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Messages - Arachne
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Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Curse of the Caves (EGA DOS game)
« on: February 15, 2011, 03:30:56 pm »

Hey, guys! ;D I haven't had much spare time lately, but I'm still working on this whenever I can.

I have a programmer helping me with it now, and we've chosen DOS as our platform. It's going to be a little more limited by that, but it's also going to feel more nostalgic, and (thanks to Dosbox) it'll be cross-platform as well.

The engine is running nicely in EGA mode on an old 486 at the moment. :D

Firstly, I finally came up with a title I think fits better. The old one looked a bit crowded with all those letters, so I think that's better in this one, and it's also alliterative like its spiritual predecessor.

Here's a concept sketch for the new worm monster and the new worm sprites. I wanted something a little more menacing and thought through with regards to movement. They stand out more than the old sprites without the pink. That shift towards blue made them look more like they belonged there, so I'm wondering if I should try to squeeze a little bit of pink in there at some point. I also changed the darkest skull so that it looks less flat.

Here are the new insect sprites.

I drew new weapon icons to make them more distinct. Shield (stun), arrowhead (damage), heart (healing to player, damage to enemies) and broken heart (damage to player, massive damage to enemies). I liked the idea of a broken crystal having an effect very different from the intended.

I also added a tiny bit of rock to the ammo crystals so that they looked more like they were attached to something. I don't think it adds much to the first two, though.

The skulls are meant to be bronze, silver and gold, which I found a bit difficult to convey in EGA colors. I was thinking I could use them for a level statistics screen or something.

Here's a screenshot with some new tiles. I added a bit more black to the underside of some of the old ones, like Faceless suggested, and I think it adds a bit of depth. However, I still think the rock tiles look flat, but I hope the addition of brighter skeletons towards the center make them pop out a little more. I'm also thinking about drawing some even bigger skeletons for larger sections of solid rock. I didn't want to just keep adding more crystals since I want the crystal items to stand out next to the tiles. On the other hand, it's all very gray at the moment, so I think a minimum of color is needed.

A few things to say about the title screen:
The caver's attitude is not that obvious (not that it should necessarily be from the viewers side, but maybe some problems you have/had with him are related): is he laying in shallow water, or standing in deeper water, or clinging on a ledge over even deeper water? Is he motionless, or actively trying to climb out?
Is he aware of the ghosts behind him?

I wanted it to look like he's clinging to the ledge in deep water, exhausted and trying to catch his breath. As for whether or not he's aware of the creatures, I don't know if it would change much. He knows his death will be unpleasant, but he should know it's not permanent at that point since he should have the means of resurrecting himself.

The floor is very even for a cave. Quite possibly you don't want it to become too busy. Anyhow, a few links won't hurt [1] [2] [3] [4] (not all show lakes, rather typical uneven cave floors; I thought it would be easier to find good caving pics).

I agree that it looks a bit odd to have flat cave floor like that. It would be better to have mainly square tiles as far as drawing to screen goes, but that wouldn't look very natural in a cave setting. I've tried to vary the edge colors a bit, but I'll try to make some of the tiles a little more uneven to see how it looks.

The main light should come from the guy's headlamp (and some from the ghosts), but it doesn't look like the lamp is on, and there seems instead to be some foreground source of light (reflecting on the helmet). It might look more dramatic to have most of the fg lit by the headlamp. Btw, did you consider acetylene caving lamps? (sorry for the lousy image and details, it's the best I could find!)

I think it would be easier to make something dark and dramatic if I had more subtler, dark shades for details. I don't know how effective such a modification would be at the moment, but I could experiment a little when I have time. At the very least, I'll see if I can add some light from his headlamp on the cave floor in front of him, as it seems strangely ineffective as it is.

The old fashioned lamp is interesting. I'll keep that in mind for the other spelunkers. :)

General Discussion / Re: A skin appears!
« on: September 19, 2010, 06:52:00 pm »
I think it's a refreshing change, and I like the colors. However, the darkest elements coupled with the white text is too harsh, I think. Otherwise, very nice. :y:;D

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Crystals and undead geologists! (EGA mockups)
« on: August 10, 2010, 09:49:59 pm »
Glad to hear all the polishing is paying off. ;D

The cyan creatures did read like ghosts to me, but unless my eyes are playing tricks, then in your excellent title screen they appear to be a reasonable 1.5 to 2x the height of a human character (i.e. just right for a monstrous creature with an emphasis on a hazy, stretched aspect because of their temporal nature).  But in the game mock-up, they're 20 or 30 times as tall.  I don't know if this discrepancy is contributing to your discomfort, but I wonder if these creatures would look better if they were pixelled to be about the size of a large boss, rather than something the size of a background layer.

Oh, good point. I hadn't thought about that at all.

I do like 'Endless Cavern', though I think the reason you might have tried to change it is because - despite how it rolls off the tongue - it lacks a good verb for pep (or at least a more descriptive noun) and so 'Crystal Blast' must have sounded very exciting in comparison, but maybe began to feel too exciting (like it was supposed to be some kind of high-energy Columns or Tetris clone...).  At the risk of suggesting something that sounds too comical and throw away, would 'Crystal Caverns' be too alliterative for you?  Then there's also 'Phantom Caverns', 'Crystal Depths', 'Ancient Caves', 'Adventure Mine', 'The Under World', 'Caverns of the Dead', or many other possibilities and combinations of possibilities.  (though I doubt any of this is much better than 'Endless Cavern'. :-[)

Crystal Caverns is a bit too much like Crystal Caves, I think. I really like Crystal Depths, but I think it would be nice for something more arcade-oriented, like a Mr. Driller type of game.

Here's the title screen for now, with both title and menu.

Also, so I'm not completely useless, I did a quick edit on the suicide animation to add highlighting outlining to the dagger so it's more obvious hte throat is being slit and I added some frames so hte guy wobble on his knees before falling completely to the ground.

That's a huge improvement. ;D

How's this? Personally, I prefer it without the fountain. Also, magically disappearing knife. I might get to that later.

Just a small edit on the bottom of the rocks. I thought they were a bit too noisy.

Yeah, that looks good. The tiles need some work in other areas as well, so I'll see what I can do. :)

Here are some spelunkers. The player will have to fight spelunkers with backpacks, so I might have to change some of them so they can't be mistaken for the player sprite, at least the one with the pink crystal.

I also ended up changing the skull symbols a bit to make them look more menacing. The skulls are grave indicators, by the way. The contents may or may not be friendly.

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Small Warehouse Map
« on: August 05, 2010, 04:58:26 pm »
What sort of crates are they? I looked at some pictures of shipping containers to show you how you can shade them so they read better.

Notice how the sides are darker than the top. This helps to show that the two sides are angled differently. Secondly, the base color is uniform on each of the sides, which makes them look flat as they should be. Once I had that established, I started adding the details. I've used brighter colors for the details on the top than on the sides to preserve the difference in brightness between the two sides. Once I'd put the details in, I mixed in some other colors for variation. I haven't used the darkest colors much, just for shading in the darkest parts and for emphasizing holes and sharp corners.

Hope that helps. :)

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Crystals and undead geologists! (EGA mockups)
« on: July 29, 2010, 12:56:55 pm »
Thanks for all the kind words. ;D

I hope the glove and knife look better now.

The cyan creatures will be an important part of the story. They are ghostlike, so I thought I'd try to convey that by making them vary a bit in shape, but I can see how that can be a little confusing out of context. I tried to divide the one in the foreground into two creatures to make their designs more uniform, so I hope that helps.

Here's a rough mockup of how they might appear in-game, although I'm not happy about having such large areas of uniform color next to the much more detailed sprites and tiles.

Oh. . . and that's a trail of insects headed his way. He's too calm looking for being in a life or death situation.

If I can make it work, death should be a minor hindrance. He'll find items that can resurrect him, and he must use this to resurrect others who have died in the caves.

But what about the overall composition, how will the logo and title screen options integrate?

I'll try to put the title in next. Initially, I named it Endless Cavern, but later changed it to Crystal Blast. The latter doesn't really fit the mood as it is, so I think I'll go back to using Endless Cavern. Title screen options might be a bit more tricky to fit in there, now that you mention it, but I'll see how it turns out.

I did a quick edit for the character proportions, his arm is really small compared to the head, but it can be style you want to convey.

I don't see the problem with the proportions. Maybe it's the helmet making his head look big? I'm gauging his upper arm to be roughly 1 heads long and the lower arm plus hand a little less than 2 heads, which seems reasonable to me.

I would keep a solid yellow background for the notebook paper. It brings the plane forward to the player's attention. The dither can interfere with the handwritten font.

I like the idea of yellowed paper, but I think a sudden change from the dark colors of the background to light yellow is a bit too harsh, personally.

I think I found a way to make the items pop out a bit more by adding a bit of red to them. I also made some changes to the player character to make the helmet look more like a helmet and moved his shoulder up a little.

I do notice a slight discrepancy in narrative tone between the title picture and the in-game graphics. The sample message content further contributes to the dichotomy of registers. It's hard for me to imagine this cute little lemming guy struggling to survive in a world of sparkling crystals and cartoony worms.

I agree. I didn't have a story in mind when I started making mockups for this, since I just wanted to draw something that had the style of old DOS games. Then I decided I needed a story in order to make the world more consistent, but I don't really feel able to write lighthearted stories.

With moves like this, there's a bit more than a slight discrepancy. :D

A larger character sprite would allow for a more realistic approach, I think, but that would also mean more time spent on the animations, and I fear that would take some of the fun out of it for me since I don't really like animating that much.

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Crystals and undead geologists! (EGA mockups)
« on: July 17, 2010, 07:23:02 pm »
I haven't done any big pixel pieces in quite a while, so I decided to finish this before getting back to the mockups. It still needs the title text, but I thought I'd post the scene itself first. What do you think?

Helmet light ref
Skull ref

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Crystals and undead geologists! (EGA mockups)
« on: July 07, 2010, 06:32:10 pm »
A suggestion is to leave the new pages on-screen in the background when the player selects them (and if they press the key for journal they dismiss them) but don't pause the game, so people can platform and read at the same time.

I think that's a good idea.

I like the idea of "some bonus being harder to read against the background because they're supposed to be rarest, highest valued and require more attention from the player to spot them. The sparkling of the jewels is imho way preferable to outlines, though I find your animation posted on June, 30th a little too slow for that purpose.

I was thinking about making the crystals reflect based on movement, since the light source will have to move relative to the camera to get that effect, but I'll have to see that in motion before I decide on anything. If the point is to make them visible, only making them change when everything else is also in motion might not work very well.

As for making them look like they are on a page, I think the idea is cool, but it is too jarring to pick up an icon that looks like a page and then see an object that looks like a torn strip from a page.  Any way to make the two more equal? (e.g. blurred top and bottom edges to suggest that only part of it is being seen?)

Yeah, I think I'll have to try to find a way to indicate multiple pages. I think I'll need both the pages and the yellow text. The gray for journal pages and the yellow text for internal thoughts.

There will be few puzzles. It'll mainly be basic lock/key, and should be designed to minimize backtracking, i.e. you find the keys first, then the doors. There will be a few categories of things to gather, so I hope there will be enough to do without puzzles.

The main challenge right now is to flesh out the story and tie gameplay and story together. Once I've straightened that out, I'll need to come up with a few incentives to get the player to play the game the way I want. I want to avoid simply forcing the player to do that by introducing arbitrary rules. I might go into more detail once the gameplay is a little clearer to me.

I tried to make statues that were just larger versions of the little idols, but I think they'll have to be more detailed than that. I'm sketching out some detailed designs for the shamans of this ancient culture, and then I'll stylize them to make the statues.

In the meantime, I gave the title screen a shot. I ended up with something much less action-filled than my initial ideas. I first made a much larger sketch, then shrunk it down and grappled with color reduction. I tried to fix the shoulder, but I'm feeling fairly clueless about the whole neck area. I left some room for the title, but I need to decide on a font style first.

This is... going to take some work. :crazy:

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Crystals and undead geologists! (EGA mockups)
« on: July 03, 2010, 05:08:52 pm »
True. I guess I haven't really thought about this practically enough. I could do something like put a little icon in a corner of the screen after a page has been picked up, and then the player can press a key to read it.

Better now?

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Crystals and undead geologists! (EGA mockups)
« on: July 03, 2010, 03:19:32 pm »
Thanks for the feedback, guys. ;D

As far as the palette goes, I don't really want to change it since the CGA colors is what I associate with games back then. I was mainly wondering what I could do with the same palette.

I think you should break up the straight lines on the waterfalls, the straight edges are killing them.

Yeah, I was hoping the sparkly effect would hide the straightness a bit.

But perhaps the text should be placed over some sort of background?
Maybe blacken the inside of the big monster's mouth, that would give it a bit more depth.
Also, have you considered using dark red for the stalagmites/tites? I think that could possibly push them into the background a bit more. Right now there's just a lot of blue going on.

I tried the red for the cave background, but the dark blue is currently the darkest color in the palette, so anything brighter adds to the contrast, making it busier. The contrast in hue between the foreground and background was also a bit too harsh. I don't really mind the blue. It makes the cave seem cold and it also serves as a nice background for the text since the yellow really pops out against the blue.

If this underground world has relics in it, suggesting a lost civilisation, then it would be cool to have squares of cut stone, and leftover bits of wooden structures to also 'break up' the rock tiles.  Maybe carved faces, also?
I think the cyan outline looks fine, but if it isn't subtle enough, how hard would it be to make it fade in and out like a soft glow (stepping through darker colours, rather than an alpha, I assume)?
I've been staring at the reflection animation for your crystals with unblinking appreciation - it's amazing!  And is that a little page to fit into the diary - does it have game hints and story-advancing clues?  I wouldn't be able to wait to collect them, even over treasure!
Are you still going to have coins?  I think a stamped image in the center like an eagle or a fish would help them look flat (especially if they had a raised edge).
Is this going to be a mockup, or a working game? (looks pretty convincing atm!)
I like the idea of the alternate layer you showed in this post, which really gave a suggestion of depth and intricacy.

I'll try to come up with some carved, ornamental tiles. I won't keep the coins, since there's no need for currency in the game (i.e. no shops). I also decided to go with a neolithic culture, which rules out metalworking. I can try to add another layer to the background, but with statues or something like that, but I've so far found it difficult to make an additional layer subtle enough with the current palette.

As far as diary pages goes, I was thinking I'd try to combine the story with a tutorial. The pages will describe the discoveries of an anthropologist lost in the caves, but they'll be found out of order so that the items are explained before you find them. The pages that only contain information related to the story will be scattered a bit more, so I guess it would be a little quest in itself to find them all and combine them.

I don't know if it'll actually turn into a game at some point, though. I need to figure out more of the gameplay before I start thinking about actually making something out of it. I also want to give the ecology of the game a bit more thought to make it seem both consistent and sufficiently varied. I'll keep the current monsters, but I think I might need to make them a little bigger.

I like the glow suggestion, so I'll experiment with some kind of glow or sparkle effect. Maybe I'll do something similar to the reflections in the crystals for the other items as well. As a digression, making that animation was a straightforward procedure, so I thought I'd explain how I went about it.

1) First I colored in all of a crystal's planes with each color indicating a similarly angled plane.
2) Then I decided which direction the light would move in (horizontally, in this case). I indicated the planes I'd use for the animation with white and light green going from one side to the other.
3) I made a palette swapped version of the crystal so that the colors were roughly halfway between the original and pure white.
4) I used the image from step 2 as a mask to isolate the brighter planes while leaving the white from step 3.
5) Then I put the resulting brighter and white parts on top of the original crystal.
After that, I tweaked the individual frames a little so that the edges wouldn't be too sharp and to make sure the animation would be smooth.

Here's an attempt to soften the edges of the waterfalls, and also text with a background. The page looks a little crude right now, so I'll try to polish it a bit more and experiment with the colors. It does block more of the player's view this way. I'd rather not freeze the game while the text is displayed since I've always found that jarring, but now it's a bit more obvious where the text is coming from at least.

General Discussion / Re: Pixel art terminology/glossary
« on: July 03, 2010, 01:15:21 pm »
I think such a list, if too extensive, might serve as fuel for more cryptic critique. I see many of the terms used here more as short-cuts in critique for more experienced forum users. If such a list is needed for things other than basic terms, like dithering or anti-aliasing, maybe it means that critique to new users needs to be more informative?

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