Creating the Game III: Each Game Contains Piece of Reality

04 April 2014

In previous episode we were talked about our approach to ideas and game design document. This article brings you deeper glance on something what must be as attractive as possible (in the most purposeful way of course) – graphic design.

Creating the Game III: Each Game Contains Piece of Reality

From Paper to Screen

What almost every reviewer mentioned as plus of our debut was our decision to create it in hand-drawn graphics. One of the reasons was nostalgia for times without bombastic effects, everything digital and, let´s use term, synthetic stylization. Second argument – Save the Snail is completely 2D, so there was no problem to try out hand-drawn style.

The most appealing motive lies in option of implementing the very unique artistic style of author. This is pretty valuable fact not just among graphic designers. Even a minimally receptive eye is able to recognize if the graphics is hand-drawn or not. And it is no coincidence that most of the games appreciated for graphics (using adjectives like “original”, “unique” or “artistic”) are drawn by hand and not just generated using some tool.

But it must be clear that if you want to hand-drawn graphics get in the game, you can avoid digitization. First, you have to scan your drawings and then is the time for computer adjusting. Take a look on our first hero.

On the very left is only black and white sketch of Snail following by its colored version. The third icon (very right) represents final in-game version of Snail.

Mr Cheesy is drawn as well but in that case graphic designer passed the step with scanning. Character is created in Adobe Photoshop and it was drawn directly on graphic tablet. So, the evolution of main character of World of Cheese looks like this.

However, designers do not throw out the papers. Simple pencil in your hand is still the most natural way of drawing you know. Just have a look on sketches of Defend Your Life.

I guess it is quite obvious are games are primary developed in 2D. 3D style has more in common with engineering and designing. It is much more complicated for developing and it takes more time. Thus we choose 2D style. But we would be liars if we deny using of 3D objects. Just pay attention to next paragraphs.

And Now Animate It

Sketches, paintings and drawings are not the only job which waits for graphic designer. There is another painstaking work which must be done – animations. We draw and animate them but not frame after frame. Our upcoming game contains really many animations which is not very usual in tower defense games.

We do not use 3D animating, which could be easier. Model has its own body structure with own algorithm of movement.

But we cannot deny use of 3D objects at all. To be more concrete, we use it in case of Defend Your Life for working with small in-game elements (for example road border, traffic signs) and some animations which make us later development easier.

For better illustration: firing towers have rotating gun-barrels. We used the 3D model (created in Blender) rendered as cel shade (unrealistic stylized picture) for integrating into rest of graphics. It is easier for us do it that way than drawing frame after frame.

Time, Communication, Feedback

But you have to realize that graphics is not only the matter of graphic designers. Their steps are discussed with programmers and game designers as well. For instance: programmer defines limits of amount of used graphics. It is caused of making compromises because of memory requirements of game which has to be able to run on older devices.

You have to also keep in mind various resolutions of mobile devices. We port the games on every main platform and there are sometimes huge differences between them. That is why we are forced to paint background of levels in classic 4:3 resolution and widescreen as well.

Game designers use their influence for keeping the game understandable. Graphic designer must respect defined sizes, color schemes and graphic style according the as clear as possible task. Here is an example of one concrete task:

“… Barracks will seem like glassy lift or end of post tube (not like can). Units will leave the lift coming from down right after the doors slide to the side and they come out. The lift goes down again…”

Even a graphic develops own style. It can happen pretty easily that some parts or even whole levels must be redrawn or painted again because the style in the beginning is totally different comparing the current style. How does the difference look like can be pretty easy to notice on this example:

By the way the average time required for such a level is 3 days. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It depends on complexity of level or the time which is spent for studying of reality related to game. Every designer must reflect real world, fantasy itself is seriously not enough. Player has to believe the game, it is essential for involving her/him into it. On the other side there must be found some balance between reality and stylization.

In case of Defend Your Life (again) graphic designer had to study anatomy. The reason is simple – whole conception of the game has its basics in atlas of human body. Maybe you remember that kind of books from your elementary school (or from medicine studies).

Anyway, this background is important but just for inspiration. We cannot picture the body in its real reality because in that cause the only thing visible on your screen would be just mass of red mess. But if we just outline the reality, for the player it will be enough to recognize something real and attractive as well.

To be continued…

We have seen how the game wears its graphic outfit. Now is the time for bringing it to life. Our next chapter will dedicated to something which is quite invisible for ordinary player but as important as pixels – code. So in few weeks you will read about programming.

Alda Games, 04.04.2014 | Brno, Czech Republic