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DF Lee

Art Update #1: Creating a Visual Style, Part 1

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Speaking of female protagonists, I'd like to chim my opinion on the matter:

Respectfully one reason I can't see the main protagonist be a female in Tim's game is because I can't see cute girls pull stupid and boyish things, like Guybrush or any other protagonist does. I was born in a family of sisters and they are all in their teen years now, but they are also more mature than boys in their age and all they care are boyfriends, makeup and less, you know, acting stupid or adventures.

I think it applies to all women around the world here and only boys can be so funny stupid like the protagonists in Tims games, so much, that having the other side would totally do suspension of disbelief or atleast that is how it's accepted in our culture.

I am a big fan of Siberia series, Lara Croft, the longest journey, gabriel knight and especially Dreamfall. These are adventure games all featuring female protagonists that are young and well developed in my opinion - but - most importantly they are different to what some laidback and funnier adventure games intend to execute in terms of humor. The fluidity of the characters reflect the gameplay and none of them really acts out of context of what girls are like.

Make no mistake, I would gladly like a female protagonist here if she is well developed around the humor but I can see it also as a sexism question, you see when man acts like guybrush and stupidly, nobody minds. It is expected of men to act like that. But when one cute girl acts like that, then everyone loses their minds. Some women may even express in alert that Galbrush offends their sex. With that kind of things it's saver to go with a funny male, if you understand what I am trying to say.

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It may be viewed I'm being a bit biased about this, but I would love to see Double Fine do a Female main character for this game or maybe a future game. I love their artstyles of women and I'd like to see what Nathan's art style plus a double fine game could come up with. If anyone can make an amazing female character, it would be them.

I absolutely agree with this. Enough white dudes. I've been playing white dudes all my life. White dudes are stale.

And yet I enjoy playing male protagonists much more than females, so it's difficult to please everyone. But either way I think it's a bit early for this. We don't even know what the setting is. If it's set in a monastery, or about heavyweight wrestlers well, probably gonna be male, there. If it's about nuns or cheerleading or, don't want to be presumptuous, but I'm guessing female. Maybe the main character won't even BE a person. I mean, chances are they will be, but this conversation sort of becomes null and void if the lead character is a genderless alien or a robot of indeterminate sex. Maybe the setting will suggest the character, and maybe the character will suggest the setting but either way, I don't think it should be forced depending on what some people think is 'stale.'

Oh, dude, please. ANY ONE of Tim's old protagonists could've been either a girl or not white with MINIMAL consequences to the story. One could sortof kinda make a case for Manny Calavera both not working out as a female character or already not being white but meh. For Laverne being a girl was basically a personality quirk on the same level as "fat" and "dweeby" describe the other two player characters. That only leaves us with all the rest of them.

'Oh, dude, please' what? I'm not sure what your point is, or what you think you're arguing against. I said two things, pretty much:

1) I personally prefer playing male protagonists. I don't need to justify this, it's just a preference, stated plainly.

2) That I don't think the decision to use a female/male protagonist is one that should/can properly be made in advance of knowing more fundamental things about what the game is.

What exactly about any of that is objectionable?

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Oh, dude, please. ANY ONE of Tim's old protagonists could've been either a girl or not white with MINIMAL consequences to the story. One could sortof kinda make a case for Manny Calavera both not working out as a female character or already not being white but meh. For Laverne being a girl was basically a personality quirk on the same level as "fat" and "dweeby" describe the other two player characters. That only leaves us with all the rest of them.

I like how when there is one case that doesn't fit your criteria at all you counter it with "but meh."

Ben would be a hard sell as anything but your typical biker, considering he is supposed to be the stereotypical Hell's Angels guy. It's what makes him who he is.

It would also be a bit weird to make Guybrush into a woman, but if you want to say he should be a different ethnicity, maybe a Spaniard, I guess that's fine. Or would be if we knew where his ancestors hailed from.

Razputin I suppose you could change the gender of if you wish since he's a child, but he's already a gypsy and of eastern European heritage, not to mention skin color isn't really indicative of anything in that game.

And, to be blunt, it'd be kind of stupid to ask Jack Black if you can change his character's skin color to increase diversity.

Oh, and you can choose your gender in Costume Quest and the characters of Stacking are Russian.

There's nothing wrong with having different characters in the future, but it is incredibly disrespectful to say that you can change aspects of a character and things would be, "just fine," or worse, "the same."

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I know it has been said plenty of times, but, I love the art style. Nathan Stapley's work is just fantastic.

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I'm not sure I understand why everyone is so impressed and surprised with the parallaxing. It's been around since the first Monkey Island. I pretty much half expected it.

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Thank you for the insights into the early visual development! Getting a glimpse at similar processes in a completely different field of work makes me think my boss should've paid for the backing. ;)

Please don't hesitate to go into more detail on techniques. And what other tools are you using for the different visualisations? Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter, ... what for animations? Does it involve light tables or is it all digital?

Because the game engine and tools are still being developed by the programmers, I used a commercially available program called Adobe After Effects to visualize our scene.

As you mention cameras I suppose you placed the individual layers in After Effects "3d" space and just side-scrolled the camera for movement? Since that would be a lot faster to mock up than creating true/fake parallax movement and that cinematic-feel behavior. Of course it doesn't matter how you created it if you just want to simulate the feel.

Yet depth-scrolling, with such a setup, is an easy move in AE. But would that work with a 2d game engine at all? I imagine this needing a completely different approach as you don't have that actual camera. Just scaling the character to move into the scene sounds a lot easier. So, was the last example just a "hey, lets see how it looks" as it's so easy to try out, rather than what could actually be implemented in the game? And what about motion blur and depth of field? Would that need to be faked as well?

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Aphids are not human and can reproduce asexually. I think that should please everybody. How about it guys? A Canadian Aphid?

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The main character should be a walrus named Poe with bipolar disorder, dressed in a red tracksuit with a tiara on his head and a monocle on his eye, he carries a Congolese passport but he was born in Finland (dual citizenship).

But seriously, I rather the story gave life to the character not the other way around; gender, looks and species should be determined by that. No need to be original for the sake of it.

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As you mention cameras I suppose you placed the individual layers in After Effects “3d” space and just side-scrolled the camera for movement?

Yeah, Lee can speak better to the specifics, but that's the gist of it of the previs's are done.

Yet depth-scrolling, with such a setup, is an easy move in AE. But would that work with a 2d game engine at all? I imagine this needing a completely different approach as you don’t have that actual camera. Just scaling the character to move into the scene sounds a lot easier.

That would be true as Adventure games were done back in the day, but now even smart phones have 3D GPUs in them, so we actually do have a camera, sprites/billboards w/ depth, and all the hardware to render them. In fact, if you look at the matrix math that supports hardware rendering, you find that there is no difference between scaling the character and moving the camera, which is why graphics geeks call a camera a "ModelViewMatrix". And that's about as nerdy as I think I'm allowed to be in an art-centric thread :)

And what about motion blur and depth of field? Would that need to be faked as well?

There are certainly techniques for doing both motion blur and DOF in real time on GPUs. However, they (DOF especially) are likely to be much too expensive to do them on mobile GPUs, so we'll probably cheat/fake. For example, one idea we have right now is fake DOF by storing a clear and a pre-blurred version of each layer texture and then blending between them as the player moves around. That'll look the same as what we have now, but at much lower runtime cost.

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Bit late to the party, but this is beautiful nonetheless.

Thanks a lot for this brief step-by-step, Lee. As as artist myself, it's awesome and interesting to see this exploration and watching everything come to life.

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The main character should be a walrus named Poe with bipolar disorder, dressed in a red tracksuit with a tiara on his head and a monocle on his eye, he carries a Congolese passport but he was born in Finland (dual citizenship).

Priceless!

But I think he/she should have a cool sidekick: Flying horse-cat with a laser-cannon on it's back and rollerblades - everything else would just be descriminating.

But to add to the topic: In my opinion all characters of Double Fine Games were really well developed and everything but stale. Therefore I'm not really worried about the characters. I do get that people like diversity - but I don't think that was ever an issue with DF's games.

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That character design just kind of creeps me out and I feel like that's probably not intended. I'd like a more... "soft"(?) look for him. I don't really hate it though. Just... creepy.

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Nice Start Guys. Perhaps we could see some Ambient light & Particle effects tests too. Morning & Afternoon light gradients/Filters. Dew & crossed light effects. Fades & Blurs.

Even for a 2D Point & Click, you can Still add a lot of Depth to a scene by add a number of transparent layers that work off each other & blend nicely, lighting, lighting levels/tones, mist/shades, rain, general particle effects that change tone with a transparent light layer or two.

If I could give any advice for the Project ahead, would be to create a layering system that incorporates all these different aspects, & allow them to work off each other however you guys want or need. Creating a complex layering architect could also help a lot. e.g. Add lighting transparency to these grass blades only when the rain layer is active & the Sun rising from this direction. Also Complex stoppers, so X & Y only work together as active layers (within the confined complex layer) when the Sun is positioned between the gaps in the trees. - Though, that, you would have to work out object & positional specific equations tethered to that sort of layer scenario I'm presuming.

Go get 'em guys, good luck with the Project. I'll be watching with prying eyes!

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People should take a look at Bagel's comic. He can draw more than square heads and square eyes.

And the Double Fine Adventure oil painting featuring the double-headed baby was his work, too.

ns_530.jpg

ns_523.jpg

ns_518.jpg

Can't wait to see more artwork and doodles!

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That was great! I really liked it, especially the final clip with the "depth-scrolling".

I have some issues, though:

1. The backgrounds should be much more detailed, like paintings similar to Machinarium or COMI, where you can really see the artist's handiwork. Here they felt a little drab, having huge parts which were just one color for example.

2. The character has that unappealing (for me) animation style where only parts of the body are moving and it just looks artificial. You see it in many of today's animated shows and in games (like Machinarium for instance) and it looks kind of cheap. I'm hoping for a more organic look, similar to old school cel-animation.

3. I'm sort of tired of the "big head, small body" character design, but that's me. It's still a good choice for this game I think.

I know these are very early concepts, though, so my points will probably not be valid after some time, but I still hope you take them under consideration. At the same time, I loved the way you explained the scroll and depth techniques, and everything else is fantastic. Keep up the awesome work, Double Fine!

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I have some issues, though:

1. The backgrounds should be much more detailed, like paintings similar to Machinarium or COMI, where you can really see the artist's handiwork. Here they felt a little drab, having huge parts which were just one color for example.

Concepts tend to be like that. You take the really important parts of a design (shape, melody, colour, croutons), put them together, and see if they work. If even merely the basics don't work together, then there's no use putting effort into making minutiae, and if you did then all that effort was wasted. It's modular design.

2. The character has that unappealing (for me) animation style where only parts of the body are moving and it just looks artificial. You see it in many of today's animated shows and in games (like Machinarium for instance) and it looks kind of cheap. I'm hoping for a more organic look, similar to old school cel-animation.

3. I'm sort of tired of the "big head, small body" character design, but that's me. It's still a good choice for this game I think.

From OP:

"Because we haven't designed any of the actual characters for the game yet, we took a Bagel sketch of a stylized lumberjack and put him into the scene. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time animating the character at this point (since this character is NOT going to be in the actual game), so we just created a very rough walk cycle from one angle for the purposes of our test."

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I have some issues, though:

1. The backgrounds should be much more detailed, like paintings similar to Machinarium or COMI, where you can really see the artist's handiwork. Here they felt a little drab, having huge parts which were just one color for example.

Concepts tend to be like that. You take the really important parts of a design (shape, melody, colour, croutons), put them together, and see if they work. If even merely the basics don't work together, then there's no use putting effort into making minutiae, and if you did then all that effort was wasted. It's modular design.

2. The character has that unappealing (for me) animation style where only parts of the body are moving and it just looks artificial. You see it in many of today's animated shows and in games (like Machinarium for instance) and it looks kind of cheap. I'm hoping for a more organic look, similar to old school cel-animation.

3. I'm sort of tired of the "big head, small body" character design, but that's me. It's still a good choice for this game I think.

From OP:

"Because we haven't designed any of the actual characters for the game yet, we took a Bagel sketch of a stylized lumberjack and put him into the scene. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time animating the character at this point (since this character is NOT going to be in the actual game), so we just created a very rough walk cycle from one angle for the purposes of our test."

Yeah, I guess it's way too early to actually complain about stuff when we've only seen rough concepts. When it comes to the backgrounds I just hope they will use paintings for the all the layers. I mean, look at the difference between the original Monkey Island 2 and the new special edition for example. The original just looked more appealing to me because the backgrounds were directly scanned in, whereas the new one has a sort of artificial computer-generated look. Still, these are all just personal tastes, and I hope DF will just do their own thing and make a great game in a style we've never (or rarely) seen before. I'd rather be surprised, really.

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Great background design! Parallax scrolling and zooming seem to fit pretty well!

The character itself is also very appropriate but it seems a little bit flat.

Give it a "plastic/3D" look! (fading edges or such?)

It would add to the overall depth of the scene!

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Awesome! Can't wait to see more. I do agree about the character though...

I think something more cartoony and hand-animated (a walkcycle isn't that much work and looks much better than tween-animation)

I love the background, a good nice concept piece :)

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For a Draft the art style looks nice actually. The character looked a bit too flat though, it seemed like paper in a layered world.

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This is definitely one of the most interesting articles on the forum, it's right up my street. Made me want to invest in After Effects again after all this time.

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Amazing stuff!

I like the stuff about how you used gradient filters to make the character blend better into the background. I was wondering if you could shed more light as to how you determine when/where a character should have the effect applied to him? Is it done via a hotspot layer that's painted over the map? Or is it set by coordinates?

Thanks!

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loving this concept work! if this WAS the final game, I'd totally play it.

I like the idea of the depth parallaxing, but now I'm curious to see how it would work if the camera followed the character even closer.

It would be cool to see a concept where the camera zoomed at the same pace as the character, so that he remains the same size throughout. Adding to that, the camera could pass by or through parts of the scenery to make the depth feel real.

great job though!

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I like the feel of it!

I think I'll be in the minority and say that the depth scrolling didn't appeal to me much. I like the old school "see the character get smaller as they get further away from the camera while the room stays the same" thing. But hey, I'm sure I'll get used to it and my trust is in your hands, Double Fine.

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I just want to add my appreciation for the behind the scenes step-by-step process post.

I love to see this, and I hope this kind of thing also makes it into the documentary. The 2PP reality show approach with PA was interesting and entertaining, but I'd like to see a combination of that kind of episode with more serious episodes that explore the process like this post has done. :) If people are worried about spoilers, they should't watch the documentary until after they play the game.

In any case, thanks again for letting us come along for the ride!

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I can only imagine that the depth-scrolling would be used when most applicable. When it really adds to the scene. These people at DF are true artists, with great style :) .

I think that sometimes depth-scrolling will be a great tool for emphasizing certain parts of a given scene!

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