Engine details finalized and a new pledge reward
As you will probably recall, we have been deliberating whether we should implement the game as a fully sprite-based 2D game, as a 2.5D mix or a complete 3D implementation.
I have covered some aspects of the respective implementations in my update An Overview from a few days ago, and today we have come to a final decision.
I’ve been a champion of the 2D approach because I love the level of detail that 2D sprites allow you to implement. Always have been. They can be beautifully crafted and every frame can be tweaked to perfection. The big drawback is, however, that sprites take a lot of time to do and are by their very nature very costly because you need a lot of highly specialized artists to create the assets. In addition, the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming and most importantly perhaps, the fact that everything has to be prepared in advance, limits what you can do in terms of to movements and actions, since every single frame that makes it onto the screen has to have been prepared by an artist during the development. 2D sprites are extremely memory hungry on top of things, making them sadly unfeasible for high resolution desktop games of the scale we are trying to create. Therefore, the 2D approach has been abandoned.
Instead, Thorvalla will be implemented as a 2.5D hybrid. Backgrounds will be pre-rendered and polished by the artists in an isometric view to make sure we can add a high level of detail to these graphics. Characters and monsters will then be layered on top of these backgrounds as 3D models. While perhaps not as perfectly crafted and polished as 2D sprites, the benefits of this approach are undeniable.
Animation data are small by comparison and as a result of this approach we can have large amounts of individual and customized animations for these creatures without the need to create tens of thousands of bitmapped sprites that blow up the footprint of the game, cost a fortune to create and will be hard on the required memory specs.
In addition, this approach allows us to easily customize characters—something that is, while not impossible, inherently difficult and costly using sprites. Not only can we give the player more freedom to create his dream characters this way, but it will also allow us to show changes in armor, clothing and even damage. So, overall it is clearly the better approach and I am saying this not because I have been overruled by the team, but because after careful evaluation of both the technical specs and the implementations, I do feel that it is the approach that gives us the flexibility we need while maintaining a high level of visual quality.
Below you can see one of the first in-game assets that have been finished. It shows nicely the level of detail and quality that the game will offer up. Soon I should be able to show you graphics running inside the game engine.
For the project as a whole this means that we can now think down very specific lines. We now know that we will be using Unity3D as the core technology to drive Thorvalla, and because we now have a clear outline as to what we can and cannot do. The battle-lines are drawn, so to speak.
In addition, I wanted to announce another new pledge reward. At the $200 and above pledge level we are now adding an exclusive Thorvalla novel written by best-selling author Steven Savile. Many of you may know Steven not only from his own novels, but also as the writer of numerous novels for Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG world, as well as Warhammer, Guild Wars and Fantasy Flight Games, and his storyline in Battlefield 3. Our material is in very good hands, as you can see, and you can expect an exciting action- and drama-packed story there. Note that this novel will only be available to Thorvalla backers and will not be sold outside of our funding campaign.