The purpose of most game tools is to streamline process of content creation. They should enable the artists to easily get assets straight into the game, thereby reducing the work load of the programmer. That’s the theory anyway.
Right back when we were building Balls Unleashed and Throng, I started making the Character Editor 2D with this theory in mind. The idea was to have an animation tool that could handle a hierarchy of Quads that could move independantly (eg head and arms attached to a body) and do sprite sheet style animation on each Quad at the same time. My vision was to be able to have a single “Anim” that incorporated both. It turned out to be quite ambitious but I think I got most of the way there.
Where the wonderful theory broke down was in the final 10%. I’m still not satisfied to offload it on the art guys. It always seemed like there was something much more important to do than iron out the niggling issues, and whilst those issues persist, it’s just more efficient for me to work around them and implement the character rigs and animations into the game.
Overall, the Character Editor 2D has been a success. Two weeks before DPB deadline, the character you see above was literally a square. I was able to take the sprite sheets and mock up images from Scott and build it into the Square Off character in a couple of evenings. Most of the dynamic movement (including gun, arm, body and eye rotations) are controlled in code because it’s smoother and more dynamic that way. However, the tool allowed me to visually set their relative positions, pivot points and sprite animations. I also use it to define the physics, which in this case is simply a box.