I could have started with something easier, but I chose to start "asset month" by replacing the gem images that I don't have licenses for. To make my life even more interesting, I'm planning to replace the prototype's 2-D images with 3-D models.
The last time I tried digital art, was about the time the dinosaurs roamed the earth. In those days I used a tool called povray, which is essentially a ray-tracer. It still exists and still works. To use it, you define a "scene". In my case that would mean modelling my gems as triangles, polygons, etc.
I could do this (I have the math), but for 7 gems it would take a lot of time. Plus I currently have other, less geometric, shapes. So, I started looking for pre-existing models.
And (good news) I found some. I found a set of 11 3-D models of different gem shapes which I could license for $US24. Despite having no budget for art (or anything else), I figured this was justified as a time-saver.
Then (bad news) I spent about a day (yesterday) trying these models in various packages, trying to get what I wanted. Since I'm learning all of this as I go, my productivity level was negligible. I probably spent more time on you-tube & google than in any of the modellers I looked at.
I had a surprising "good news" result in an unsuspected place - plain old Paint3D (which every Windows 10 box has). This could not only read my models, but made some fairly acceptable animations of them. Like ...
But no-one would ever mistake this for a diamond!
I also found (more good news) that I could use VLC Player to extract every "nth" frame from these videos. These frames could be used as animation sprites. Except (more bad news) there's a lot of work involved in cleaning them up (e.g. lose the background) and they look awful in my prototype.
So, where am I at?
I haven't achieved much, but I've learned a lot! Here's a selected list of what I'd do differently ...
This is subtle, but I would have been better off not using ANY art in my prototype. By using unlicensed images, I set myself a standard, that I now need to match. Also, in order to match that standard I need first to take a step backwards. If I'd just used coloured squares in the prototype, one of the frames from my 3d model would have been "progress", instead of a "fail".
Rather than messing about with multiple tools - some of which were never going to be up to the job - I need to pick one and LEARN IT. The obvious tool for my budget is Blender. Unfortunately, while it can make sparkly gems, it's not really it's strength, so I've strayed into an advanced topic. I think there are enough internet resources to guide me though.
This is arguable, but a simpler asset might have been a better starting point (for me as a non-artist). At some point the hard stuff always needs to be done, but morale and enthusiasm also need to be maintained.
Oh yeah, and making game art is hard!