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Main character animations.

So I'm toying with this 2D spritey game idea. Has a main player character which 
has lots of pick-upable weapons (guns, bows, swords, spears). So I'm wondering 
how to handle this graphically. I can think of:

  1) Tons of sprites, going to need each weapon X each direction X each frame 
of animation.

  2) Layers of sprites, one to animate the main character, one to overlay a 
weapon on him/her. Issues of alignment, it might end up lacking graphical 
sophistication. I have a feeling this ends up needing (weapons X directions X 
frames + directions X frames) images in total.

  3) Cheat. Have the player carrying an indistinct black blob.

  4) Sophisticated cheating. Player carries nothing, when he starts fighting he 
draws a weapon. Not sure this reduces images much.

  5) Not caring. Player carries a sword. All the time. If he's got a gun he, 
erm... appears to shoot with a sword. Heck, if RPG players can cope with an "@" 
being a person...

In a 3D game this would be easy (attach appropriate weapon mesh to the player 
character's "hand" matrix)... but how do people do this in 2D games?

{Why am I developing in 2D? Because I'm doing this on a laptop. Because they 
won't let me take a workstation into work...}

      Katie Lauren Lucas, Consultant Software Engineer, Parasol Solutions
katie@fysh.org katie.lucas@parasolsolutions.com http://www.parasolsolutions.com