18 January 2010

Art direction

*** It looks like the file server I was storing all my Flash stuff on (all those online demos) inconveniently crashed. It looks like it's back up but let me know if you have issues viewing the demos in previous and future posts.

I am trying to pin down the art style (visual representation of objects that have lost a dimension). You know. 2D art. I can go that pseudo-3D route and have 3D objects while the gameplay only exists on a 2D surface (i.e. you can't go into the screen). Well, I say I can, but I really don't think I'd be that great at it, at least not for this project. And while I want to have some concept of depth (moving in and out of a scene), I'd like it to remain 2D because I need to be able to keep my time on this down so I can finish the game within a reasonable timeframe.

It's hard to tell what the art style of many 3D games is now-a-days. Mostly they seem to focus on gritty realism. It takes a game to really go over the top in visual direction for the player to notice the difference (like Mirror's Edge). 2D games really shine in art direction - it's certainly faster and easier to do 2D than 3D and this is surely part of the reason, but still, it's surprising how many of the latest games just try stick to the look of "realism". I find that immensely boring.

I've gone off track a bit here, so if the above is boring to you, feel free to skip down to this sentence and go on from here (of course you probably won't notice this sentence until you have already read the above, which probably has a moral in there somewhere. Either way, eat your veggies or your thumbs will fall off).

I'm using a side-on viewing angle and dropping all perspective from objects. This is actually a kind of tricky thing: how do you know which objects are in the foreground if there is no perspective? A quick I-haven't-tested-it idea is fading or dimming of objects so that only the interactive or foreground objects will be highlighted. I'll probably do a bit of that. Non-perspective is normally not too bad but I'm going for semi-realism at the same time which is why it's not so straight forward.

I'm all out of graphics tablet so I've resorted to black pen and paper. Which means I'm also out of an eraser so some of the bits are messy. This is a rough idea for the protagonist's* room.

While perspective is out, angling an object is not. So in the above I could have the computer and table offset so that it's sort of facing the camera like this:

It actually turned out better than I expected. This could really work.

So why aren't I doing some sort of isometric style thing here? Pretty much because I'd have to then rewrite my shadow engine. It deals really well with flat 2D but isometric stuff would require a semi-3D take in shadow calculation. That's really not an option when working in Flash. Besides, embracing limitations is fun.

* I really need a name for this guy. I promise by next post I'll have one. If you have suggestions feel free to chuck 'em in the comments or something. As "cool" as they are, names like Slade Dynamite, Snake Melodramatic, Raven Mistmare, etc. are not quite what I had in mind.

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