Shrub Week. The words echo through the blasted hearts of the Gaslamp Games art team. After the last week, they know no love, no joy; only hand-crafted foliage assembled in the no-man’s land enduring a tense ceasefire between Haste and Artfulness.
It all began several weeks ago on a rainy day in Vancouver (which, admittedly, could be any day in Vancouver). My proclivity for punctuality and organization was goaded by the Stick of Management through the bars (of Necessity) which walled the Cage of Fixed Deadlines. The wielder of this device of torment? Everyman-by-night and notorious beer-sampler Gaslamp CEO Daniel Jacobsen fixing me with an executive gaze through that smug little webcam perched on my leftmost monitor (the one with the strange hydraulic arm which may someday unleash its blind, hateful power). The challenge? Complete the entire “non-tree plants” section of the Project Odin Minimum Viable Product Art Asset List.
Break down the requirements, derive the assets from the general design. We talked about this before. Every biome needs ground-cover and some happy little bushes; each zone on the vaguely defined temperature/humidity matrix needs some agricultural product(s). And we damn well are getting coffee plants. You, dear player, may well end up scratching Dire Cabbage from the permafrost on the Cliffs Of Frozen Terror (a mountainous sub-glacial high-horror biome of but middling humidity rating), but at least I’ve given you a chance. Remember me for that much, at the end of it all!
Now, each shrubbery has its own technical requirements. A barrel cactus? Little more than a malevolent cylinder bristling with standoffish loathing. Disc fungus? No problem; Sean practically lives on disc-shaped fungi (a lie). Grassy Things, though technically not shrubs, fall into the “non-tree plants” category and therefore being within the purview of Shrub Week are particularly troublesome due to the thinness of their bedeviling leaves/stalks which are visually lost when viewed from afar, at an angle, with our orthographic game camera. Further, said camera can be rotated, potentially revealing the invisible geometries which only Invisible Geometers ought be privy to. (And if you look, it seems that they’ll confiscate your brain and put it in a jar for safekeeping. It’s all for the best of an unfortunate situation, really. Stiff upper lip now and all that. Yes, jars sometimes get mixed up, but it’s not their advanced filing protocols for which they are best known and there’s a reason for that.)
Sean and Joseph have been coming up with some tricks to address this issue (yes, my tangent perhaps threw my dear reader off: the issue at hand being that of portraying grass and small bits of foliage)– altering card normals, using card facing and playing to the known camera angle directions to construct a facade of reality from Wrong Geometries. It’s no grass, it’s actually four cleverly arranged one-sided 2D planes! Speaking of which, Nicholas has been implementing some Perfectly Safe rendering options on our asset importer to make life easier for the artists (not often done): some texture cards won’t cast shadows, others shall, and we may get billboards if we decide that DOOM really was on to something special back in 1993.
There may also have been experimentation with stacks of card textures to create small plants and flowers relatively cheaply; these have also run into issues with shadow rendering, but I’m sure Nicholas will get it all sorted out before the Geometers come for his brain. I, for one, am counting on them being distracted with turning the coffee maker inside-out.
In all, Shrub Week was pretty good. We got lots done, suffered together, beatings were had, lessons learned, friendships made and broken. But I think we’re glad to be moving on from shrubs and I’m about through with writing anything at all on the subject for at least three days. Next up: a couple weeks of miscellaneous trees and animals with a machine module or two thrown in with that set of pipes before we do Creepy Week. I probably shouldn’t tell you much about Creepy Week because that’d make it less Creepy. Perhaps you can tell that we’re getting excited about it already. It’ll be Fun.
(Best of all, I’m still allowed to have the artists create land-coral, urchins, and giant anemones because they are all technically animals, not shrubs. Another victory for Science!)