EDIT: It looks like the developer no longer owns to domain to these links. Luckily, you can still access the tool through itch.io: https://pnjeffries.itch.io/spartan-procjam-edition/purchase Yes, it’s still free (just click on “No thanks, take me to the downloads”), but you can also contribute some money if you wish.
If you’ve worked on game jams in the past, you’ve likely run into this rule:
Your game, all your content (i.e. Art, Music, Sound, etc) must be created in [length of jam].
If you’re working solo on your game (and aren’t miraculously skilled at types of art), you may have explored the realm of content generators. If you explored the realm of content generators and haven’t found SPARTAN yet, you’ve been missing out.
I don’t want to overstate its usefulness, so I’ll begin by describing its scope. SPARTAN (Small Pixel ART ANimator) is a free program that allows for creation and animation of small-sized pixel art sprites and textures. It has a pixel art toolset, so you CAN make your art by hand right inside the program and animate it as well.
That’s not what I find to be the most useful feature of the program, though. What I really like is the procedural art toolset built in. SPARTAN was expanded for the Procedural Generation Jam 2014 to include a versatile functionality set that allows you to quickly create tile-able pixely textures.
Let me stress the key points there – random and tile-able. Randomness can be an indie developer’s best friend, so the textures generated by this tool will save you a whole lot of time and make up for a whole lot of lack-of-skill in the art department. And if you’ve experimented with making any type of game textures before, you’ve probably run into tiling problems. There are many ways to deal with them, of course, but here’s a program that just takes care of that for you.
You can see from the screenshot the type of textures you might be creating. These would work for 2d platformers, top-down adventures, even 3d games. Without SPARTAN, Her Majesty’s Apathy Bomb would have never come to be.
Like many versatile tools, it takes some learning. Of the first screenshot I showed you, I could probably only make half of those images without really taking some time to figure out what the more complex features of the program do. Luckily, the program’s creator (Paul Jeffries of Vitruality) has some nice tutorials on how to get started with it (number 1 and number 2).