Post-campaign recap, progress report, and what's next (IMAGE HEAVY UPDATE!)
Hey guys. Anyone still listening? Hopefully yes.
Sorry about the lack of updates lately. As might be expected, I had a period of adjustment, trying to figure out what exactly I'm going to do and how I'm going to do it. Working for high res is pretty new to me; Most of what I've done in the past has been for lower res screens or displays, such as the very prototype that was shown off in this campaign.
Today I'm going to offer a hopefully mostly coherent recap of what I've been up to and where I'm headed next. There are a few things I want to cover, so I'm just going to word barf on you. Please excuse my rambling nature.
Moving forward, I've gone through a few different phases since the end of the campaign. Initially I was considering the possibility of changing the game's art style; Perhaps even radically changing the design of the main character's suit.
I tried a few different things, some of which were similar to what I had before, some of which were... Really, not sure what I was even thinking.
After some flailing around design-wise, it became clear to me that it's quite hard to redesign the suit in a way that fit all the criteria that the gameplay and story call for and also work well visually.
So.. Why redesign it, really?
I came to believe that where I should be focusing my efforts is on identifying what's good about the original design and refining it and making it better. That ultimately meant emphasizing the cloak/pancho more for a sleeker look, and slimming down the entire body a bit. And, naturally redoing the whole thing in a higher native resolution.
This is what I came up with:
So -- As you can see, it's similar in many ways to the original. I wanted a slimmer, sleeker look, as said, and the longer cloth and thinner form help with that. I also made sort of a pointed leaf shape with the cloak running down your back, which I feel helps give the character a more memorable silhouette.
Something that was bothering me for the longest time was the asymmetric nature of this character (she has a gun on one hand and not the other) and the absurdity of simply mirroring the graphic to run left and right -- Her gun arm magically changes. If she's facing left, it was the left hand. Facing right, it was the right hand. This may be common practice, but, being anal, I wanted to do something about that. This is what I did.
I committed to make different versions of every single animation for this character so that we have total consistency. The left hand is now always the gun hand no matter what. Doing this requires a little bit of craziness, but it only has to be done once, and with the character finished, it's behind me and was worth it.
Animating a character like this with a lot of colors and textures is pretty tough. There are no real rules, it tends to become something of a scrappy, Photoshop free for all. A lot of it is done with manipulation -- I'll put together poses by cutting and pasting body parts, then paint over them to help eliminate seams. For something like a run animation, where I'm already pretty familiar with the leg positions needed, this was pretty straight forward.
Other times I'll sketch out the poses first and sort of wallpaper over them with body parts, finishing it off with a retouch. Take, for example, this "stop running" connective animation I wanted. I put the run animation next to the standing animation, and attempted to bridge it by sketching out a few loose frames.
Next, using the sketch as a guide, I started "wallpapering" over it with cut and paste body segments.
The cape is a bit trickier, and it involves a lot of trial and error and liberal use of the warp tool.
Other animations there's no real easy way through. It's just pure effort and trial and error -- Like these jump up and fall down animations, where I really placed a lot of importance on getting the cape movement right.
Once the animations are finished, preparing them for use in the game engine is a task unto itself. I need to adjust their resolution to the desired size and pull the frames out, one by one, and form a massive sheet of frames that can be read by the game engine. The sprite frames are spaced apart perfectly so all the software needs to do is know which column and which row to pull a given frame from in order to display it.
Here's a shrunk down, partial image of the sprite sheet, which is much, much larger than this in its entirety:
When all the frames are together on a sheet like this, it also gives me good opportunity to make sweeping adjustments to the color levels and particular filters or layered effects I want to apply to tweak the look of the character art prior to putting it into the game. As such, the coloration may change a bit as I decide on what I think is best. The current plan is to make the coloration similar to what it was in the previous version of the game.
The other matter that was weighing heavily on me was environment art. How much work will it be making it for a much bigger screen -- And what, if any, of my existing environment assets can I use or adapt for a big screen. It turns out, a lot of them can be reused or adapted.
It's important to me to retain the essence, look, and feel of the original game -- The lighting, the noisy, thick, sci fi atmosphere -- All of this together with the sound design will contribute to a heavy, isolated feeling. I was always pretty happy with how the game looked before, on that small screen, and I want to make it translate to a much bigger screen as well as improve on it.
Click this to check an animated gif of an example of the lighting and atmosphere in the old game. This is the target. This is the best use of lighting I made before, and this is what I want to do again.
Here are some early screenshots using a mixture of old and new assets. Keep in mind that things are still early and much is liable to change over time.
(Click for higher res)
Having most of the new character design behind me is a big obstacle out of the way (I place a lot of importance on the main character art!) and moving forward this week I'm going to be focusing a lot on solidifying the finer parts of the game's design and making a new, more detailed blueprint for the entire map which will help us lay the framework of the game in the new engine.
At this point, after a lot of testing and experimenting with the assets on a big screen TV, I'm feeling very optimistic about how the game will look and feel and can't wait for it to be shared with the world.
To everyone who backed, you continue to have my sincerest thanks and appreciation. For those who haven't, The paypal store is still up on my website and I'm still keeping those backer rewards (such as name in credits) available through to the end of the year. So if you are interested in the project and my vision of an isolated, atmospheric action/adventure game and want to support it by buying early, the option remains open.
One last order of business: While I'll get by fine without any additional artists (make no mistake, I will finish the game no matter what) it would be a nice luxury to be able to outsource some of the artwork and it would help allow the game to ultimately be finished sooner. Although there are many people out there who are as skilled or more skilled than me at art and animation, the artist would also need to be able to approximate my style and implementation, such as it is, so that the game's presentation appears seamless.
At this time I'm primarily looking for help with spritework -- Characters/monsters/etc. If you are interested in the job and believe you have the knowledge and experience to create assets that look similar to mine, (it may be the case that I give you a target drawing and ask you to animate it, but I'm also open to your own ideas on designs), email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm not asking for volunteers; there is compensation.