More Visual Style Explorations, and Web Maintenance

Hey Folks! Today was all about visual style brainstorming, with a bit of web maintenance thrown in.

As mentioned yesterday, I'm still in talks with the contract artist about different visual styles for the game. To aid the discussion, I did some searching for games with compatible art styles that I liked, and made a document to show pros and cons. So far, we think we're on the same page as to what would fit, and he's going to mock-up a few more things.

I'm still thinking top-down, mostly due to the simplicity of the art. (No meshes needed.) But just for the heck of it, I decided to do a quick hack to see what rotating the camera in the prototype looked like:


So tempting...

I do love me some isometric art. Even with the lighting and z-fighting bugs, that's really tempting. We'll see, though.

The website thing was mostly a back-end fix to get an old update script working. It helps me keep the Steam keys available to new users, and needed some patches since the new website went live. Seems to be working now!

Have a good night, all!


Malacodor's picture

Wow, so much X-Com feeling! From a marketing standpoint the extra work for walls might be worth the additional customers from the X-Com fanbase who always wanted to build and fly an ufo themselves.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

Rovlad's picture

What about objects/crew members behind the walls? You'd probably have to program some kind of cutoff/culling system for these as well, especially considering that players can design the ship at their will. Either that, or giving camera controls to the player as well, which also means going full 3D, meshes and whatnot, without any creative "cheating" like flat characters. :)

I'd probably just stick with top-down perspective personally; while it might not look as nice, it's definitely going to be easier to maintain and support, therefore allowing you to concentrate on gameplay rather than visuals.

Also, who said that top-down can't look great? I'm sure that if you let your artist to work more on details, like flickering lights, quietly humming and sparkling engines, or deadly space parasites crawling out of the vents, it might still look amazing.

After all, you could always just leave the camera position unhardcoded, so modders could put in perspective angles after the release, along with doing any additional work that it might require. :)

Anyway, as always, looking forward to see more stuff from you, however you decide to go about it.

matsy's picture

From my perspective of isometric walls. When I have had the ability to, I have just disabled them, and had it so it just shows the base out line like in The Sims as I don't care much for the look of the walls in reality. Unless it affects game play, so I would want to see the air-lock in full.

I also tend not to rotate my view port in games and keep it at the default as I just assume it was designed to be played in that perspective...

Rovlad's picture

Yeah the Sims instantly come into mind, but it was full on 3D since the second game and it also had the courtesy of not having walls in your face at any given moment despite giving you ability to edit house at your whim. So there's that.
But yeah, you could also disable walls (leaving only their stubs or outlines on the ground), so good point there.

dcfedor's picture

@Malacodor, it does have an X-Com look to it. Or even Buck Rogers on the Sega Genesis. I wasn't planning on making the game combat-centric, so the audiences may not fully overlap. But in true NEO Scavenger style, the combat may still end up being really detailed, even if not encouraged.

@Rovlad and matsy, in this case, the scene is actually 3D, so occlusion is already working. The tops of the walls are the sprites, and the sides of the walls are untextured shadow-casting meshes (hence the weird lighting/shading). Beds and floor tiles are sprites on a different layer/plane. I just hacked some camera rotation controls into the arrow keys to take this shot.

You're right about the culling being tricky, though. Even if the walls occlude characters behind them "for free" because they're 3D, that doesn't solve the reverse issue: wanting to see characters behind a wall. Cut-away walls or fading walls would be non-trivial to code, considering some edge cases.

Though, being able to rotate the camera like Sim City 4 (in 90-degree increments) would be one approach. Another might be a sort of "x-ray" hotkey to outline interactive items and characters through walls.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I've asked my artist to make top-down look good, so let's see what he comes up with. There are certainly good-looking games out there with top-down (or nearly top-down) perspective. So it can be done!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Rovlad's picture

I actually thought about fixed angles for the camera right after I wrote my response. I didn't want to edit that in.
Still pretty sure that top-down can look outright amazing if you get it right.
"Another might be a sort of "x-ray" hotkey to outline interactive items and characters through walls."
That's actually also pretty creative and fits into the theme.