How to create animated textures?

I haven’t found any kind of tutorial for what I’m trying to create, but it’s either that I’m not looking hard enough, or what I’m trying to find out is too specific (hopefully the latter, because that’ll make me feel less dumb).

Anyway, what I’m trying to create is what I call “video game effects”. Basically, what I found out on my own sort of, is some effects on PS2/PS3 games, it looks like the effects are on some kind of transparent plane, and the animation on said plane plays whenever a player swings a sword or casts a spell or whatever. A glowing slash flashes for just a few seconds along with sparks appearing on clashing weapons and then disappears, or a glowing fireball appears on a sphere with rotating flames around it or whatever, and the explosion might also be on a flat plane as well.

Note: I’m not trying to create effects FOR a game, but for just recreate for a regular animation.

Am I making any sense? I hope I am. I also hope this isn’t some “cheap” way in creating effects inside Blender. I’m not rich whatsoever, so I’m trying to find the best ways to render out effects without super-advanced particles slowing my computer down than Blender already does alone. I only use Blender Internal until I can get a computer that is MUCH better for rendering (any suggestions would be great if you wanna randomly throw some in this thread). I don’t really know how to make effects in After Effects. I found this program called Particle Illusion that a lot of people say is really outdated, but…it has what I need in it. I can easily tweak everything in there without “wasting” time trying to create the effects on my own. I can create a gif from Particle Illusion and try to somehow bring it into Blender.

Which, in a nutshell, is what I’m trying to do; create a gif, and bring said gif onto a plane or sphere or whatever. And possibly how to have said gif repeat itself or only play once then disappear. I only know how to animate. I don’t need any help with that. It’s creating the effect to go WITH those animations I can’t seem to solve.

Now, if anyone has their own special ways in creating easy effects that don’t look cheap, please tell me. I would LOOOOVE to learn better ways in creating good-looking effects (especially visual sword slashes and clashing sparks). But otherwise, I hope I’ve explained my dilemma well, and didn’t leave anything out.

“create a gif, and bring said gif onto a plane” - wont work. Blender does not support gifs. Rather separate gif into image sequence and use this.

You could probably get some ideas watching this gentleman’s videos. If you are patient enough to listen through it all ;).