My first developed game was a text adventure on the Spectrum 48k, way back in the early-to-mid-1980s (history's greatest decade!). The humble Specky, brainchild of boffin Sir Clive Sinclair (when inventors wore white coats and still looked like mad scientists), had a range of 10 colours. My text adventure was black and white.
There's Colour in Them There Rolling Hills
Then came the Amstrad 64k, initially with a green screen, but then a colour one. Little more than a glorified Specky, but those extra 18k gave a whole new world of colour.
The appearance of the Amiga was a big boost to colour (1-2meg memory!). I remember a graphics/art package with 4096 colours!
UV mapped characters are on the to-do list - which is piggin' huge
And finally the PC (with good old DOS), and future -- or rather the present -- was here. My first PC had a 25mhz processor and whopping 4megs of RAM - my current has a dual 2.3ghz chips with 2gigs of RAM. And the games are more visually realistic than ever. Call of Duty 4 has 2 million shades of grey whilst Gears of War 2 promises to break new boundaries in the shade of brown. HDR lighting means every glance to a virtual sky burns out the player's retina as the screen fills with the burning brilliance of a supernova - which is odd, 'cos I look up at the sky all the time and it doesn't seem to damage my sight. Nor do I see lense flare from every angle.
So what is the Indie Dev to do with this march of monotone progress?
Base Painted Texture
Well, the Indie Dev could play along with hyper-real world of grey and brown psuedo-photorealism. I've got a pretty decent digital camera, I know how to edit images and understand colour (I should do, I got a degree and post-grad and then spent X years bumming around the arse-end of the Mediteranean as a Bohemian artist type).
And then get lost in the haze? I expect the brownness of GOW2 is costing the outstanding national debt of a small impoverished country - Hallo3 certainly did. Then there's the team numbers - which is pretty much the same thing as cost. One bloke in his bedroom, furiously hammering away at a graphics tablet and keyboard, is not a 100-300 strong development team spread across multiple studios (a la GTA4).
And with Normal Mapping
So, back to that tablet and digital painting for textures, and tile and reduce detail in photos to make normal maps for brickwork and surfaces. My first attempts at striking a balance between artistic paint style (textures) and realism (normals) is pretty okay ..... ish. Though I might like them to be a tad rougher.
After further practise/messing I worked out a technique to make a painted skybox by hand.
Colour - and only 2 shades of brown!
Roads and foliage next me thinks, and the creation of an actual environment.