Understanding Sprites


Sprites are a staple of 2D games, and that word is tossed around constantly in game development. But what does the term Sprite really mean? Let’s define what a sprite is in the context of how it works in a game.

What’s A Sprite And What’s An Image?

Before we can talk about sprites, we have to talk about images. Images are pictures; they contain information on what a picture should look like via binary encoded information. A sprite in terms of game development contains an image’s information as a texture to be displayed on a screen. This is the most important detail: sprites are only containers. Sprites are more of a programming construct to show specific parts of the image when requested. You could call this a frame. This is why people use sprite sheets (large images with different frames of animation) when creating sprites to display in-game. Now, since sprites are actually programming constructs, what are the important properties of a sprite.

Sprite Properties

Sprites are for games, thus they need to be represented in 2D space. This means sprites at least need an x and y property to position them in 2D space. Next, maybe you need to change the size of the sprite frame displayed; the sprite then needs a scale property to change the size. Next, there is a rotation property, for rotating the sprite. The last property is the image attached to the sprite; this is what the sprite displays as a character or object in your 2D game. All of these are basic properties of the sprite object in just about any game that uses sprites and creates the abstract concept of a sprite. This is the cornerstone of 2D games.

Why Are Sprites Important

Sprites are important because they provide images with properties within our game that we can manipulate. Could you imagine if you had to cut and crop each frame of your image to smaller pictures just to display in your game? It would be a pain for you to do, and even more of a pain for the computer to process. By using sprite sheets on a computer, we can then make our life a lot easier when organizing character animations in our game. Then using the built-in properties of sprites within the computer to effectively display animation in-game. Understanding sprites and how they work in your game will only push your game development projects further.

Now, I hope this post helped you; for a while, sprites confused me. But hopefully, this explanation helps you all understand sprites to further your game development efforts with less confusion.


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