Design and documentation journal for my interactive fiction (text games); also reviews and other miscellaneous stuff.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Graphics - Alpha Changes

 A bunch of people were kind enough to download 30 mb worth of example graphics, look through them, and give feedback.  One of the background layers is off by a smidge; I'm having the devil of a time figuring out where the break started.  (It's likely to be unnoticeable in-game, but it's irritating me.)

There's some tree placement issues, and I noticed (although no one else mentioned it) that some of the trees were putting little semi-transparent white boxes around themselves, with the result of strange white lines running through the screen.  So I need to go in, erase all those, move some trees around, and reconstitute them into one layer.

All that's pretty straight forward fix-it stuff.

Less straight forward: the cliffs have some issues.  I took out the layer of trees on the cliffs, added some extra shadows, and experimented with a gradient to add some variation.  (Thanks to Erik's wife, and Erik, who passed on the suggestion!)  I also shifted the whole thing darker and a little bit blue-er.  It looks less like limestone now, but whatever.  I'm having some serious issues getting the gradient to fit properly over the cliffs, though - there's either a little extra overlap, creating weird shadows, or not enough overlap, which limns the cliffs with a sliver of brightness.  As a result, the cliffs look extra painted on.  I think finding the right curvature for the gradient will help; a straight vertical isn't really ideal.  I think a couple layered gradients in different directions will give the right effect; for now, it's experimentation.  (I'm pretty happy with what I've got, but before I go through to fix the borders, I want to make sure I have it right.)

Much harder are some complaints about the grass; in parts, it's a little "bald", and you can see the shape of the curve that I textured, and not everyone is thrilled with either the monocolor or the static texture or the particular color choices.  I haven't been particularly thrilled with my efforts to add color to the grass itself; the flat color recedes, but the texture pops, and given the texture of the trees, it's sort of painful.  I do think it will be possible to vary the silhouette, which will help some.  I'm wary of tacking on too many extra layers; we'll have to see how it runs, but flowers or something might also break the monotony.  It's actually kind of difficult to do a genuine layered look with various plants (see: trees),  but it's worth a try.   Preliminary results from just brushing up the shape are encouraging. 

One of the close-up trees has gotten a lot of comments, too, mostly with no easy fix.  I'm still kind of poking at it.  Some parts, like the canopy shape, are easy, if tedious, to experiment with, and probably worth doing.  But things like the trunk are much harder, since it was made using a brush and my trunk-art is near nil.  I think it's possible that the trunk is too dark/saturated, which is fixable, and I can back the contrast back some, but a complete trunk remodel probably isn't in the cards. 

I also want to try bluing out some of the distant trees a bit, and seeing if that increases the illusion of depth.

- No one complained about the clouds, which is great, because they're hours and hours of really nitpicky work.  Hallelujah.
- No one complained about the rain, which received a last minute tweak or six.
- No one suggested more tree variation, which is good, because I'm a little tired of trees at the moment.  (All in all, there's about 250 deciduous trees, all duplicated, scaled, and placed by hand.  Each of those has 11 to 13 layers, which had to be turned on or off by hand to merge the layers.  About 10% of those were given custom tweaks on top of that.  Plus there's 20+ conifers, which only have two layers.  I still have a tertiary merge to do to get things right, but if I never look at another trunk sprite again, I will die content.) 
- The general goals (season/weather info) were conveyed adequately, and in most cases excellently. 
-No one protested the snow, either the active "it's snowing" screen or the snows on the trees/ground, with the exception of the tree that's already slated for an overhaul.  (I still can't believe this, since my patented "put snow on trees" process consisted of a blurred brush and tracing with my mouse.  Yay, though, because hours of work.)
- No one commented one way or the other on the slight variations in sky color - slightly purple in the spring, green in the fall, and less saturated/lighter in the winter.  Which means that it wasn't too much of a leap.  (It's pretty obvious if you've got the animation open and can directly toggle on/off one color or the other, but it's harder to catch otherwise.)

So: overall, I feel pretty good about it, and no "back to the drawing board with you!" moment.  No one noticed that towards the end of the tree placement process, I got impatient and duplicated a bunch of groups.  It's interesting that I can see the group division lines pretty clearly still; I'm hoping once I go away for awhile, I'll lose that recall, and it'll all just become one pretty mass. 

I'll put up before/after comparisons once I've got some options I'm happy with; in the meantime, if you haven't taken a look at the alpha graphics, and want to, you can download here. Gentle criticism welcome, here or at the email mentioned in the description at the download site. Someone suggested putting the game title over the graphics line; I'm reluctant to do that, but let me know what you think. 

In other news: Fishing!  I know, I know, I really should have wrapped it up months back while it was fresh, but I didn't, so now I get to wade through a mass of uncommented experimental code.  (I did this once already, and promptly saved over it.)  The game will now put together a fishing rod for you.  It's *very* alpha - it automatically provides an earthworm for bait, even in the middle of the winter or if you're in the middle of the lake, but you know, that can wait.  I'm tweaking the Table of Fish at the moment.  The completionist in me is sort of sad there's only a handful of species, but getting info on non-sport fish species is pretty much impossible, so the player's stuck with the usual trout, bass, catfish.  (There's about 13 permutations and species, but a few of those are pretty rare.  Trout, bass, and catfish cover a good 60% of the options.)

Fun fact: I am SO glad I never figured out where I wanted to put a river in the landscape.

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