Creating 2D Games using Your 3D Model Library

Maybe you’re an aspiring game-maker who needs low-cost or free game assets? On the other hand, like many of us, you might already be a digital art enthusiast who has collected more 3D content that you want to admit to, done a lot of renders, and is now wondering what next?

Either way, you should take a serious look at creating fun games using your DAZ Studio assets in combination with a free game creator like Construct2.

To be clear on that word ‘free’, Construct2 can be downloaded free-of-charge for personal use via Steam or direct from Scirra.com. This no-cost version has everything you need to get started, with very few limitations compared to the fully-featured edition. If you want to start using it commercially, you’ll need to get the licence, which for individuals making less than $5000/year on their games is a very reasonable £79 (visit Steam for the current price in your country’s currency).

Image of a Game created with Construct2

An example game layout for Construct2. What could you create with your own sprites?

Not a DAZ Studio Pro User?

I’ve assumed most visitors to this site have some experience with DAZ Studio (or possibly Poser) and have bought models from Daz 3D, HiveWire3D, Renderosity, or similar sites. I sell my own models via the daz3d.com website so it’s my main focus here, but it’s only one of the alternatives.

If you don’t yet have DAZ Studio Pro, this too is free software. You can download the official and latest version of DAZ Studio Pro from Daz3D. You will need to register on the site, but the full version of this exciting software is cost-free and completely legal. And it comes with some models to get you started, including male and female outfits, hair, a tower, swords… and even a dragon. Yes, a fully poseable dragon. (Make sure you install the Starter Essentials packs to get all of these.)

What’s the catch? Well, if you find you’d like more than the starter content provided with the download, you might decide to buy from the store. So you get cool 3D models and they get some dollars, and everyone’s happy. Think of the free software and starter pack of 3D models as a loss leader for the company.

While it’s completely optional, many people who find they like DAZ Studio Pro decide to join Daz3D’s Platinum Club. For a monthly/annual subscription, you’ll have access to a wide-range of highly-discounted 3D models, from characters, clothing and hair to impressive sci-fi and real-world environments. These start from only $1.99, plus you’ll have access to free weekly and monthly models even if you don’t buy a thing. In this way, you can soon build a 3D library of models.

If you are a beginner to 3D art in general, DAZ Studio Pro includes lessons on how to use human figures and other content to create rendered images.

Getting Started with Construct2

OK, so let’s suppose that you do use DAZ Studio Pro or Poser, and that you have quite a few props and characters in your collection of bought and free models. That’s great news, because these can be an easy way to create sprites for Construct2.

Before we can run ahead with this, most of us will want to figure out how to use Construct2. There’s a manual over on Scirra.com and a motley collection of user-created tutorials too. Some of these are very helpful, and you probably won’t go wrong with a top-rated beginners’ tutorial such as the Beginner’s guide to Construct2.

The best way to learn is to actually dive in and make some games, but nobody wants to get stuck every 5 minutes. With that in mind, I strongly recommend getting yourself a copy of an e-book called Level Zero. Yes, this too is free if you download it from Scirra.com, or you could buy it from Amazon.com if you can spare $3 or so to say thanks to the authors.

It’s a fun book to work through, with several game projects that get progressively more difficult, and so build on your knowledge with each new project. If you are a total beginner you might have a couple of ‘huh?’ moments where something wasn’t fully explained, but there are images for every step so you’ll be able to figure it out.

Once you’ve either done such written or video tutorials on Construct2 over on Scirra.com, followed along with some YouTube videos, or have worked through Level Zero, you’ll be ready to start making your own 2D mobile games.

Now the Fun Part — Make Your Own Sprites!

This is where digital artists can get really creative. You can already render characters and scenes in DAZ Studio Pro. That means you’ll be able to create your own game assets.

What about licensing? I’m glad you asked, it’s a good idea to check these things. The good news is that the EULA used by Daz 3D allows you to use 3D models you buy to render as 2D images for use in 2D games. (It does NOT permit you to use the 3D model meshes and other resources in 3D games, but that’s not what we’re doing here.)

OK, for those who are wondering, a ‘sprite’ is an image in a game. The player’s character is a sprite, and can be moved around the screen. So can vehicle sprites. Other sprites may be static, such as platforms to jump onto or objects that a character can collect.

Things to remember:

  • Your sprite will need to work well when reduced to a really small size for mobile games.
  • Keep the colours bright and the lighting even. Shadows, unless carefully integrated into your art style, will probably just look weird.
  • Similarly, forget creative angles for most purposes and render straight on so players can easily tell what the object is.
  • Render with a transparent background. You don’t want to spend hours in Photoshop or GIMP trying to cut away a backdrop.
  • Crop away any unnecessary transparent areas once you load the sprite into Construct2, because even transparent pixels use up memory.
  • In most cases (and always if making mobile games) you’ll need to forget using your beautiful full-size digital art as a background. Tiling backgrounds are the way to go for performance. There’s a useful blog post on this from the Scirra guys.

If you can work within these limits, though, and you don’t enjoy or have time to create high-quality hand-drawn assets, have a go at rendering some from your 3D models. It could be a big time saver, especially for things like trees, buildings vehicles or characters. But don’t stop there, the average Studio or Poser fan will be amazed how many props you really have in your library, everything from rocks to cookies, or from weapons to hair ornaments.

With a bit of effort, you can soon have a large selection of 2D sprite assets to choose from — ideal for starting out in game creation. If you have your sights set on the big league, on the other hand, well even professionals will start with 3D renders for concept work. So don’t feel you have to draw everything yourself or wrestle with unfamiliar software for your game art. Use what you have… and get a head start on making your own 2D games!


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About Indigo

As a digital artist on a budget, I'm fascinated by what happens when art and technology meet, and love discovering affordable ways to make that happen.
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