Creating a Blazing Beaks mod

Last year I bought myself my first non-Mac computer in about 14 years and within a week I’d already managed to break my Windows installation and had to put Linux on it to actually use the thing.

Since then I’ve put another hard-drive in the machine and re-installed Windows in order to play World of Warcraft with my girlfriend, use a bunch of Adobe apps and play some games on Steam.

One of those games is a dungeon crawler called Blazing Beaks, a game where all the characters are birds of some form. I really enjoy this game as it has a really cool 16-bit artstyle and the game play is fast enough for me to boot it up, do a couple runs and get on with my day.

Another aspect of Blazing Beaks that is really cool is that it lets you create your own character mods; something I decided to have a go at as I’ve never really done it before and it’s an excuse to have some fun with pixel art.

First steps — getting tools to create the mod

The Blazing Beaks website has a page dedicated to how to build a mod, with really useful information on what each sprite sheet does in the game and dimensions for assets.

You can grab the BBEditor tool (a GUI for creating your modded character) and the sprite templates from here which will allow you to create the artwork and create the character file the game requires.

The sprite template files are in .png and .psd so if you don’t have Photoshop you should be able to open the .png in another tool (such as GIMP) and as long as you ensure your art work is within the confines of the hitbox and the guideline for the ground you should be ok.

Second step— creating the art assets

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Idle Animation for my Count Duckula mod for Blazing Beaks

I’m a massive Count Duckula fan, having loved the show as a kid and as a teenager buying up a load of the duckula comics, a couple of animation cells and other merchandise.

I like to draw vampire ducks a lot. This was taken from a still of the Count Duckula intro where one of Count Duckula’s previous incarnations (the non-vegetarian side) turns into dust after the sun comes up

As Blazing Beaks uses birds for it’s characters and Count Duckula is a vampire duck I figured it’d be a cool character to build.

In order to create the assets I took the examples from the sprite templates, changed the transparency of the ‘cool duck’ example sprite and then made sure that my Count Duckula sprite’s head was around the same kind of size and position.

Following this approach made it easier to adapt the Count Duckula design I did to the other sprites which squash and stretch the body of the ‘cool duck’ sprite, so having consistent dimensions for the head meant I could just redraw the body for the animations.

The hardest asset to produce was the 16 frame ‘jump’ one, but I soon realised that the sprite template used about 5 separate sprites but changed the dimensions, so I followed this technique but added an additional one to drive home the fact that Count Duckula is indeed a vampire duck by adding a bat like outline at the peak of the jump.

Third step — Using the editor to create the mod

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Left & Center — My Count Duckula mod in Blazing Beaks. Right — The Blazing Beaks character editor used to create the mod

With all the sprites created I booted up the BBEditor tool in order turn these into a character that could be used in the game.

The editor is pretty easy to use. You select the different files for the different animations, name the mod and change some of the parameters for the character such as weapon and rates at which certain game events happen.

I decided to give Count Duckula the banana as a weapon as he’s a vegetarian and I added a bunch of HP to it as I figured as a vampire he’d have a fair amount of health.

On saving the character I booted up Blazing Beaks and was greeted with my modded character available to play without having to do any additional steps which was a nice touch.

Forth step — Sharing the mod

Within the BBEditor tool there’s an option to upload the mod to Steam for others to download.

As Count Duckula is a copyrighted character I won’t be uploading the mod to Steam but the Blazing Beaks documentation mentions how to upload your creation to Steam Workshop for others to download and play with.

Summary

An example playthrough using my modded Count Duckula character in Blazing Beaks

One of the benefits of PC gaming is the ability to easily create and install mods and I love the fact that Steam has made this part of it’s community offering.

As a (primarily) console player I’m used to games being quite locked down and relying on DLC to extend games that I enjoy, so being able to download a mod from someone who has a passion for the game like I do makes me feel more connected to the game and it’s community.

My Count Duckula mod was a nice way to waste a couple of hours on the weekend and gave me a chance to revisit some of my teenage years creating pixel art for various different game projects that went nowhere.

Of course, this all wouldn’t have happened without me playing Blazing Beaks. If you’ve not picked the game up yet I highly recommend it. It’s really fun and cheap enough that you won’t be breaking the bank to try it.

Technical Lead at BJSS. Interested in Automated Testing, Dev practises, Metal, Chiptune. All views my own.

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