Monday, April 20, 2009

evolution of a level: the bamboo.. uh, level

The bamboo level, or level 12 as it's now called, went through around as many revisions as the grass level. Due to my poor backup organizing, this isn't quite a complete look at the evolution of the level, but it's close enough.

Like the grass, the bamboo idea was there very early on in development. So I had a long time to work on it. This is basically how my process has worked:

1. Have an idea, draw assets.

2. Be satisfied with my work, or hate it and start all over again (and go back to step 1).

3. Put the assets together in photoshop or something similar to create a mock-up of how a level would look like.

3. If satisfied, I will probably start disliking it within days.

4. Repeat process 5-20 times until finally, totally satisfied.

There are a few levels where I got it mostly right the first or second time, but for the most levels this is how I've worked. So what I've learned is that if I'm not completely satisfied with my work and I think that I can do better, I should give it another go. Experiment as much as possible. And if I get stuck, I'll work on something else and come back to it later.

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These two pictures were done in Painter IX, before I really tried using traditional media. The thin black lines in the second picture made it to one version of the area but I can't find that so I'll show how I used some of these other bamboo stalks for another version.

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I liked this at the time, and proceeded to make some foliage to go with it:

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Not too bad I suppose, but it didn't feel right. I think the problem here was that everything looked too stiff, too rigid and perhaps even a bit plastic-like. And the terrain outline didn't do it for me. So I tried some more, this time attempting to create a painterly terrain texture and changing the leaves:

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Kind of a step back in many ways, huh? The ground texture reeks of lame photoshop filtering and the vignetting (something I think I figured out later) was absurd. The lighter leaves were a step in the right direction, providing some translucency which helps when you're dealing with parallax layers. Still, this wasn't looking good.

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Here's another attempt. Different terrain again, and different leaves. The leaves here are actually in the final assets, albeit arranged quite differently. The mist is present because at the time the bamboo world was going to be split into three levels: a day level, a misty level, and a night level. This made sense back in 2006 when I didn't have as many ideas for level themes. I remember being pretty happy with this mock-up for a little while, but I revisited the bamboo concept later on after I started using traditional media for the artwork.

The first step towards going that route was in April 2007 when I experimented again:

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Yikes. Well I wasn't satisfied before so I kept on experimenting, and in an attempt to create more sumi-e styled bamboo, I created bones. One good thing did come from this one though, and that was using scanned-in media for the leaves, as weird as they looked:I was introduced to a certain kind of mixed media process by one of my art teachers, a process I was quite taken by. It's basically a wet/dry process of layering charcoal and acrylic paint. I believe it was the bamboo level where I first decided to use this process instead of going the computer-painting route. Here are some terrible scans of the assets now present in the final level of the game. All done on gessoed newspaper with layers of charcoal and acrylic.

The funny(sad?) thing is that I never rescanned them. I thought it was okay at the time, and what you see in the game are these scans, cut out and messed around with in photoshop. I never felt the need to rescan them.

For the ground textures I used the same process and created three sets of textures and blended them together in photoshop. I could only find two of the scans in time for this post, the third one having bits of twigs mixed in with the charcoal and paint.

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I didn't really know what I was doing. Again, just experimenting, trying out new techniques. And I liked where it was going. Here's an early piece of concept work using these assets:

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I spent quite a long time figuring out how to use these assets. This is one of many concept works I made--I was finally getting somewhere satisfying with the bamboo level after years of working on it. And after this I did just about every proceeding bit of artwork using traditional media.

Here's the final bit of concept/reference work I made for the bamboo level, using final assets from the game. If you pay close attention you'll see those twigs in the ground textures I was talking about:

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And here we have the level in the final game:

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Overall I'm pretty satisfied with how the level came out (especially in motion). I learned a lot during this process and at the very least I have a rough system in place for asset creation. I'm looking forward to trying out new methods and techniques for future games if we get the chance (*psst*buy our game!*psst*).



Andrea Walter said...

I stumbled across this blog and think the game looks awesome. Goodluck on everything, I'll be keeping up on your future updates on the game :)

Daniel Coleman said...

Thanks Andrea, I appreciate the kind words!

Olimar_91 said...

No worries, I will definitely be buying your game.

Another interesting look at the game development process.

Are you guys thinking of releasing the soundtrack online after/before the game releases? I always love to get my hands on music if I can.

Daniel Coleman said...

Yeah I think we'll be able to do that.

Ángel Louzao said...

I second Olimar's interest in the possible release of the soundtrack. :3

Also, I've been a bit disconnected from this blog (and the internets in general) for the past couple months (that's what it took the phone company to fix my busted connection, sheesh!), but I'm so happy to know that the game is finished. I really hope Eduardo sees a release in Europe soon! :D

Daniel Coleman said...

Europe will take a little longer, since we won't be able to afford to get the ratings stuff done until after we (hopefully) make money from Eduardo. Just getting all of the ratings for Europe will cost about half as much as Eduardo's entire budget.

Ah, I love the unified European ratings system. :|