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GDC08: Hands-on Inchworm

Zack Stern

Bob Sabiston, creator of the rotoscoping software behind A Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly wanted to draw and animate on his DS. So he wrote his own application, Inchworm. He says, "[It was] sort of a passion project, something we really want to see on the DS." In between his GDC meetings to find a publisher, I sketched through the latest build of the tool.

Even though Inchworm is closer to Painter than Mario Paint, it's still fun for dabbling. Artists use the stylus to scribble out stills or cels. Top-tier tools that I'd expect in Photoshop even filter down to this level, including layers, opacity settings, alpha channels, selections, and onion-skin animations. Sabiston also intends to add smear brushes to blend paints and sound effects for animations.

As small as the DS screens feel and with so many tools on-screen, I still intuitively navigated through all of Inchworm's options. I sketched on the touchscreen and used the move tool to drag the page for more room. I could also zoom in to tweak blown-up pixels, but I couldn't zoom out past the one-to-one size. The top screen keeps the entire view available at the same time, but a zoomed-out angle for drawing might be added.

Still pictures can be about as big as 1,024 by 1,024, although limits are being determined. Standard DS cartridges have little room to save, although users should be able to keep a handful of those stills and a few 256x192-pixel animations of about 100 frames stored at the same time. But when the room is filled, the DS can upload saved files directly to the Inchworm site. Users can also download files back to a DS for more work.

I was also interested in using full-quality documents in further production on my computer. But Inchworm should be a great art application for people who only want to sketch and animate on a DS. Here's hoping it finds a publisher soon.

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