Monday, 24 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #14 - Making of Title Card

Yo future astronauts!

Our game needed a new opening image. I wasn't fully satisfied with the old one since it didn't properly portray the things I had intended. So first things first, I had to come up with some idea for the picture. Something that would describe the game and feel exciting as the first thing the player sees. Maybe it could be somewhat funny, or outlandish?

I thought to myself; Okay, the game is about flying in space, punching aliens to death and blowing up asteroids, how the heck am' I gonna fit all those themes in a picture that's easily understood? I tried to think whether one of those aspects was more important than the other, but choosing one made me feel like I was leaving out something important.

After a bit of aimless searching for inspiration I ended up looking at pictures of old SNES game box art. I had always thought those were really captivating with their details, colors and action, as crazy as some look today =D Many of them seemed to follow the same concept, they had the huge bulging hero in the front and a wave of evil goons charging at him from further back. This really makes sense and it works. You want to hype and show people; "This is your hero, look how swoll he is, he's afraid of nothing. Wanna be this guy?".

This kinda box art is delightfully retro to me and I kinda wanted something similar for our game.

On the contrary, I never saw the player characters in our game, the astronauts, as your typical Arnold Musclebags. I felt like behind the helmet was your average Joe, some poor unlucky bastard who doesn't care about being a hero, but who also can't turn down a good fight =P These guys are just unlucky victims of their situation and they're awfully outmatched against the aliens. So instead, I decided to have a tiny, but feisty, astronaut being overshadowed by a horrible reptilian alien. A perfect example of their situation and an iconic demise of many of them, as alien chewtoys. Here's a quick first sketch based on this:


I remember there was some secret rule out there about placing characters into a picture. Usually the hero is on the left, and the bad guy is on the right if they're facing eachother. This doesn't always seem to be the case though, looking at some of the boxes. If someone knows what I'm talking about and has a cool link that talks about this, please share. I'd appreciate it =)

Next up was lineart. I utilize thick outlines, and as a rule of thumb; the closer an object is the thicker the outlines. Backgrounds don't usually have lineart though I'm not always consistent with that. I usually keep the lineart in the topmost layer:


Next up are flat colors, or "flats". I keep them in the lowest layer and just carefully fill in the areas manually. It's how I like to work:


Next are shadows. Since I have a "cellshaded" style I handle them with a single solid color, and adjust the layer's opacity to something nice. I try to think of where the light source is located and draw the borders of the shadows according to shapes of the objects, then fill up the rest. If there are multiple sources I make separate individual shadow layers. Here there's a strong light source behind the characters (the sun) and another weaker one to the front and up. I usually put the shadow layer right under the lineart:

Background light shadows
Top down light shadows
Combination result

Some years ago I learned that having an extra gradient shading layer for your characters helps them blend in the surroundings a little better. I've kept this method and use it here with the reptilian, the astronaut and the drill. You can see how they get darker towards their feet, although without a coloured background you can't really tell the difference yet. I place the ambient layer below the shadow layers:

Ambient shadow layer

Since I'm just using white light here I'm making another layer for white highlights; places where the light would reflect the most intense. I'm also trying to think which surfaces would reflect light, like metal and claws and stuff. Since I have two light sources I also make two light layers, one more intense than the other. I place the light layers under the shadow layers since sometimes some light in the darkness is nice:


I decided to keep the background from the old picture, since I felt it was suitably spacey and had a nice angle already. I just added some more stones to the ground to give it more texture. I also added in a title I had made previously.

Here's a side by side comparison between the old and new title cards. Overall I'm pretty happy with the new one. I think it better shows some major things like the bomb drilling and fighting while still being very spacey. It's a lot spookier than the old one too =D

I still wanted to incorporate the Lander game aspect in the game's opening somehow. Luckily there was an easy way to do this since the camera just pans up to the menu screen from here, making the title and the menu one BIG picture that could tell a story of sorts. That meant that I could fairly easily incorporate the lander ship in the main menu screen. I decided to just try and update the current main menu background so that the astronaut here would be sitting on a lander ship instead of on a rock =P But that's probably a story for another time.

Menu screen

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #13

Hello boys and girls,

Today we are going to reveal some of the in game music that has been added to Atomic Super Lander.
There will be around 20 unique tunes, randomly played in the game.
Here are a few samples (I threw in some gameplay footage, but don't look at it, just listen to the music :)

Agent Trooper (Tutorial music)

Eastern Skies

Space Action Hero

The Lander

These tunes are made with free software, on my old MacBook, mostly recorded in my basement.

The plan was to compress songs to mp3-files and keep the shorter sound effects as wav-files.
Well, pretty soon we noticed that mp3-files get HUGE really fast. Fortunately Unity supports Vorbis Ogg files, which are a lot smaller in size, without compromising sound quality too much, so we converted all songs into Ogg-files.
All you musicians out there might also notice that the tempo in these songs is always the same, actually they are all 120 bpm (beats per minute).
Why, you might wonder. Well, it all stems from the fact that the songs need to be pretty short, and then they will be looping through the level. The tricky part is to crop the song precisely where it needs to loop back to the beginning. Even a millisecond askew will result in stuttering, or a slight 'jump' when played.
So, the easiest way to find the right position to crop, is to have songs that end exactly at a whole second. This is easily accomplished with a tempo of 60 bpm or 120 bpm. I chose the latter for this game, since it is an action packed upbeat game :)
Come to think of it, this allows me to merge them all into one long seamless medley for our next company rave party...

Monday, 10 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #12

Hello future astronauts! It's time for a new update.

Not a whole lot to write about this week. Lots of things in the works but nothing finished yet. There was a bit of a bug bash and we fixed quite a lot of them, some of which have been with us almost from the beginning.

The oldest bug was a sprite sheet that had grown a bit too big. This had the effect that some older phones had problems displaying it's contents; things would look like purple boxes or were invisible altogether. Despite we being pretty careful with sprite sheets for some reason this one had gotten bloated. After splitting the sprite sheet draw calls took a small hit, but we are well within acceptable numbers.

Here's another somewhat interesting thing which came up this week. At the start of each level the player is presented with a briefing window. This map shows the location of bomb slots with “target markers” and the player has to memorize them before he starts. As we have tested and played our game, we had developed a habit of not looking at the briefing window at all. We simply pressed the launch button as soon as possible, after which we immediately regretted not looking where the “target markers” were.

This may be a developer's problem or it may become a problem for those who play the game a lot. Either way, the question was: How do we make the player look at the “target markers” naturally, without stopping the flow of the game? Well, eyes are naturally drawn to movement so we made the target markers pop up in the screen and made it to play a sound too.

So far it has worked. Also I think this feature complements the briefing screen nicely.

Anyways. Not much else this week. Have a nice day... It does look like it's a nice day. Maybe I will go out for a nice space walk...  

Monday, 3 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #11 - Flight Training Site Report

"Dear Prof. Wunderbaum

In our effort  to find a suitable flight training site, we came across some old documents describing an old secret black site located on satellite A1, a big mass of junk launched into space. It was supposed to be used for filming some cheap staged moon landing footage, but when moon landing become ‘so last month’, the site was abandoned.

Later, a low quality bootleg copy of footage shot at the location was leaked to the public. Some conspiracy theorists claim this to be real landing footage, but everyone knows that the moon has been off limits since the fifties, when HammerCorp bought it and it's mining rights. Included in the documents were images of some objects at the filming site. I've included them in this report for possible danger analysis. A1's gravity seems perfect for flight training."

George Wingnut, Project Manager. General Aerospace (HammerCorp subsidiary)

A director’s chair.

A fake styrofoam lander.
An old Weller & Weller space-type film camera.
Libertica flag fluttering beautifully in the solarwind
A hotdog stand (Note: dogs propably well preserved in vacuum & preservatives)
A makeup table.

An old Weller & Weller space-type spotlight.