Monday, 7 February 2011

Drawing, More Drawing, More Ruddy Drawing - also Theora, GUI

The previous few weeks have consisted of drawing, more drawing, and even more drawing, interspaced with faffing, more faffing and even more faffing, around with various ways to get a Theora video, and then not liking the quality and deciding on a GUI replacement instead.


Previously on Steve's rambling dev blogs:
[/ gravelly_American_voiceover]

I might have mentioned something about drawing an intro sequence for the narrative campaign part of my game. All the big games have them ... not that I've played any of those things in aeons, infact the previous weekend consisted of Penny Arcade (which I quite liked - a bit grindy though, shame the series got canned) and X-Com Enemy Unknown (which is X-Com UFO Defense ... not sure why the name change between UK/US but hey ...), a game which I actually had on floppy (no really kids, games used to come on plastic squares ... and before that it was tape!), and which I rebought from Steam ... not having a floppy drive anymore ...

Interestingly to mention or not as the case may be 'cos it's just occured to me ... these games all have animated intros, with the 1994 X-Com being closer to the static comic page style one bloke in his man-cave ended up using.

I'd had the overall idea taking up unnecessary amount of room in my brain fro a few years ... admittedly more in gazzillion dollar production values rather than one guy with a cheap and intermitantly malfunctioning A4 tablet from Win98 days who had completely forgotten how to draw ... and line drawing is somewhat less simple when your tablet isn't the same aspect ratio as your widescreen monitor ... A4 does not perfectly divide by 16:9 ...

I never managed to get the speed of completion down to anything reasonable but proceeded to "bang stuff out" and the line graph of "production" rose as the variable of "give a toss" sank. I ended up having to cut a few sequences/jokes due to not being able to fit them into the constraint of the music I wanted to play over.

The art style is supposed to be fairly fast to produce and easily replicapable - at least the last bit worked :P -, as I want to include the occaisional triggered comic page event in-game - but not too many of them, and most will either be plot or joke related, with the idea that narrative should give the gameplay a background in which to exist rather than just a "Ramirez, take down that X with your Y" ... plus that's why it's called the Narritive Campaign section ...

I also wanted a more naturalistic art style, but something not entirely heading in the opposite direction of my in-game 3D art, and I wanted to avoid the whole Japanese style ... talking of which ... brace for jokes!

In fact I ended up throwing in a pun on japanese comics.

Anyhoo, job done on that, and I set the whole thing to music as originally envisioned, and then converted it to Theora ... which didn't go as well as hoped. The Theora codec had a real hard time of coping with the subtler light/dark contrasts and a lot of the backgrounds ended up looking hazy and with visible moving errors on them. Even maxing out the bitrate didn't clean it up (but it did look better) and came in at around 17mb, my actual image files are 8.5mb ... so I reckon I might as well keep the quality and have them display as a scritped GUI sequence - with a skip button obviously, so the player can get straight to the action.

Whilst venturing around the interwebz on Theora related hunts, I did come across a whole load of Theora stuff including a slideshow creator which is basically what my intro is. It wasn't any use to me in the end but there's the link incase anyone fancies a look, and there's a load more Theora stuff at that site.

With >9000 hours of drawing finally out of the way (or at least, the huge load for the intro bit done, they'll be more of it in much smaller chunks in the future), it's back to actual game deving, and scripting the action for level 1.

In other news, I seem to have fixed a fair bit of issues that I'd experienced when I released Demo2 (not updated but still available for download courtesy of someone else's bandwidth) and after a fair bit of testing ... things seem better ... oh wait ... when I say "I seem to have fixed" I of course mean ... other people in the GarageGames bug forums have ... I just implement and test stuff I find lying around ...

Looks better in HD, but you knew that.
Also spot the balls up, one of the image isn't in a panel but gets a full screen stretch (fixed for in-game).

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