Hi, I'm Toni and I'm working in an iOS and Android Game called Dan the Man (It's free, go ahead 😉). It's a pixelart game but I want to explain why we decided to use Spine in some point and the advantages and inconveniencies I found along the process. English is not my native idiom so please excuse me for possible mistakes.
I have to confess I was really negative about using Spine with pixelart. Animations with linear interpolations and deforming pieces is the opposite of pixelart as you will know. But I tried anyway. After testing and trying several things I found how to make it feel like the other sprites and I wanted to share with you the process.
First of all, the game was nearly done with regular pixelart frame by frame animations but we wanted to add a customizable character that could wear and combine a lot of different pieces. Our playable characters have a lot of frames because of combat combos and special moves so draw every frame was too expensive. So, hello Spine!
Without any hope, I start doing some tests with bones. I had no idea what exactly I was doing at this point:
So I went back and tried to learn the basics with non pixel visuals:
Finally I decided to not using meshes, weights and advanced stuff for pixel art. Also, I removed interpolations between movements and tried to don't be too strict with bones movements and positions. I used a lot of times the compensate tool in order to have freedom enough to do some tricks.
So, here an example with the final skeleton. This is a "throwing enemies" animation made with spine:
Before going ahead I want to share with you the result of some animations. Left: handmade animation, Right: Spine animation:
Seeing those I would like to change a lot of things in order to improve it, but the main resctriction I had was to have the minimun number of pieces in order to create costume pieces for him with low effort. Now, Drawing a very little number of pieces I can dress this character in several ways as you can see in previous gifs.
It's easy to see the wrong things in the spine character after reading this or analyzing closely, but the general feeling is as an usual pixelart sprite moving around. People didn't notice this (also we are using this skeleton for some enemies too) so I think it's good news! 😉
The decision of having the minimum number of parts was for the creation of costumes but, how to decide which are the minimum? Rotation is the evil in pixelart as you will know but I couldn't avoid this in order to keep the minimum so I decided to draw only the pieces that we would see in static position for long time.
For example, idle animation has all the pieces drawn, the same for most of the final attack positions so I used rotation between them.
After this, I wanted to try Spine with a new boss and use smooth interpolated animations because beeing a big character. I had to work fast on this because it was my first big character and I had no time but I saved a lot of time working with Spine, rotating and using interpolations whitout caring too much. Here is an example.
Hey, SPOILER ALERT 😉
There is a long way to learn from here but using Spine with pixelart is not as prohibite as I thought at the very beggining.
I hope you can find interesting this little, summarized post.