Tag Archive: Style

Black or white?

In a previous post we wrote about creating challenges, or a place to pile our feature creep!

This skill testing place now gets a makeover. At the time – some 5 months ago – we used the available assets to create prototypes. Currently, we are deciding on the final style.

We like this challenge area to look clean, simple, and fun. With this in mind we converged to a clownfish palette containing black, white and orange. With orange only being used for accents, so you’re not actually playing in ‘Clownfish Land’.

The important question is: what will be the dominant color? Black or white? Does it matter? A wise man once sang: ♪ It don’t matter if you’re black or white. Whoo! ♪

The screenshots below are our current mockups for the challenge areas. In a future post we will reveal the final style.


Mockup for a challenge level using black as the dominant ‘color’.


Mockup for a challenge level using white as the dominant color.

Inking Out the Texture Style

Pens used for hand drawn texturing

These are the two pens I use for drawing the textures.

I want to write a bit about the texture-making process for Caromble, which is quite different than I learned to make textures for bigger games. Early on I decided to try a more analogue texture look, while not going too experimental.

All textures are done first on paper with a simple ink pen (the Pilot G-Tec-C4 0.4mm). Before that step I put the A4 paper on the monitor and trace the texture layout on with a light blue pen (Pilot Color eno 0.7 “soft blue”). A bit of a low tech approach, but it works quite well. On the side picture you can see the blue traces.

Over the years of working on the game, the style and process changed a bit. Earlier Assets used to be much more detailed. Here are some of the later assets (with the signs you can see in a recent post). There you can see the lineart, that I scan and then color on the computer. Without effects it looks quite bland, so there are always specular maps (that change the shininess of an object) and normal maps (which add surface details). Sometimes some other render effects like illumination maps, that for example make windows and car-lights glow.

Texture layers of stylized sign

The textures of the bus. With the linart first, the colored texture, specular – and then the effect map that shows which parts should glow.

Texture layers of stylized sign

The textures for a commercial sign. With the linart, the final diffuse, specular – and a normal map.

Texture layers of stylized sign

Another commercial sign. Showing linart, diffuse, specular and normal map.

I think going for that low tech pen workflow was a good choice, since it saved time compared to tougher lead-penciling styles – even if that might have been easier to show off with. This way I can gather more experience before trying crazier art styles. For example I learned over time that I can work really small – a 512 texture only taking up 3cm. By now I could nearly fit the whole game on two A4 papers.
On the scan below you can see some earlier textures. While more detail looks nicer on paper, in the game (surrounded by lots of items) these just disappeared. The simpler and much quicker way looks better in the end. Win-Win!

A4 ink texture sheet

This is the A4 sheet I use for inking – it has half the textures of the game.

Here I’ve made a render with just the line-art. It looks also interesting – definitely something I will experiment around with more. The next one shows how it looks with all textures applied – the colors help the gampelay a lot, making it easier to distinguish items and their function.

Noshadow Lineart-game render

This is how the game looks with just the line-art (and a small black outline around the objects).

Lineart-game render

Here it’s the same textures, but with shadows, shading and some effects like blur.

Flat color render

This is a plain render – with no shadows or effects, showing the added color layer.

Effects render

And this is after turning on some of the effects you see in the game, like the normal maps, glowing lights, blur in the depth, and of course shadowing. The game actually has some more.

Concept: The Alien!

So in our push to get a new demo together we’re also adjusting some gameplay. For one we want to give the player a clear goal what to aim for in a level.

Our idea is to add an alien artifact, that crashed in each level. The player is basically the alien rescue team. Here are some ideas for how the design could look.

It has a clear contrast to the world, to be easily spottable. It also gives us an excuse to make the goodies easily spottable. Red looks nice – so we’ll run witht hat, but we might have to use more colors for different goodies.

Final Asset: The Farmhouse

One of the first bigger assets in it’s final form: the farmhouse. Which is right next to the start on or prototype level. I made a little turnaround movie – one with the diffuse map, and one with just the normal map (Normal maps are basically just showing the shape of a form, instead of the color).

I think I’ll keep this style throughout the project – after all the testing I’ve written about earlier, I’ve got it working: It’s quick, and unique enough. With some after effects we’re planning for this should work well in the final game (again, those asset shots are not done in the real engine yet, but close to it).

More Steps in 3D

On request to add desktop sizes of the last images, I’ve made the caromble wallpaper page. Hope this works for everyone.

And the following images are some more asset-shots to test the final 3D look.

As pointed out in the last post, this is not in-game, but close to it. If we get features like the black outline to work, it will help us also with the gameplay. We could change the color to highlight important objects.

While working on the cow screenshot, there was a little accident. I put the wrong texture on all objects. But I think it actually has something to it – it looks more gritty, evil and in despair. Wile the overall technique for the other assets is ok, I will try to incorporate some of the effects from this mistake. Maybe the cow will get a gasmask one day.

Pushing the Style

Even if one has a clear image in his head – it is really tough to fully realize what it is about, and get it on paper. As I pointed out in the last posting about conceptart, the design was not quite there.

When creating the webpage I decided to make a background image – and that was a good chance to freely explore the style a bit more. Here is the line-art done on a A2 paper.

Helped a lot to get my head around this – it also made me collect a lot of shapes and ideas, that I can pretty directly take into the game later. Basically 50 little concepts in one. Here is the final colored version for the website-background. It tiles in all directions.
I might make a full standalone artwork with the original layout later if I find the time.

Next Step in 3D

After the 3D tests I showed earlier I had a pretty clear path to go. Inked lineart did a neat job: it is clearly visible, gives a unique look and is well workable. The next step was coloring to create some final assets so I know it works for all the remaining pieces. From the concepts I had a good idea of how the coloring should look like – and I wanted to take the loose approach very directly into 3D.

Here are some 3D tests that are further along. Note though, that while these are real-time shots, they are not from the actual game. Certain features, like the black outline are still missing. But I think we’re close – the depth of field (blurring in the distance) is working already albeit not as perfect yet.

Here the texture of an oil barrel. Each object will have also a damaged version – thats what the cracks are for. For who is not into 3D usually: The light blue part is a normal map, which helps the game with the lighting. It adds little details like the rims, without having to change the mesh.
It was a guideline from the team to create these, because the Ardor3D engine is able to handle modern shaders quite nicely and we want to show that off (and it looked nicer anyways). While in the game the lights is not set up well yet, these normal maps will look better than in those test shots.

From Concept to 3D

When we went for the city design – I had to start thinking about how to transfer this look into 3D. It’s great that the team gave me the OK to go for a pencil experiment. I am used to work on huge game projects with hundreds of people – there is not much flexibility there, and not much trying of new things. The switch to single artist is a very nice experience.

I started with a simple container as first test object. And I did the texture in a pencil style. Hoping to get as much of the drawings in to the final version.

There are some problems with this approach. As you can see in the texture-scan, it’s all a bit noisy. And when adding a color overlay (since the final version would surely be more colorful), the lines are hard to read.

In 3D this all got even worse. In the screenshot above you can also see a version with a normal map added. While this looks nicer to me since it seems much more detailed, it makes the line-effect nearly disappear.

Maybe adding contrast on the lineart would fix this, but it tends to look “dirty” with scanned pencil art. Which also creates another issue: Whenever I would add something in Photoshop, I would have to emulate the noise effect. Keeping in mind that I will have to do all assets on my own for now (the downside of not having a big team), I had to find an easier way.

So I made several dummy-objects with just ink-lines. It is faster, and way easier to fix in Photoshop.

The lines are much stronger, and won’t disappear, even if I add color later. I decided to go for this – and made one more detailed object to try the workflow. Some ambient shading definitely helps to sell the shapes.

I think with this I have a good balance of “easy to work”, while still having a somewhat analog look to it.

Setting the Style

I want to write a bit about how I started with the art. I was invited to help out with this project, when it was already a bit on the way. The idea is really cool in my opinion – and already fun to see, even in the early still buggy versions. I was happy to join, and my first task was to come up with some style ideas for the art.

I took some time and made the following sketches. One picture that came fist to mind: A more techy look, nice colors and effects. Maybe a spacey background.

Then again – you know, what first comes to mind is often the boring thing that everyone comes up with. So time for the next one. This is a variation of more symbolic objects. A pencilled cargo set – you could use all these boxes as stacks with the physics. Surely the TNT would be fun.

I liked the pencil style, so I made another one. This time the setting is a city. Instead of the TNT crate a nuclear plant could blow up.

To offer one more very different option, I went for a sci-fi style. Different boxes with sleek futuristic designs.

We met up together and I presented the ideas. At the end we went with the city design. And at that point I also thought about actually using the graphite-pencil style for the actual game graphics. More about that later.