Tag Archive: Textures


Prototyping the Commercial Level Art

We’re now starting doing the commercial chapter of Caromble! We have test-levels so far, that show the puzzle ideas we’ll use. But they need a lot of tweaking. Not just for the gameplay, but also for the art.

The art assets for that new area are just dummies right now too, so they don’t look up to par. It’s a common practice to do called Prototyping. That way ideas can be tested without spending big production time which then might be scrapped if the ideas don’t work out.

3D Blockout for Prototyping

This is the earliers blockout stage – just using literally a block shape and some texture from another mesh. Not a beauty – but quick to do.

3D Blockout for Prototyping

After the basic usage was tested in the game, I made a better mesh – and created an UV texture mapping (with a checkered UV test texture).

3D Blockout for Prototyping

Then I used an earlier concept to drop in a very basic texture blockout. This will represent the final result much better – but a real texture with normal map and other effects still has be created.

There is work left to do on this asset – but once our team tests this in the new levels, I can much better tell if the idea works. All those steps help previewing the result without committing too much work too early. And there are still quite some assets to go over – to keep track I place them on colored blocks.

3D blockouts overview

The Commercial-Area assets on color-coded floors for easier working. Blue for the ones that are still in the early blockout stage. Red is for the ones that still need the final texture pass. And green is for completely finished assets.

Sweating the Small Stuff

As we’re in the final mile of the project, there are quite a lot of little details that need polishing. Not the most fun work – but gotta be done. Girders and metal bars are used all over the game, and used still some early test textures without final effects like normal maps. So now I redid all of them, fixed all errors – and brushed them up to the style of the other objects. That will also help to make the game look consistent.

girders 3d

Supports and girders

And menu stuff – little navigation arrows and medals for the achievements.

Menu Icons

More Icons – including achievement medals

And the endboss you will meet every chapter got updated – we’re still tweaking the gameplay. Beware: He can now shoot back!

alien mesh

The “alien” – got a new home.. and weapons.

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.

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).




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.