Saturday, June 30th, 2001 #442
The Author's Breakdown Sprite Stress
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One thing I've consistently said about sprite comics is that, all things being equal, there is no way they're harder to make than hand-drawn comics. Any hand-drawn comic of sufficient quality has to be more time-consuming and stressful than putting together a sprite comic.

Take this comic for instance. It probably took me about ten minutes to put together, and most of that probably went into the script. It's just a matter of figuring out what they're going to say, then cutting and pasting the sprites, and putting in the text boxes. Okay, it's a little more complicated than that, but compare it to what someone actually drawing a comic has to do.

Seriously, go ask someone who does a hand-drawn comic how long it takes them to put one together. First there's the penciling; that'll probably take half-an-hour, if not more. Then, depending on the method, maybe some inking? At least another thirty minutes. And if you're going to scan it into a computer and CG it, you could easily spend another two or three hours on it. Compare those four hours of work on one comic to the ten minutes I put into this comic. And that's assuming that my estimates aren't too absurd and the artist can work that quickly. No matter how you look at it, there's really no comparison.

Now, I'm not saying it's always easy. Sometimes, especially with the more graphically intense comics, I might spend four or five hours working on them, but that's not common. Most of the time, they're like this one, and I'm done in half an hour. And where is that time actually spent? Making minor modifications to the sprites. You might not ever notice it, but none of these sprites came directly from a game. Almost all of the sprites I use are recolored and have slight modifications to them. For example, the sprites of George in the comic above, which are recolors of the Author, which are in turn recolors of Mega Man without a helmet, never originally had an open mouth for speaking nor his hand on his head like in the last panel. And to get the sprite of Bob in the last panel required cutting off a recolored Proto Man's head and pasting it over his body.

Of course, those examples are still just minor adjustments that only took a few moments, and it's not like they were particularly difficult. And unlike with a hand-drawn comic, once I make a modification, especially a major one, it can be stored on a sprite sheet so I'll never have to make it again; I can just copy and paste whenever and whatever I want.

On the other hand, many sprite comic authors these days use custom sprites, which can get pretty complicated and time-consuming. They are generally either custom built from the ground up without any sort of base sprite or are highly-modified from base sprites, either of which can take several hours of staring at individual pixels. But once again, once the sprites are made, they never need to be made again.

All that being said, I think there is one place where hand-drawn comics might have it easier: poses. With sprite comics, unless the author is adept at custom sprites, he or she is stuck with a finite selection of poses. Unless the author is willing to take the time and effort to heavily modify the sprites s/he has, that's all there is to work with. With a hand-drawn comic, I could have my characters pose in any way I can imagine (and then draw). If I want a character to be doing cartwheels, I could just draw him doing that. If I want to show a character standing upside-down on one hand, firing a shotgun in one hand and a pistol with the other while fireworks shoot out of his butt, I could just draw it. There are no limits on what I can have the characters do. With sprites comics, you will very often encounter a situation where you'll be forced to do something different than originally planned simply because you don't have the right sprite.

Still, I hardly think freedom of movement makes up for the extra hours spent over a piece of paper, hands cramping up, eyes watering, and the occasional screw-up that requires that you start all over. Compared to that, I say there is relatively no stress in making a sprite comic. And if I ever say otherwise, smack me with a herring.
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