or: An Example of Artistic Iteration in the development of Clockwork Empires
Yes, we pine for the majestic redwood towering over the domain of Nature. But if the tree towers, how can you very well see what’s behind it? The majesty of nature is lovely until it means you can’t see what the heck is going on in your game.
I have flashbacks of Rome: Total War which, apart from being a very enjoyable game, was not enjoyable when you ended up fighting a battle in a dense forest. Look to the right there; That’s a very sparse example of a forest and it has troubling issues with blocking your line of sight already. The denser forests got pretty packed and made fine maneuvering of units rather frustrating. This is what we want to avoid.
But still: the allure of Majesty! We can’t give up now!
So: In Clockwork Empires we have a few advantages over R:TW.
- Our camera is pitched at a steeper angle down so tall objects obscure less area.
- We have near-instant 90 degree camera rotation rather than free-roaming FPS-style camera.
- Our general gameplay and especially combat is designed to be taken at a somewhat more measure, slower pace (as discussed in particular regarding combat here) and therefore anything going on that happens to occur behind trees does not depend on the player doing split-second micromanagement; There’s time to maneuver the camera and figure out what’s going on.
It’s a much more forgiving game context. Seeing as how Daniel had been putting so much work into getting a proper pine forest up and running for the Steampunk Colorado high prairie biome (as discussed in last weeks blog post) it felt like a good time to do the “large tree experiment” that’s been mouldering at the bottom of my TODO heap for quite some time. So, off to Joseph they went for some Science!
Side-note: Sean generally does this sort of stuff for environment assets but was busy adding “Rooster” to the random name list and creating a special desk for bureaucrats. To make up for his missing out on this one we’re going to give him the task of performing Science! on a broad-leaf deciduous tree of some kind to do some magic with foliage cards and normals-facing to create a bushier, faster, stronger, more life-like tree.
Right, the point of all this is that the results were lovely.
I couldn’t leave it at that, of course. I wasn’t happy with the use of texture space – see below. The texture labeled “1” below was the old version with some blank spots initially used for additional foliage cards that ended up not being used. Here’s the problem: It looks good when the texture is large. But I want to be efficient about our use of textures (and there are a *lot* of different textures being used in the environment).
Being a cruel art director (but I repeat myself), I told Joseph that we had to cut the texture to a quarter of its size. Doing that, we’re going to lose some fidelity on the alpha channel of the leaves. This is a problem because the alpha/silhouette is a really important part of the foliage – if it looks chunky, then the foliage looks bad. My solution: use more texture space for foliage, less for bark. Heck, the bark is covered up by foliage for the most part anyway so we want to invest our limited space where it’ll have the greatest effect. This version “2” of the UV layout below.
Like the stripey shirt on the barber, there are a thousand fiddly little details like this that must be addressed in the course of developing the art for Clockwork Empires and it is our Science! that keeps them in line, that keeps the Chaos at bay, that keeps THE EMPIRE strong! And I’m getting carried away again, ahem.
So off we go — bigger trees! Lovely. And I’m going to get as much mileage out of this model as I possibly can – you can see in the shot at the beginning of this post that I’ve done a less-red & darker-needled version of a generic pine tree for the Steampunk Colorado high-altitude pine forest biome. By the end of this I’m going to have so many happy little trees to share with you. So many.
In other news, Mr. Christopher Whitman (suspected wizard) leaves us today in order to pursue a career in (Magical?) Law. We wish him well in his future endeavours.