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DF Lee

Art Update #3: Creating a Visual Style, Part 3

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I'm actually really impressed with a lot of the visual stuff going on here. Obviously it's gonna all work a lot better once more work has been done on the characters, but even now, the rim lighting is doing a really good job of selling the character in the scene and the moving camera is really effective. I've never seen anything like it in an adventure game and it definitely feels to me like a natural extension of what LucasArts would have done if they'd carried on developing their 2D adventure technology. It just makes me really excited to actually get to playing these awesome living scenes in a real game. Can't wait.

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I'm not so sure about the moving camera myself. Felt a bit awkward to me.

The lighting however I'm quite impressed with.

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Very impressive. Looking forward to see some more animations. On a side note, I knew I recognized the lumberjack's voice but I could not place it. Of course it was Chris! (having listened to his rambelings on idle thumbs for quite a few hours over the years I should have figured it out :P)

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I totally agree the camera movement is great and unique. There are a few things that look a bit off, but they'll be fixed for sure.

I also believe the work on the lighting and fog is fantastic, quite surprised to see a few people complain about the style here or thinking this is something simplistic. Yes, there are still some tweaks here and there, but you have to be patient when seeing work that is not fully polished.

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For me, it still looks too "indie".

Didn't read the rest. Can people stop using this as shorthand for 'stuff I don't like'? It's pretty insulting to people who actually pour their hearts into making indie games.

You completely misunderstand my point. I love indie games and i have played quite a lot of them such as the often cited Machinarium, the work by Ben Croshaw (7 days a sceptic etc) and also many outside of the adventure genre ("Dear Esther", "Trine", "Braid") just to name a few. The point is that those games were able to create a unique gaming experience and were sometimes able to compete with "big budget" productions with a very low budget. So at least for the adventure genre, i expect something that raises the bar here since we have the budget and the right people to do it.

As for the subgenre, at least for me from tims former games and from the whole style of presentation of this campaign, it was always somewhat clear to me that it would be a non-serious cartoony type of game, so this style came a little unexpected thats all.

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For me, it still looks too "indie". This papercut/painting style, everything seems to be geared torwards mobile devices (huge icons, low details, big objects etc), it just doesnt feel like an oldschool point&click; adventure game...

...and I don't think it's ever going to; not the kind of 'oldschool point&click; adventure game" you've got in your head anyway. Certain parts of classic adventure games stick in our minds - low-res art, pixellated characters, midi music, etc, but all of those things are superficial. I mean, you comment on the 'huge icons', but if you look at the video again, are they really any bigger than the colossal action bar from the first two Monkey Island games? Or are you just seeing it differently because it lacks the tropes your brain is associating with "oldschool point&click; adventure games"?

Anyway, I'm really digging this. It's distinctive, it's pleasant to look at and it seems technically slick. The little tricks with the light look particularly good, especially the rim lighting.

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You guys have done a really fantastic job of building on the standard point-and-click formula. This really comes across as what point-and-click games would have been from the very beginning if they'd been able to, rather than just something that's playing by the same rules. The changes in the world and the different camera angles really make it feel like a living cartoon. I love the expressive faces during dialogue too, regardless of the crude animation.

And as stated before, i cannot see how a humorous game would fit into this melancholic atmosphere.

I don't understand how you can watch a demo video with genuinely funny jokes that fit the atmosphere and still be worried that it's not going to work.

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I LOVE it!

The gamma change makes it better, but because the house color is similar to the ground, it makes the contrast seem low. So is that specific for the scene or should we expect this as part of the style?

This also caught my attention when I was watching the video. When the camera was "dollying" towards the house, I felt that the contrast remained too low. It is fine for a background, but it should look less washed out when we approach it.

A note on interaction hints: I'm not sure whether highlighting works well on touch devices. My fingers always block the view on the underlying item. I think that a text hint above the item would work better. Also, I have trouble exploring old point and click adventure games for interaction spots. I don't like swiping all across the screen in every room and tapping on stuff always makes the character walk there. There should be something like a spyglass icon that I can hold down while exploring the world with the other finger.

Showing all possible interactions of a room should only be optional for total adventure noobs. I actually like exploring a world if it feels natural. There is a difference between exploring and pixel hunting.

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Polynom - but what are you saying when you are comparing styles? That this is not unique? That it doesn't feel as good as the other games? You do have to remember that this is still in mid-production, so comparing a finished game with a test video is not really fair.

Having said that, 7 Days a Sceptic is a great game, but it didn't really revolutionize the art style, did it? If it is gameplay you are comparing, that's too early, right?

Machinarium is often referred here as one of the few modern adventure games, its style is unique, but when you compare the budget, you have to remember they decided to have it without speech (they creatively decided to overcome this by not having dialog at all). I'm sure voice acting will be a significant cost of this game.

The other games are, as you said, not point and click adventure games, so some of the style choices there cannot fit when you limit yourself to the point and click adventure genre.

Anyway, my point is that you can influence if you give specific pointers from other games, having a general statement like that doesn't help anyone, certainly doesn't bring any of your preference to their consideration.

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First of all: very, VERY nice!

Really nice job. I truly enjoyed it, and you are great professionals, and extremely talented. :)

Now, as part of the Veteran Camp, I see some elements missing (don't know if intentionally or you were just constrained in time), but I feel obliged to provide some feedback, so this is SIRIUZBEESNES

Pixel-hunting

Why not?

Back in the day...

grumpyoldmen.gif

...we used to click in every goddam pixel on the screen. It was part of the fun. And we did this without mice, just using the arrow keys.

It's now easier to do this, using a mouse or your finger. In my humble opinion, pixel-hunting should be part of any good adventure game.

And please, don't put any kind of help or assistance to do that either (no silly "press a button and we'll highlight any interactive item for you"!)

It'll also allow for intereting easter eggs, too. :)

Items

Citing Aaron Matteson:

In today's games, if you receive an item that is vital to the main plot, you will literally not be allowed to throw it away. In the adventure games of the 1980's and early 90's, not only can you throw vital items away, but sometimes they will be
. In today's games, each item in your inventory usually has a clear use. In old adventure games, you get all kinds of idiosyncratic items that must only be used under very specific circumstances. Today's games are kind of soft. Adventure games, just like the real world, are BOLD FONT / ALL CAPS HARD

Rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle anyone?

Descriptions

Maybe left intentionally out, but clicking on an iten should get you a description first. This was classing adventure game interaction.

adventure1a.png

Like:

-click- "This is an axe. You know... for trees! Not the one you put in your armpit. If you put this axe in your armpit nasty things may happen".

Or:

-click- "This is a lever. It does levery things. You totally want to push it. Really"

Or:

-click- "This is a mailbox. The kind of the mailman puts mail inside, usually. And it looks like it has some mail inside. But it may be catalogs, or bills. Who knows..."

So, in a touch based interface you should want to stick to double-click for interaction (like grabbing, pushing, pulling, opening, etc.), and leave single-click for descriptions.

Wrong interactions

You played perfectly on the pre-viz, but how about some wrong interactions?

For example, trying to use a useless thing on an item.

(Trying to give the letter to the tree):

"Why you want to give this tree the Extreme Lumberjackery Magazine subscription?. Well, yes, it has eyes, but I guess this tree may not be interested in lumberjack topics..."

I hope it helps you in any way.

Other than that, I loved the pre-viz! (and the art direction).

Edit: I wrote this before seeing the sidequest video. In it Tim talks about the items descriptions and using verbs to interact with them (around minute 10). :)

Also, this article is very nice.

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no lumberjacks? you dissappoint me. whats next? no redbots? hes a lumberjack and hes ok, he sleeps all night and works all day!

that tree is absolutely fantastic. even if that porn joke was unexpected, it was still fun :). i am a dialogue tree, you may ask me questions three.

and the lighting is incredible, i love it. great job there. when i watched the video, the first thing that popped in my mind was "hey! that rim job is excellent! how are they doing it? 3d model? or just edge highlighting?"

one criticism: lumberjack walking away from the camera in the shot with the fence looks very wierd.

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My thoughts:

Really looks fantastic. I was worried that the art would be too serious but the animation really makes it seem like a fun and quirky adventure game.

I agree that the highlighting should only be on by default in the touchscreen versions (where you're not sure where you've clicked at). You have a mouse cursor on the PC and it should be obvious when you see something move when you click on it that you've interacted with something. Same with the "pickup" icon, which isn't necessary if you have an animation.

As far as revealing hotspots on a screen, here's how I'd manage the mechanic:

There would be a button on the HUD and once you click it, the character would walk up to a hotspot you hadn't clicked on yet, point at it (with it getting highlighted), and would read the "Look At Object" description.

After you have clicked on all the hotspots on the screen, hitting that button again would then highlight all the hotspots you can still interact with.

You might be able to combine that and a hint button into one thing, but it probably would work better as seperate buttons.

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For me, it still looks too "indie".

Didn't read the rest. Can people stop using this as shorthand for 'stuff I don't like'? It's pretty insulting to people who actually pour their hearts into making indie games.

You completely misunderstand my point. I love indie games and i have played quite a lot of them such as the often cited Machinarium, the work by Ben Croshaw (7 days a sceptic etc) and also many outside of the adventure genre ("Dear Esther", "Trine", "Braid") just to name a few. The point is that those games were able to create a unique gaming experience and were sometimes able to compete with "big budget" productions with a very low budget.

Which is fair enough, as far as it goes, but then why use the term "indie" as a negative? There's no other sensible way to interpret 'looks too "indie"'.

As to your actual complaints, it just seems to me that you're ignoring some of the things in the original post, such as the fact that the character still has had very little work done on it. I agree that low budget indies do a great job at creating fantastic looking games with limited resources, and yet I have to admit I haven't seen any indie adventure games that make such a sophisticated use of lighting techniques and definitely none that have used such great use of a moving camera. I think even at this early pre-viz stage, this already looks technically advanced. It's an extremely professional job in all areas except the areas they haven't done much work on yet (for example the interface things and the animations).

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Honestly got chills when it went into dialogue. I really, really like the facial animations for the close-ups. Would it be possible to have a sort of idle animation while choosing dialogue rather than a glassy stare?

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It's amazing! I love to watch how you show us each building block. I'm more excited to see the final DFA game with each update!

And this voice actor for the Dialogue Tree - amazing skills... I think you discovered a real talent ;D

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That was great. Though still put in the lumberjack as an easter egg in the final game.

I think that would be great. If only far in the background (and redbot at some point in a store cupboard or whatever). I love little bits like that.

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Never posted in here before, but I really wanted to say that I thought that was already beautiful and hilarious. I would buy a dialogue tree action figure for sure.

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Absolutely love everything! My only gripe would be the head and eyes, I just can't get over it, freaks me out man. That lumberjack is tripping on LSD.

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I love it, it's looks great! The snappy camera zooms, the close-up during dialogue and colourful lighting especially. Thanks, as well, for the extensive information provided along with it. Great job! :D

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That is pretty slick, especially for being just pre-viz. Just loved the overall graphic style and humor :)

Happier than ever I pledged some bucks to the Kickstarter :) (in retrospect, I wish I had pledged even more.)

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Which is fair enough, as far as it goes, but then why use the term "indie" as a negative? There's no other sensible way to interpret 'looks too "indie"'.
I think we've gotten to a point where saying "indie" conjures up a certain image. Big sprites in constricted scenes, a artsy\painterly\sketchy style, minimal whimsy visually, simplified animation. Gameplay that's less about exploration and experimentation and more about hitting the feeder bar to progress to the next artistic setpiece.

Personally, I don't think that interpretation survives scrutiny for long, especially when you attempt to define "indie". Heck, Double Fine is an independent studio, especially on this project. But limited resources (time\money) impose certain restrictions on your typical small-team production. So I think it's sensible to say 'looks to "indie"', but it makes more sense to back it up with an explanation of how, which I think he did.

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I can't even think about where this game will be a year from now. The style already looks amazing.

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Okay now, that was amazing! I really LOVE the way this is shaping up to be. The art style is crazy!

Just one concern: I don't like the idea of items being highlighted when the player can interact with them. It sort of makes things far too easy. Maybe you could enable/disable that depending on some difficulty settings?

Other than that, you're doing an incredible job!

(The tree dialog was really funny. Heh.)

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The rim lighting is an excellent addition, really makes the character pop out.

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That's awesome, although I'm a bit worried that the fact that you are making ipad and android versions of the game might oversimplify the interface. For example, as Tim pointed out in the last "sidequest", when you put the cursor on top of something without clicking and it gives you some information. That can't be done on ipad, and I'm just guessing how could you get around that issue. Do you remove that function completely or do you make two separate mechanics? I would certainly prefer the latter.

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Hey guys, a quick note on the highlighting-that was meant to be an effect that played after the item was clicked on, not a hint.

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Hey guys, a quick note on the highlighting-that was meant to be an effect that played after the item was clicked on, not a hint.

Totally got that.

My comment in particular was because, on the Sidequest video, Tim mentioned something about the old games, where every time your cursor got over an interactive item, its name appeared above the inventory. That way you knew it was an interactive item and not part of the decoration. He said something like "how are we going to do that on an iPad".

So I was hoping that no assistance would get implemented on that front, in the form of a, for example, button that would highlight the interactive items on screen.

It's too easy to use a touch interface, and it would be funny to be poking around trying to find the interactive items.

Poke, poke, poke!

:)

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As far as revealing hotspots on a screen, here's how I'd manage the mechanic:

There would be a button on the HUD and once you click it, the character would walk up to a hotspot you hadn't clicked on yet, point at it (with it getting highlighted), and would read the "Look At Object" description.

After you have clicked on all the hotspots on the screen, hitting that button again would then highlight all the hotspots you can still interact with.

You might be able to combine that and a hint button into one thing, but it probably would work better as seperate buttons.

I think this sort of hinting thing would work pretty well utilizing the subtle way Wind Waker pointed out important objects. If the character is left idling, (s)he would start glancing at points of interest. It's subtle, and makes you feel smart when you figure it out.

It's too easy to use a touch interface, and it would be funny to be poking around trying to find the interactive items.

Poke, poke, poke!

:)

or really really frustrating.

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Love it. If this is just the pre-viz I can't wait until the actual product. Sort of unrelated question though. Was the music and sound just thrown in for the demo or is it the same that's being put in the game?

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