Davies Media Design Interview

This interview was originally published at Davies Media Design in October 2020. We talk about GIMP, our workflow and about using open source software in video games.
Enjoy.

First off – congratulations on the successful release of your game, Resolutiion!

Thank you, for picking it up and asking me some nerdy questions about it ;-)

What inspired you to create this game?

That is certainly a wild bag, but primarily we were driven by boredom, the urge to create something larger than us, plenty of sci-fi books, and our roots from the 80s.

For a long time my brother and I entertained the idea how our favorite video game —Zelda for the Super NES— would play out in a science-fiction setting. But reading up on artificial intelligence and tranhumanism pushed our thoughts to the point, where we just had to try it.

So we picked bits and pieces from games and movies we enjoyed over the years, and stitched them into a more or less consistent vision: there’s obviously Sword & Sorcery, Hyper Light Drifter and Zelda references all over Resolutiion, but also ideas from Dune, Akira and even Waterworld. All these fragments turned into a colorful skin, stretched over the bones of our dreamless dystopia.

What software did you use to design/develop/animate this game? Why did you choose this software?

We used GIMP for all the static assets, and Aseprite for the pixel-animations. Godot is Resolutiion’s engine, and we tinkered with plenty of other open source software along the way: Inkscape for map-prototypes, Gitlab for documentation and collaboration, and more, all on the back of Manjaro– and Ubuntu-Linux.

To be fair: we’re working primarily with Linux for many years, now. Initially it was an ethical choice. By today, the Gnome-Shell has become so familiar, that every other operating system feels outdated and bloated.

What were some of the benefits of using free and open source software? What were some of the drawbacks?

I particularly like the hands-on side of oss software a lot: no need to buy complicated licenses, register accounts or read long manuals — just install is and try, if it works for you. Since we were just picking up game-design and -development, we had no clear expectations of what we wanted to make, and how software should help us get there. So putting together the right stack involved try and error every day.

How did you customize your GIMP workspace to make designing game assets quicker/easier? What tools did you primarily use in GIMP in your design process?

Since Resolutiion is a retro-inspired game, we went with rather low-resolution pixelart. Therefore I needed quick access to brushes and color-palettes, but barely any complex masks or filters. The idea is to have as much screen real-estate as possible, constantly zooming in and out on the tiny details.

Since our aesthetic is quite vibrant and uses a broad spectrum without outlines, I used GIMP’s color-options ad infinitum: contrast-, hue- and saturation-sliders have been on my hot-keys throughout the whole project.

What was the hardest part of designing assets for Resolutiion?

With some experience in icondesign, working on the static assets came natural to me. Creating my first animations, though, was a tough journey. Moving all those individual pixels over time in a good rhythm felt like a neverending nightmare of doing the same thing over and over and over, again.

Eventually we got the hang of it through patience and iteration: our first version of Valor’s run-cycle was made up of two frames; the next one had four and longer limbs. Eventually we got Chris Rafferty, an amazing pixel-artist from Scotland, to help us out: he then expanded the running-animation to 12 frames, and tough us some better techniques to get those pixes pushed.

How long did it take you to create the first full release version of Resolutiion? Was it just the two of you working on the game the whole time (Richi and Günther)?

Indeed: Richi and I started to flesh out the first ideas and concepts sometimes in 2015 over coffee. For the longest time, working on the game happened during late evenings and over weekends, until the project became overly ambitious. From there we got some great guys to support us with additional pixel-work, writing and music from all over the world.

While we —the twins— did most of the heavy lifting and the grunt-work, collaboration with other people was the real highlight, and kept us motivated throughout the five-year journey of developing our first video-game.

What elements of the game are you most proud of?

Strangely enough the music of Resolutiion is it’s true heartbeat. Gerrit Wolf wrote more than 60 tracks, from ambient sounds of drifting skyscrapers to brutal metal-riffs during combat. We are all music-fanatics, but never expected our first endeavor to be accompanied by such a phenomenal ear-pleasure.

Second is the story and lore, piecing all other ideas together. We invested a lot of time into creating a world that is wild, colorful and fun, yet based on a very serious and dark backbone. While a lot of it did not make it into the game itself, by now we have a huge pool of ideas, characters and philosophical concepts to fill the next five games with it, haha.

How can GIMP improve to make designing pixel-assets better/quicker/easier? What features do you feel are missing in the program or could be made better?

GIMP itself is powerful and versatile enough, to get every job done. It’s interface on the other hand has been its pain-point forever. While work on the UI has improved a lot lately, getting around in such a complicate software is no fun. Sure, one can customize almost everything, but a lot of options are still very inconsistent.

Don’t get me wrong, though: GIMP is an amazing tool, with a history, plenty of features, a big community and above all, it’s free. Who can argue with that?

What would you say to other indy game developers thinking about creating a game using only free and open source software?

Well, I’m certainly a fan of paying good money for good software, or at least donating to some great projects in the field.

Still, OSS software for the most part is not the weak kid anymore; quite the contrary: most potent software these days is developed in the open, with some horrible exceptions such as Adobe or many Microsoft products. If any game-designer or -developer is not forced into some monopolistic setup, go, give GIMP, Blender and Godot a chance.

Is your studio (Monolith of Minds) planning on creating more games in the future? If so, will you continue using GIMP and other open source software?

Definitely. We are already working on our next title, and there should be some early preview of it emerging later this year.

And of course, we’ll stick with our beloved tools, try out new ones and continue to develope our software-stack. Open Source will always be the first choice, and if it works out, I don’t see any argument for proprietary alternatives.

Thanks for the interview.

Monolith of Minds

Monolith of Minds are Richi and Günther, two angry German brothers, telling stories from the Red Code, one frame, one line of code at a time, one line of copy at a time, since 2015.

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