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Animation Tool: Spriter Pro

Humble Bundle has given me plenty of great games, but they’ve also given me some really good design tools as well. This article is a first impressions review of one of them: Spriter Pro. Join Timlah as we look at what Spriter Pro features and what it can do for your own hobbyist or indie game design studio.

When I was really young, I begun making sprites the same way as everybody else. Microsoft Paint and tracing over existing things – And back then I thought to myself I was a hell of a good spriter. Turns out, I wasn’t. Instead, I was just some kid who was good at recolouring the RPG Maker sprites and making them into entirely new characters. I spent far too long doing things like that for friends who just wanted a sprite that looked like themselves, but it was all really good experience. You understand how a spritesheet works and you understand how you need the same image many times with various different changes to ensure you get simple things, such as a walking animation. Repetition is a powerful tool and now I’m going to show you a powerful sprite animation tool, Spriter Pro.

Spriter Pro Header

Using Spriter Pro takes a little bit of getting used to, but when you know what you’re doing, it’s pretty awesome. You need to have some existing assets to really make use of the application, although it’s worth mentioning that they do come with some standard assets. When I first installed it, I was under the false assumption that it would be a piece of software to enable easily creating sprite sheets, or sprites in general. It’s actually an animation suite, akin to that of the now defunct Abobe Flash or it’s successor, Adobe Animate CC. Once you’ve created all the parts of your characters or objects that will be animated, you can construct bones for your animation, allowing you to easily manipulate parts of the animation as you see fit. This is a major advantage over some of the older animation suites around, although it’s quite common place in other tools, such as Blender which does animations incredibly well.

One thing I was pleasantly surprised about, was the amount of existing materials that came with the application. Considering I got this out of a Humble Bundle, I assumed I was going to get a bare bones pack, much like I did with RPG Maker. Still, it didn’t take long before I was able to find my way around the assets provided and start to make some rather basic animations. Now, whilst I’ve not made anything of substance, there’s a few things that I immediately like and a few I immediately dislike about the application.

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When you first open Spriter, there’s very little visual indicator as to what it’s for, but simplicity can also be a good thing.

I really enjoy the timeline, which is very much akin to the Flash one, though I see that key frames work slightly differently in this. With Spriter Pro, you simply need to select frames which are to be key frames and have them be slightly different to the first frame. So if you wanted to do a frame by frame animation, no problem, you will set them up individually per frame as per usual. If you wanted to do a simple spinning animation, you could just get the first frame as the starting position, the last frame as the finishing position and use a linear transition between.

This kind of simplicity is a wonderful addition to any animation software; however don’t think you can do anything too complex on this. Everything is done in the same way animating a typical sprite is done; Often it’ll be a frame by frame and with this, the most important feature for a frame-by-frame animation suite is the onion skin option. For those of you who don’t know, an onion skin in animation is where the previous frame/s are shown to you so you can make whatever little changes you need. Spriter, unfortunately, is missing this very key tool.

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I animated the 1 to spin in a circle – It worked really smoothly, having done that in less than 3 clicks!

Now, whilst I could complain about what it doesn’t have, I’d rather summarise up Spriter Pro very simply. If you’re new to animation, Spriter Pro greatly reduces the amount of work you, as a budding animator, would have to do to make a worthy and professional looking animation. In fact, if you’re looking to do some simple animation, then go for it. This is the tool for you. If you want to actually do any kind of work on the animation assets, such as touching up the art, or fixing where things go, then this isn’t the tool for you.

I would say, if I had to choose between Spriter Pro and Adobe Animate CC, I would still pick the powerhouse of Animate CC. Spriter is a very good intermediate, to really get you to learn how animation works; but for me, it’s all about the power and the flexibility that the flash successor will allow. But that’s enough from me today – Over to you. Have you used Spriter Pro? What do you think of it as a tool? Should I make a full animation, much like this guy has? As always, let me know in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

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