Man Or Goat is a game where you listen to goat noises and decide if it’s a real goat or me pretending to be a goat.

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First let me explain why I had to draw 972 goats. I wanted my game to have some longevity. I wanted the player to look at the level select screen and think :

“I’m enjoying going though all these levels, and there are still loads of levels left!”

I decided that 81 levels with 12 goat noises per level was about right. 81*12 = 972 goat noises. That should take the player a while to get through, and even longer to go back and get higher scores.

But why draw 972 unique goats? In early prototypes of the game all the goats looked the same. It just wasn’t good enough like this. I felt that 972 visually unique goats would give the game more of a chance on the App Store. More style, more polish and more humour. With this in mind I came up with a plan that would provide 972 unique looking goats by automating as much of the work as possible.

As explained in my earlier blog post I commissioned Banzainer to create 20 fabulous goats in Photoshop format.

But how did I turn 20 goats into 972?

From Photoshop I saved each goat part into individual files. I wrote a script to automatically colourize each goat part with 7 different colours and save them all separately. This gave me 2,046 goat parts :

goat-parts

This was a big step but of course but I still had to position these goat parts to make unique goats. This was the difficult bit that stole my summer.

I wrote two web applications to help me do this. The first application let me reconstruct each of Banzainer’s goats from their constituent parts and save the exact positions of each part in relation to one another. Here is the editor with goat 1 fully reconstructed :

goat-editor-1

After doing this for all 20 goats I had all the data I needed to take all 2,046 goat parts and mix them all up. For example I could now put goat 7’s mouth onto goat 4’s head onto goat 10’s body in any of 7 colours.

But I really didn’t want to do this manually 972 times! So I wrote another web application to randomly generate 972 goats given all the raw data about where each part goes. I wrote a crude looking but fully functional goat constructor for this purpose. All I had to do then was go through each randomly created goat and manually tweak the position of the parts to make sure they were just right :

Capture

All of this was a massive task written in HTML5 and C#. It was all quite complicated and troublesome. But I’ve been a software developer since 1995 so I’m used to challenges like this. I knew I could do it.

After I’d done that I had the positional data for 972 pseudo-random goats.

Reconstructing the goats in iOS

The final piece of the puzzle was on the iOS device itself. All I needed to do was reconstruct each goat from this raw data using the individual goat part images.

The great thing about having all the goat parts as separate sprites is that I could now animate the goats in the game, which you can see a bit of in the gameplay trailer. The goat movement is random except that when he makes his noise I always juggle the mouth up and down.

I hope it gives you some insight into the complexity of creating games. I do think I’ve over engineered Man Or Goat; a lesson learned for my next game project.

Finally, here’s a video showing exactly how I created all the goats! I remember the day of this video. It was sunny outside, I wanted to go for a bike ride. Then the sun went down and it was too late.

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Download Man Or Goat now from the Apple App Store!

Man Or Goat is a game where you listen to goat noises and decide if it’s a real goat or me pretending to be a goat.

Even though it’s a game about goat noises it still needed to look good. Where was I going to find good quality goat graphics? Having done a bit of artwork in the past (years ago really) I thought I might be able to draw them myself. After a few weeks of trying really hard this is as good as I could achieve :

my-early-goat-attempt goat sketch

These are, of course, horrendously poor. That goat on the left isn’t too bad, but it wouldn’t inspire players to tap the GET button after looking at the App Store screenshots. Perhaps if there was a GIT button.

This blog post is the story of how I got to this :

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Time to outsource; the search for an artist begins

As the game design evolved I decided I needed lots of unique goats; one for each different noise! Looking back, this decision was responsible for at least 6 month of extra work and desperate development issues at times. I only work on the game in the evening and weekends.

I knew the kind of graphical style I wanted for these goats. After a few days searching I found exactly I was looking for on iStock and bought a single image. I found out that the artist was a guy called Banzainer and approached him via his behance.net profile to discuss a commission.

I’d never approach an artist before. I felt like I had one chance to attract Banzainer to my project and get him on board. Here’s my first approach :

Hi. I found your goat artwork on Shutterstock, really good I like your style.Can we discuss the possibility of you designing more goats for my game project?The game is mostly complete (7 months work so far) but I now need to source real artwork to replace my placeholder art. I’ve abandoned trying to draw the goats myself I’m simply not good enough :)Thanks, hope to hear from you soon
Gareth

His response was straight to the point :

Hi!
No problem, let’s try it.
What are the terms and conditions of work?

Terms and conditions? I didn’t have a clue! After a few hours I responded thus :

Great!
1) I would like to pay one or more fees for the goat assets rather than offer a revenue percentage. I can’t guarantee that the game will make any amount of money.
2) After payment the goat assets would be 100% owned exclusively by me to use as I wish.
3) I am happy to pay a fee per goat asset as they are completed, or a fee for sets of 3-5 goat assets.
4) I can pay on receipt of batches of 1-5 goat assets, whatever you prefer.
5) Until further notice you shouldn’t discuss the details of the game with anybody except me.
6) I have a budget of {budget removed}. Please advise what I can realistically expect for this amount.
I have technical and design considerations too that I can provide if you are happy with the above. Some of the secondary nice-to-have technical considerations might affect your workflow and therefore your fee, I can explain everything in detail having worked on the game for so long and also having tried to create the art myself in Photoshop.
Please be aware that this is my first art commission and if I’ve missed anything obvious please let me know :)
Thanks
Gareth

Banzainer was happy with these. He requested that he could put the art on his portfolio, of course that’s fine. I insisted on paying for sets of 4 goats so he would get the money continuously rather than at the end. I reasoned that if I was him I’d want to be paid like this rather than until after all the work is done. We used paypal to make the payments.

Banzainer also wanted to know more detailed requirements before he could commit to the price for a set of 4 goats. I hadn’t gone into enough detail so far in my emails, only asking for variety :

I am looking for a wide variety of different ears, eyes, horns, beards, hair tufts, tails, body shapes, mouths etc… I would like to see variety in shapes, sizes and styles. Different body shapes, tail types, ears pointing up, ears pointing down, pointed ears, floppy ears, big horns, little horns, twisted horns, fat horns, stubby horns, boggle eyes, small eyes, square eyes, round eyes, pill shaped eyes, round pupils, rectangular pupils, small mouths, big mouths, droopy mouths, wide mouths.. I’m sure you understand what I’m getting at! I see the variety in your online animals already.
The reason this variety is so important is because I intend to make 1000 unique goats from the goats that you sell to me.

I knew I had to formalize the requirements with a detailed art specification document. This would make my requirements absolutely clear and not waste our time by changing requirements as we go along.

A detailed art specification

I had very clear requirements for my goats. Each goat part needed to be a separate layer ie; the head, legs, tail, ears, horns, eyes, mouth etc.. 19 parts in total should be on separate layers so I can save them as separate images. Each goat needed to be facing the same way and have the head turned towards the view at the same angle. These design restrictions would let me generate unique goats from all the different goat parts Banzainer created. For example, the head of goat 4 would go on the body of goat 2, with the ears of goat 7.

I’ve shared the art specification document so you can see exactly what I asked of Banzainer :

Art specification document

The quality of Banzainer’s goats amazed me; have a look at the project page on Behance. Here’s a few :

Goats_fabric_male01 Goat_07_01f Goat_06_02m sheep_01

It’s a shame I had to pull them all apart to make grotesque mutant goats like these :

 

crazy-goat-5 crazy-goat-9 crazy-goat-2 crazy-goat-7

 

Artist number 2 please.

Towards the end of the project I had to revamp the look of the user interface. The game was basically working but it looked bland :

mockup-homescreen-MODE-SELECT-@2x---iPhone iOS Simulator Screen shot 19 Jul 2014 19.46.33

 

I discovered Mark Quire from Quire Graphics after this tweet from Ed Farias. Ed did a series of blog posts about his game Hungry Hal which led me to his tweet.

I needed an artist experienced in making UI graphics and logos for mobile games and Mark was exactly who I needed. Such a joy to work with too.

Here’s how I approached Mark :

Hi Mark, I am in the final stages of development for my first iOS game and I see that you are very good at game art.
My game is about goats.
I need app icons for iphone/ipad and a few new assets representing a simple uncluttered farmyard scene that is always in the background of the game.
- fence
- background hills
- background field/bushes
- sky
- sun
- foreground farm yard
All these assets (except the sun) are twice the width of the screen and make up a parallax game background that infinitely scrolls horizontally.
I will only need iPad retina resolution of these assets as I can resize them for iPhone.
I also might need a new logo for the game. Mine’s ok but yours are miles better!
My budget would be approximately {budget removed}. Is this feasible?
I can get a full detailed document to you if you think this is possible. I can also show you the game as it is so you know exactly which assets I want to replace. All the above art already exists but I’m not entirely happy with them.
Please let me know what you think.
Thanks
Gareth (based in Manchester)

Mark came back with a few terms and conditions. My UI requirements were a bit simpler than the goat art requirements but I did know exactly what I wanted and Mark was pleased with how much upfront design requirement I supplied him.

Mark expertly drew the following assets for me :

MANorGOAT_600px

That logo! The whole game was brightened up with these assets. Be aware that when you first put new UI assets into your game you need to get used to them for a few minutes. I’d been staring at the old assets for months beforehand and was quite attached to them, even though they were rubbish in comparison.

Mark also drew the original version of the Newtquest Games logo. In addition Mark made a point of saying :

“One important aspect there is how straight-forward you made my job by being so thorough and precise in the brief.”

My tips for working with an artist for your game

If you are new to commissioning art for your game, this is the most important advice I can give :

You need to know exactly what you want from an artist if you’re going to have a good working relationship.

Changing your mind based on receiving art from an artist isn’t fair to the artist. Sure you’re going to tweak things here and there but you need to give the artist as much as possible up front :

  • Example images demonstrating the mood and style you’re after
  • Example images showing what you don’t want
  • Any restrictions on sizes
  • Colour preferences
  • Screenshots or a video of how your game looks so far (or a playable demo)

Ideally you should be able to slot the new graphics straight into the game and send the screenshots back so the artist can see how it fits in.

And don’t start with art. The benefits of half finishing the game and working with placeholder art for months are that :

  1. You truly do know exactly what you need
  2. All the work to do with incorporating the graphics into the game is already done
  3. Any unexpected technical surprises have already been and gone
  4. You’re not going to change your mind half way through working with the artist

From my experiences as a solo developer I would say that if you’re game isn’t playable yet don’t contact an artist.

I know just enough Photoshop to be dangerous

I drew some extra graphics myself. Some of the smaller buttons, modal screen backgrounds and achievement screens. When you put all our efforts together you get this :

I hope the above was interesting. It must have been if you read this far. Unless you skipped to the bottom, in which case shame on you.

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Download Man Or Goat now from the Apple App Store!