Critique => Pixel Art => Pixel Art Feature Chest => Topic started by: Facet on January 13, 2014, 08:21:19 pm

Title: GR#224 - Castle of the Winds - Gameart Revamp
Post by: Facet on January 13, 2014, 08:21:19 pm
...is a fondly remembered shareware roguelike for windows, probably a bit dated looking on launch! (in 1991), 16 colour windows icon palette and quite basic Ďprogrammer artí no real detriment to its playability (procedural dungeons help as does a pretty sweet bestiary and breadth of items and magic). The gameís about beating up hordes of monsters, taking their lunch money and exploring the great unknown; pretty addictive.

I think the sprites are an interesting challenge for a remake in terms of presentation: not scaled with size or related in space to the map, (almost) static; potential for playing with perspective and cropping. I'm sticking to approximately the original restrictions here for the authentic experience.

Screens on Mobygames (http://www.mobygames.com/game/win3x/castle-of-the-winds/screenshots)
Youtube playthrough (https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/EQO2KhJVrnQ&list=PL4B7FD2D1F0F17610&index=1)
Pretty great breakdown on Strategywiki (http://strategywiki.org/wiki/Castle_of_the_Winds)
Download (now released in full as freeware, should be fine on XP, not so much Vista+) (http://web.archive.org/web/20110717071112/http://www.exmsft.com/~ricks/castl11a.zip)

Player avatars: not at all tempted to give them any more clothes, I think the blue underwear is quite iconic. Wasnít sure about the Simpsons skin (also tried dither as the original), but I think it works dampened by the grey midtone, and in context of the colour limitations. Iím trying to avoid outlining everything despite the palette. Thinking now that the female version was supposed to have braids so might try that later.

No animation for the guy because I couldn't settle on a nice anticipatory resting frame at the time, and Iím a bit sick of him right now. I sort of stumbled onto doing the attack frame animations while sketching alternate poses and Iím really glad for it. Quite aside from the characterisation opportunities it really helps to get a better feel of the character in space, and to break out of more obvious solutions on corresponding frames, Iíll be doing this more in future.


First bunch of monsters! (thereís about 60 or so in the game, aka more than Iím realistically going to have a go at). Iím quite pleased with the giant rat and little humanoids (Goblin/Kolbold), despite some suspect footwork goblin wise that I may revisit (it being retroactively designated animation), not quite convinced with the neon snake yet; maybe it needs some markings/colour variety. The batís flapping is a poor excuse for an attack I know but I dunno where to go with that; darting forward a bit? A little red mouth would contrast alright. Monsters are only ever seen on the white dungeon background so any colour combo is fair game.

Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Mr. Fahrenheit on January 13, 2014, 09:27:02 pm

I think the skin color looks fine and as there are no great colors on that palette the only other color would be a weird red. To me, the resting frame for the bad seems more like an attack frame then the attack one does, it looks like the bat is swooping down while the attack frame you have is, as you said, just beating its wings. Also, the red eyes on the orc/goblin clash really strongly with the skin.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Parkerbaby on January 13, 2014, 09:59:18 pm
Those are the best renditions of Castle of the Winds sprite I've seen. This is close to my heart; it is one of my favorite games. Great choice keeping the blue underwear.
I think some of the enemy sprites may have some readability issues particularly the snake silhouette.
Have you had experience inputting your own sprite with the in-built customization mechanism?, because I've never gotten that to work.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on January 14, 2014, 02:06:51 am
Thanks guys!

I see what you mean ‘bout the frame order, I had it like that so the full silhouette of the upstroke frame would be the resting one, I redrew both a bit more realistically (realised it was missing a webbed tail, looked kinda like a zubat) and a sorta swoop attack. Googled ‘bat attack’ with mixed results. (http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSSbsprcsx7sVnLtf0oXB-rZR6YZf4Knx1PfLPZCTHLtOUe9eyT)

The red was the only colour that I found to fit for the goblin eyes, I guess I don’t mind the harshness as much, ‘cos that’s how I knew it in the original.

Good to know there’s someone else invested in the game here! To swap out the char icon: it doesn’t seem to like modern implementations of the .ico format; I think you’d have to use contemporary software, I remember having a go once myself, more trouble than it’s worth perhaps.

I can’t really see much beyond my own interpretations of the sprites at this point but I thought the snake outline (at least the resting one) was ok, howdja mean? I wasn’t happy with the animation myself so I tried something with a bit more snap that I like lot better; intended as something like a boa for contrast with the other, viper-type snake.   

Here next to the old:


Just realised I had the dungeon room bg as dark dither instead of cyan; I should really give it a playthrough or two again myself for research purposes. Not much progress on the tiles to post yet.

Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: |||| on January 14, 2014, 08:26:41 am
These sprites look awesome... what a difficult palette though. I think yellow skin is the only way to go with the palette and it looks alright, these were the only other options I could think of:
The dithery one has an old comic look sort of but I like it without the dithering.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: surt on January 14, 2014, 10:35:22 am
Love CotW and these are just awesome.
Back in the day I replaced all the character/object icons in the executable (long lost sadly) and had to resort to magenta for humanoid skin colour.  :P
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: 9_6 on January 14, 2014, 03:35:06 pm
I'm not sure about the broken outline, it seems to me that it makes things hard to read, especially if you have bright yellow shapes on a white background.


Also that palette on the picture looks like 16 colors but is actually 32 with 2 barely visible variations of each color so the picture should have no more than 33 colors including white in it.
It uses 44 while your 2 characters only have 7 in them. What is happening?
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on January 14, 2014, 11:10:39 pm
Thanks! I hadn't tried that halftone combo and I rather like it; a similar one is used for the ogre (http://strategywiki.org/wiki/Castle_of_the_Winds/Monsters#Humans_and_Humanoids) and I’m planning to keep that, I was thinking the dither might be too textural for regular skin (tendency to swallow fine detail), but great for coarser stuff, I'll have a play with that that one. There’s a whole variety of humanoids to go at, with every shade of skin as can be wrung out of the palette so I will try everything somewhere! the cyan/blue is pencilled in for a frost giant ;D.

Hey, I was just looking at your EGA mockup from a while back (http://wayofthepixel.net/index.php?topic=13592.0) for odd colour/texture reference.

Would’ve loved to have seen your full revamp! I’ve had a go at some of the sprites a few times previously. For reasons that now escape me I decided to force a toon look, AA the crap out of everything, and give some of the tiles outrageously contrasty patterns. Most sprites are basically mirrored buff chests, that's how you kick it oldschool I guess. Some less awful ones:


Ah sorry, I think redundant colours are me not taking the time to use an index on composite sheets; gif compression I guess, I’ve been doing these in PS on the fly but I might have to break out Graphics Gale. (It's this one) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_software_palettes#Microsoft_Windows_default_16-color_palette)

I know what you mean (on constrast), The yellow is way bright to pair on white (least it’s not magenta :lol:). I would have to rework stuff ground up with outlines in mind to get the most out of them, but to me those examples do lose subtlety, get a bit cramped in places and it's a trade-off I'm reluctant to make. I’m considering adjusting the palette as a whole for these kinds of issues; a kinda ‘fuzzy old CRT monitor edition’ which might make everything play together a bit nicer.

I redid the rat in line with the other couple of animals ‘cos he was looking a bit feeble, I’m realising just how much the two frames can be pushed without tweening; more exaggerated stuff actually works better, feels more complete statement than sluggish half measure. Also tweaked the goblin but might be getting worse, probably time I move on. I feel like I'm shaking off some animation rust anyhow.


Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on January 19, 2014, 02:33:38 am
Haven’t had much time to work on these, but I did start on a few things including the skintone. I think the dither harmonises better when used over the whole material rather than as an intermediate, and I realised I might as well just shade with the light grey! The guy especially was pretty flat before and hopefully this goes some way to helping on the bg contrast front too; my only concern is that some things elsewhere are going to be stuck shaded only with black and I would like keep things more or less consistent. It seems like the answer to wrangling a lot of these odd colours is to stick a bunch of grey in there, I think I will hold on to the original palette anyway.   


Some new ones, mostly pretty early stages, any ideas welcome:

Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: |||| on February 03, 2014, 11:30:33 pm
Bumpity... just don't like seeing this way down there  :hehe:
I really like the depth you get using the grey as a secondary color on the yellow skin. That seems to work the best overall. The 3rd Conan dude looks way better like that.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Mr. Fahrenheit on February 04, 2014, 12:47:15 am
I agree light grey works very well. Looks very frazetta esque, so in other words, awesome  :lol:.

Keep at it!
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Ryumaru on February 04, 2014, 03:08:44 am
Would you do anything different with the backgrounds? I'd love to see you do some actual tiles proper for it, that still allowed for the procedural generation. The backgrounds were easily the most bland thing of the game from what I saw in the lets play.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Chris2balls on February 05, 2014, 11:08:54 pm
What you've done so far is a considerable improvement over the originals, I like the style you've got going!
That being said, I'm not happy with the way the yellow stands out from the white, so I made some edits with a black outline and a few other tweaks:
I hope to see more, especially background tiles as Ryumaru pointed out! :)
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on February 06, 2014, 03:34:29 am
Hey! Thanks guys :)

I am quite pleased with the grey flesh, I like the way it brings out his nipples.

Mr Fahrenheit:
Frazetta and corny retro-fantasy stuff yes! Even a bit ‘Fighting Fantasy’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_Fantasy) maybe.

I’m been a bit stuck on the tiles actually, to follow the original in the dungeon areas I’d have to go without variants, and most patterns in that palette quite quickly become intrusive. I have already strayed with (just-about) animated sprites though, and I’ve no plans to try and make this playable at all, at least not right now, so probably I should go in for proper tilework, should be fun!

Liking the solidity of your female edit thanks, and the black too which really surprised me, original looks a bit skinny compared. I took another pass on a compromise. I know contrast is an issue and full outlines would make sense as 9_6 demoed also… but my ever so artistic vision, it leads me a different path :crazy:. Did you see the newer greyshade version for the male char?


(I'll have to redraw this one for the animation, so I'll beef it up with more black then)

There will be more! I was caught off guard a bit by this late interest, I should’ve had more work to update. It's fair to say I’m losing momentum a bit, I’ve considered sticking with static sprites ‘cos trying to make the limited animations work is what’s taking time and discouraging me from knocking a few out whenever I have opportunity. I’ll persevere with them for the moment ‘cos it’s been educational, and I think that kind of visual feedback would have improved the game a lot; the only indication of any hand-to-hand combat is the status bar which can make for some rapid and confusing deaths early on.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: wolfenoctis on February 06, 2014, 07:54:05 am
Cool stuff Facet
I made a little edit of the male and female, your upper arm is a little too short in my opinion:
Hope these will be of use to you  :y:
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on February 06, 2014, 11:42:47 pm
Ah, a bunch of interesting rendering ideas there, thanks; a lot softer than I usually go in for, I'll definitely have a play with them later.

It does look like you've shortened the guy by decreasing the head ratio, which would impact on the arm size. Generally I feel you're trying to flatten out limbs to the camera a bit? I've been pushing more foreshortening simply 'cos there's the opportunity when I don't have to match the backgrounds, god knows it can get confusing at this size though and I think the animations help a lot with providing volume context which is lacking in a still, though it should read singularly too.

I didn't actually explain before but my idea was that you'd see monsters in approximately first person (with allowances for the read), and gain quite a lot of pictorial space that way; letting really big stuff appear big without extra tilespace and keeping small stuff at a reasonable detail level without appearing as threatening. Here's a sketch of the kind of thing I was intending for the girl: 
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on October 04, 2014, 05:56:22 pm
er... picking this back up:

Fixed - Crow :p

I felt like a bigger, showier piece might make the whole bunch a bit more interesting/accessible to more people, myself included.

I was actually intending to go for something a bit more dramatic; stencil-black shadows, mid-action, deep perspective, lightning bolts etc... but this was the first thing I sketched and I considered that maybe the kinda dorky pastiche, graph-paper thing is a better fit, idk; any thoughts welcome. I may well sketch up some other directions also.

edit - forgot to include the original. Title & sub are separate images on a black bg, and they're both pretty strange dimensions (441x230?). I just took the full height and narrowest width but I guess that would take some tinkering if I actually attempted to re-inject this stuff.


edit edit - this is the titlescreen btw!

Also: I realise the original font is oddly gothic, so I’ll probably be switching that out along with a few of the other elements borrowed from more generic high fantasy archetypes as I get to them. I think it’d be nice to play with some more consistently Norse alternatives to the usual tropes.

I have worked on the character sprites & a few other things, which I'll sort out sometime later. Just about every other component is a piece of piss compared with the animated monster thing I set myself so I might make better progress this time.

ta, Crow!
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: wolfenoctis on October 05, 2014, 07:12:01 pm
Some rough thoughts mainly on the characters:
I moved their hands closer together since they were obscuring the torsos and "cutting" the figures. Hope it helps  :y:
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on October 05, 2014, 08:31:51 pm
Totally metal! I may in go for a bat plague, I wish I could do snake-projectiles too but perhaps the in-game counterpart (the nuclear tadpole-looking 'magic arrow') is too characteristic to mess much with, dunno. Do like.

My original impulse was to keep a dark background for the contrast and creepy dungeon monsters but I found getting the limited skin tones to look anything like natural under ambient sort-of light was pretty tough, so I tried the in-game sprite/dungeon palettes and kinda liked it.

Are the arms across the chests an issue? I don't see the cutting and I'm not sure what of importance that they could be obscuring (one very historically accurate viking sports bra?). I find the extreme foreshortened alternatives a bit harder to read/a less interesting silhouette anyway.

Don't really understand the yellow-washing of the figures: better contrast?

I guess it's hard to say without playing the game but I'd really like opinions on the appropriateness (or otherwise) to the game this feels while I'm thinking about trying other things.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: wolfenoctis on October 06, 2014, 04:31:41 am
The arms cutting the body isn't necessarily a bad thing, I just think its suboptimal. I thought it would look better with the arms pointing toward the viewer. On the yellow-washing, yeah contrast, though you could go for an alternate color for the shadows(see below), I just don't like the gray shadows since the yellow has such high saturation.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: 32 on October 06, 2014, 04:56:28 am
I have to completely disagree on the arm positions and the colours. The original is far more readable and much stronger silhouettes. Though I would agree that the eyelines mismatching the direction of the weapons removes any sense of danger, it's very much just posing rather than a combat scene. I kinda like that in a nostalgic strange box art kind of way though. My advice would be decide whether they're fighting or not, right now they're a bit half way between.

The grey, yellow and white colours on this and the sprites make me happy. I don't know why but it has so much appeal for me and I hope you keep it  :y:
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: big brother on October 06, 2014, 07:23:22 pm
I would pick more dynamic poses for the characters (unique for each, not just a mirrored version) ... It might help to not think of them as poses, but as reactions to a threat in the story the scene is telling. A dark background will suit the mood better.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on October 06, 2014, 07:42:20 pm
@32 Ah, ok; I can see the posing as being less direct and dramatic as it might be.

The eye-line/pose generally was intended as a bit of a nudge and a wink; I've been trying to take things in more of a self-aware homage/light ribbing direction, there’s a lot of gently amusing stuff going on that I didn't necessarily want to turn everything up to 11, (not right away at least; there’s a couple of other large graphics for game-over and completion that might be better candidates for more wish-fulfilment type stuff). I’m really pleased that something of the idea seems to be working for you anyway.

Talking of strange boxart! (http://www.mobygames.com/game/win3x/castle-of-the-winds-i-a-question-of-vengeance/cover-art/gameCoverId,134305/) Inexplicably that was (apparently) the quick and dirty separately-packaged version in the US, sci-fi chrome pterosaurs and all (most had the shareware bundle). It also boasts of the 'outstanding sound' (silence) and 'over a hundred monsters' (about 60 sprites, although some are reused for lazy powered-up versions).     

I was pleasantly surprised at the yellow/grey skin combo myself!

On the yellow-washing, yeah contrast, though you could go for an alternate color for the shadows(see below), I just don't like the gray shadows since the yellow has such high saturation.

The massive brightness/sat. of the yellow is why I went for the grey; as a temper. Increasing the coverage and pairing with the similar ochre or even the complementary actually seems to increase its potency to me? I'm quite happy with the balance now but certainly was little leery of overdoing it at first ‘cos I found in the sprites that a little too much (grey) could turn them into corpses.   

...hm, that’s quite a lot of talk and little work from me. It may take a little while but I'm thinking maybe I should sketch up the other couple of big graphics and evaluate them as a group before making decisions (and god-forbid, finishing anything). 

Oh, just saw another reply! @bbrother: yeah I was worried about mirroring them completely but they are meant as alternate gender versions of the protagonist so I did want to imply some kind of parity, I will try a dark version though.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on October 12, 2014, 09:08:45 pm
Ah, I had meant to get those titles and stuff moved along but haven’t gotten a lot done; not forgotten though.

So here’s a few of the item icons I did before, bunch more unfinished. I don’t usually enjoy inanimate objects but these were pretty fun to do; quite simple, I’m not smoothing things off even if I have the colours available ‘cos I really like the raw edges, implied continuities.


The first is a (back?) pack, idk what was going on in the original either. 
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Parkerbaby on October 13, 2014, 12:28:42 am
Are some of those objects the enchanted versions?-- judging by the bright blue shine.

And idk; it seems more awkward to do these at an angle rather than vertical. Seems like you wouldn't be able to fit as much detail in. But, I'm not an artist, and yours do look less sterile and 'schematic' than the originals.

Ah, the ambiguous 'pack'. Your version is brilliant, though it looks a bit like how I remember the 'purse' to look.

Also, I love your version of the title characters! The edit isn't an improvement, imo.
Are you planning on recreating all the images? And if so will it be somehow playable?  :crazy:
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on October 13, 2014, 07:04:54 pm
Metals: nah, I’m just really fond of overly shiny things! I guess I’ll either have to do something even more sparkly for the enchanted vers. or y'know... just tone that down to the light grey.

The skew does actually allow for a bit more length, but yeah; just thought it’d look less stiff.

The pack/purse is a good point, thanks. I’ll have to do that next, I guess the slightly smaller scale I went for might confuse too, where the original is as big as possible.

And great to get player feedback! I plan on doing everything needed for the early game; potentially playable, but I'm not sure if I have the resolve to make it so on my own.     
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Gil on November 07, 2014, 01:08:49 pm
Haha, this thread keeps amusing me, because I have a hard drive full of these myself. In fact, I met some good friends on the CotW forums I used to visit.

Example from 2006: (http://game-designer.org/projects/cotw/art/previews/Hero_shield_walking.gif)
Example closer to what you're doing (also from 2006): http://game-designer.org/projects/cotw/pdomain/

Wow, I was bad at anatomy back then :D (my avatar is from CotW too btw, and is from 2007 IIRC)
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Facet on November 09, 2014, 08:52:39 pm
Ah man! and the avatar :lol: Yeah, I recognise you from poking around those couple of tiny forums; I thought I might post up my results there for anyone interested to play with. It seems like the low barrier of entry to fiddling with these graphics was a starting point for a few people. Def. fun to get back to every once in a while.

I’m loving some of those! What’s with that glut of sensible colours though? 16 col. eye-bleed or go home yo! Did you not have a go at an engine re-creation as well?

Embarrassing lack of progress still. I can’t believe it’s been so long but I just can’t devote the time atm, sorry guys.
Title: Re: Castle of the Winds
Post by: Gil on November 09, 2014, 11:49:53 pm
I've got several remake engines lying around, but nothing finished. Maybe we should collab when we've got some time.