Getting started with GB Studio

September 14, 2021 | 12:00 pm


Turns out getting started with GB Studio is a bit of a mistake on our part?

So, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but honestly it’s making us confront stuff we really don’t like about our artistic abilities.

In specifics, we are really bad at creating visuals and composing music.

Okay, so maybe not that bad but still we get easily frustrated and lost in the weeds when it comes to drawing. We can do some visual design work without too much issue, but crafting something from scratch makes us frustrated. We have very little skills when it comes to art, and it doesn’t make nearly as much intuitive sense as writing or visual design.

Despite such, we did choose GB Studio as our medium for this project due to the limitations. While art and music isn’t easy it’s easier to work with limited tools. Palettes of 3-4 colours, 16x16 pixel sprites, 4 channels of sound, and only 3 waveforms (designated to only certain channels). Will make it easier to craft art and music; compared to using something like Unity where the possibility space is so much wider.

So because of that limitations, we ended up managing to create a sprite for the main character; and a background that looks half-decent. Even a jingle for the intro screen. Though we’re not necessarily proud of what we’ve made either.

Our goal is to get this done, release it and be able to say “we made a Gameboy Game” even if it’s nothing impressive.

As for some stuff we learned, we learned about the tools “Aseprite”, “Tiled”, and “Milkytracker”. Aseprite is a tool specifically for making pixel art sprites and assets. While meant for sprites in particular, we have used it to create the single background we’ve made. Since we didn’t have a tileset for the room we were making, and it would have been easier to draw the background directly than craft assets or a tileset to be used to construct it.

We found out about the tool “Tiled” which is a program used to craft backgrounds from a tileset. We haven’t used it much due to aforementioned reasons, but we intend to use it to make future backgrounds since we have found assets to make most of the rest of our game.

Still, we are probably gonna need to learn how to make more pixel art assets. Which is gonna be a little frustrating and require some learning about pixel art and how to make good looking assets.

Milkytracker is something we’re excited to use, but likewise it’s also one of the more frustrating and intimidating. It’s a music tracker, like famitracker or the old school Amiga-era trackers. And while it’s usage is intuitive, composing music using a tracker is far from intuitive for us.

Our background with music making is mostly oriented around guitar. We have some practice with programming drums and pseudo-bass guitar from when we recorded and produced our own music last summer. Plus that whole project was oriented around our guitar playing abilities, which let us figure out a melody or chord progression to produce around.

But that doesn’t really translate to making music on a Gameboy. Playing a guitar and programming notes into a tracker doesn’t translate as well. It’s difficult to get across the same timing of notes and intuitively find melodies or progressions.

We have managed to bodge in some of our guitar work into a tracker, by creating melodies on guitar and attempting to translate them into milkytracker. But in the end it never sounded the same, and charming melodies that rang out and harmonized then turned into robotic and sterile notes played one at a time.

On the plus side, we learned the trick of “repeating notes quieter” to give the impression of delay/reverb. Which did help with the little bit we’ve learned.

We’ll need to learn and experiment more to figure out how to compose and find tricks to make songs sound better. Which is an additional thing to learn, for a project that was supposed to start out as “we are going to make a simple narrative in GB Studio.” Now we have to learn how to be a better artist and musician on top of learning GB Studio itself.

This is going to be fun ;^-^