds, fireballs, bullets, or entire other characters.
Here are some examples of what you could do when you combine that with the features we’ve already mentioned:
- Create a complex and animator-driven particle generator
- Create characters that react to their surroundings
- Have characters that react naturally to each other
In addition to games, this can be used to more quickly animate a cartoon series, by allowing you to have lively low maintenance background characters, or giving you strong baseline behavior and reactions to manually build upon.
Here’s a more complex gameplay example: An entire town’s collective mood can be shifted by an accumulation of individual events, which in turn affects the probability range of moods for generated NPCs, which would reflect not only in their animations but whether they are more likely to be hostile, open to trade, etc
You will also have the ability to map deformation grids over your hand-drawn 2d environment, allowing you to define your own stylized perspective rules. Capture the charm and looseness of imperfect handcrafted movement within a scene, but with the ease and immediacy you’d expect from a traditional overhead 2d game. You could even animate your deformation grids to create dramatic cartoon camera motion and effects.
And finally, with Alchemist’s user input and interactivity features you’ll be able to:
- Create UI’s and gameplay, using input triggers and states like button presses and mouse clicks
- Create interactive experiences like motion comics
- Create complex and dynamic user interfaces
- Create gameplay components, and even entire simple games
- Use input checks within animations to make time-dependent inputs like special moves in fighting games easy to create and test
And you can preview your creations right in the editor, and then load them into your favorite game engine for direct publishing or as a part of a larger game.
We have to stay focused on the Windows version until the first full release. After that, we plan to support the current version of MacOS, and the Linux distribution officially supported by Steam at the time of initial release. Features will always be developed on the Windows version first, so there will be more frequent beta releases on Windows between full updates available on all OS’s.
As with the original Spriter Pro, we’ll be creating a series of first-party animated Art Packs that you can you use with Spriter 2. You can use these as-is in your own games and animations, and more importantly, you can edit or replace the images and use Spriter 2’s wide range of features to completely change or customize the art and animations to suit your own needs and style.
These new art packs will be made to a very high visual and animation standard, putting full use to Spriter 2’s advanced features such as mesh-deforming and will offer a high level of customization options for the characters and objects by swapping out pre-created alternate image sets and other advanced character map features.
We’ll be releasing two versions of each Art Pack – the standard version for use in Spriter 2, and a premium Alchemist Enhanced version set up to take full advantage of all of Alchemist’s enhanced and procedural features. These art packs will have pre-configured animation blends, animation sequencing, transitions, procedural particle generation features, tweakable parameters to customize and mix animations, etc.
The first Art Pack will be the Game Effects Pack, whose standard version we hope to release soon after the release of Spriter 2 v. 1.0, and the Alchemist enhanced version around the release of Alchemist 1.0.
Each art pack will take between several months and a year to complete, depending on the complexity required. We might be able to start producing them in tandem after the Game Effects Pack is finished, but can’t guarantee this. Other planned art packs are:
Side-Scrolling Platformer: with fully animated player characters, enemies, bosses, pick-ups, and more.
Run N Gun Platformer: with fully animated player characters who can aim a weapon or arm-cannon in 8 directions (or more), enemies, bosses, pick-ups, and more.
Side-Scrolling Medieval Combat: with fully animated player characters with many animations for attacks, parries, defensive maneuvers, etc for several weapon and shield options. The pack will also include several enemies, bosses, pick-ups, and more.
and more to be announced at a later date…