This semester in college is largely focused on one major project; developing a two-dimensional character and environment in Adobe Illustrator, and then using Adobe Flash and ActionScript to create a walk-cycle and enable a user to control the character. So far, I've finished all design aspects of the project, and I'm in the very early stages of programming the character and environment.
My character is called Charlie, from CH-4R-713, which is a short-hand version of his make and model. His story is that he is an outdated home-helper robot, which has fallen into disrepair. Over the years, he has lost some panels in his bodywork, which left vital wiring exposed. Charlie’s story involves a bird removing a vital cable from his arm, thereby forcing Charlie to leave his home in pursuit.
As with most digital work, the design for Charlie started out with pencil on paper. After research and development, I settled on the design as it is now, then drew it up in ink and scanned it. Ensuring each individual part was contained in its own layer - to make life easier when it came to rigging - I set to work recreating it in Illustrator.
The next asset to be created was the environment Charlie will inhabit. I wanted to keep it simple - so that the focus was on Charlie and his movement – so I settled on a woodland location with a lot of gentle, organic shapes, and I kept the colour scheme quite muted. The most important aspect to keep in mind when laying it out was that it had to support parallax scrolling, so each layer of scenery had to be contained in its own layer in Illustrator, and those in the near foreground needed to be wider than those in the distant background to allow them to move more quickly.
While working on that, I was also busy getting Charlie rigged and ready to start walking. The original Illustrator file was imported into Flash and every component that moved was converted to a symbol and rigged so that they rotated appropriately. Then I added keyframes to establish the most extreme points of the walk cycle, and tweens to start making the movement more fluid. Tweaking individual frames and tweens, and adding slight squash and stretch to certain parts, most notably the spring in Charlie’s torso, helped to give it a more ‘natural’ feel.
I’ve just scratched the surface in terms of coding the ActionScript. I have the background scrolling left and right according to the keyboard controls, but I have yet to set limits, bring Charlie into the scene, and get him walking in the right direction and at the right pace as well. I also hope to start working on an interaction between Charlie and something in the environment very soon.