The past few weeks I’ve been focusing on redoing the art for LightWalk. We’re aiming for a simpler, more stylized style that doesn’t pretend to have a story. We got a decent amount of feedback amounting to “I don’t understand the story”, “I don’t see how the art is related to the story” and “the art looks like it was made by different people”. All of those are true, and thus, I’ve been redoing every texture in game. Though there’s a few rough edges, I feel comfortable showing progress to the world at this point.
The hero character is a great example of what’s changed. The original character was designed at 48×48 pixels, and then rendered at 48×48, thus creating something that looked simple, but not overtly pixel art. The new hero was designed at 24×24, and then rendered at 48×48, 72×72 or 96×96 (depending on screen resolution). This gives a distinct pixely look- the hard edges are intentional now.
The story behind the new hero is pretty great too, if I do say so myself. We’d gotten a lot of feedback that the hero looked like a Minion from Despicable Me. The majority of the population is fed up with those now (at least in the circles I travel), so a more in-depth redesign was needed. I was on a Skype call with Nick, the game’s designer, and I’d just removed the hat, buttons and glasses and replaced them with solid blocks of color. As I sat pondering what to do with those solid blocks of color, I carved the hair into a rocker-style haircut. “Would you be okay with Elvis Presley as our player character.” I asked aloud. And this is how the new hero came to be.
So getting back to the work I’ve been doing, most of the in-game textures I’ve redone have been a process of simplifying the design and then scaling up. The benefit of the upscaled textures is that we can elegantly target display resolutions of up to 2560×1440 now! That’s a feature that I’d wanted for a while, along with fullscreen capability, but the amount of effort required had always been too high. However now that we needed to adjust the style of the game, it presented an opportunity to take down two birds with one stone.
There are a handful of other benefits too. For one, Hour1 used deferred shading for its lighting effects, meaning that the GPU would be used to color pixels. As a direct result, computers without a GPU would slow to a crawl on intense Hour1 levels. With Lightwalk, all the lighting is done with partially transparent textures overlaid over the game world. While this is slightly harder on the CPU, at least laptops can run the game with full effects now!
One last benefit I want to call out is that this whole art redo has presented the opportunity to redo animations. While I’ve not quite finished all the animations, the difference can be striking at times. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling every time I run the game full-screen and get to see the gorgeous lighting and smooth new laser animations. This GIF doesn’t quite do it justice, but you should get the idea.
That’s it for now. I hope be able to bring a trailer for the game soon now that this art overhaul is nearly behind me. Stay tuned!