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Party RTS for all ages on Wii U. 4 players on the TV team up with 1 on the gamepad to build, fight, strategize & win! PC/Mac/Linux too!
Party RTS for all ages on Wii U. 4 players on the TV team up with 1 on the gamepad to build, fight, strategize & win! PC/Mac/Linux too!
Party RTS for all ages on Wii U. 4 players on the TV team up with 1 on the gamepad to build, fight, strategize & win! PC/Mac/Linux too!
2,294 backers pledged $86,946 to help bring this project to life.

A Peek into Development

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Greetings Heroes! Today, we’re going to give a little insight into the development world. It might help if you imagine Neil Degrasse Tyson’s voice reading all this to you. :)

Light affects the way we perceive the world, and the same is true for games. Currently, our 48 hour game jam build of the game is presented in Unity’s most basic settings. The lighting is default and characters don’t cast any shadows. With the success of the campaign, we can change all that.

On the left, our tree in default lighting. Not pretty. On the right, our tree with no direct lighting cast. Slightly better, but not what we’re shooting for.

With complex lighting and use of normal maps, we can create something closer to this.

Don't worry, Whovians, this tree is friendly
Don't worry, Whovians, this tree is friendly

Many of you may not know what normal maps are exactly, but if you've played a modern game, you've definitely seen them at work.

In order to be textured, a 3D model is “unwrapped”, like a peeled orange, and that model’s features are translated into 2D space. You know that all models are textured, but you may not have known that most models today have more than one image working in tandem to convey how it should look. Below, the image on the left describes the way our tree should look with respect to unlit color. This is known as a diffuse map, because in diffused light (or no direct, reflective light) this is how it would appear. The purplish image on the right describes how the tree should look when light sources are in play - different colors correspond to how light behaves from various directions. This is the normal map, and in the game, the model has both images applied at the same time. Pretty neat, right?

How lovely are your mappings
How lovely are your mappings

With normal maps, developers can take what is a flat surface, and through just a two dimensional image, present the illusion that there’s a lot of three dimensional detail. The surface is still flat, but it appears detailed! You can test this in any game with normal maps - look at a surface straight on, and compare it with how it looks from the side.

Straight on, it looks detailed. From the side, it looks flat.
Straight on, it looks detailed. From the side, it looks flat.

So why do developers use normal maps? Well, the more polygons a model has, the more detailed it can be. More polygons, however, means more power is being used, and games do have limits to how many polygons can be rendered on the screen at once. With normal maps, developers can keep polygon counts down without sacrificing detail. That’s the magic of normal maps!

Diffuse maps and normal maps aren't the only texture types used in games. There are texture maps that describe how reflective a surface should be, whether part of an object should be transparent, and more.

Again, if our campaign succeeds, we can provide a whole level of polish that our simple prototype just isn't conveying. We can bring little figurines to life with awesome detail.

We hope you enjoyed this little crash course in normal maps and maybe you’ll look at games a little differently as you play them ;)

That’s all for today! You know the drill - stay tuned and spread the word!

Comments

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    1. Prismatic Games LLC Creator on April 9, 2014

      @Brandon Morris - Great to hear your feedback! This isn't the final look, but we'll be balancing the specularity and normals to achieve the right feel. Remember, we're shooting for a living board game, so we kind of want our models to look like little game pieces you can reach out and touch.

      As we enter development, though, we'll definitely be sending out previews of the visual style in order to hear what our backers think. We want to involve you guys as much as possible - without you, Hex Heroes can't be a reality :)

    2. Brandon Morris on April 9, 2014

      Too much specular imho. You are getting a very shiny plastic feel to the leaves and trunk (which should feel distinct from one another) and it's losing that awesome shape and style that it was build with. That being said, I am looking forward to seeing more to get a sense of the final overall look.

    3. Mary Catherine Augstkalns on April 7, 2014

      That was really cool! Thanks for sharing, always glad to learn something new, even if it's something some people might think is very simple.

    4. Thomas James Smith on April 7, 2014

      loving these constant updates

    5. PATRICIA IMHOFF on April 7, 2014

      Very interesting! Good work, keep it up guys!

    6. Missing avatar

      Sleet
      Superbacker
      on April 7, 2014

      I don't think I'll ever tire of these sorts of demonstrations of how effects in games are achieved. Thanks for the update!