Well this last month didn’t go quite the way I’d hoped! In the greater scope of the game, I’m basically now exactly where I was a month ago: The intro isn’t done, I still need to do it, and once I have it done I’ll start in on the core character animations and first chapter of the game.
The first thing that didn’t go according to plan is that, rather than deferring polish and improvements to the shader until later, I went super hard on trying to get it working correctly now. Towards that end I spent a couple of solid weeks studying the construction of a custom render pipeline (working from this tutorial), which was tremendously educational – not just in terms of learning how to make a rendering pipeline, should I need to do so in the future, but in learning approximately how the current default settings operate and what it takes to make shadows and other effects work. In the end, I only directly applied a very narrow slice of this knowledge, but I was able to combine it with the understanding gleaned from several weeks of already tackling with shaders to finally achieve the effect I wanted
The differences between this and the screenshots I posted last week are subtle but important. The ‘fuzziness’ of the sprite edges is preserved, which is vital for this art style, it can support semitransparent sprites, and shadow casting still functions – with, overall, fairly good performance.
Other than the first week or two spend studying and perfecting the sprite shader, all of my time has been taken up by the illustrations – sort of. I’ve been finding it difficult to actually work on these illustrations, so much of the actual time has been taken up by brainstorming, hesitating, procrastinating, and getting angry at myself.
There’s a few reasons why this has been happening. My approach to work is usually to start with one thing that needs fixing or improving, and to focus entirely on that – usually, by the time I finish that I’ll have noted several other things that need to be worked on, and I’ll just keep moving on to those, one after another, until I run out of time or energy. This approach, however, doesn’t really translate to this sort of illustration work – first, I need to know where I’m going, so I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about what these illustrations would look like, what they would convey, and how they would ultimately be presented. Until I have a decent idea of that, it’s difficult to even start – but even when I know basically what the illustration is intended to be, it’s difficult for me to pick a particular point to start on. Don’t get me wrong, writing and programming aren’t trivial challenges, but the hardest for me is the vast possibility space of visual art, a space where there’s no sensation of time, where everything is simultaneous and there’s no inherent directional line.
Eventually, though, I start: And it feels good. Once I’m into it, I can improvise little visual ideas and flourishes as they come to me and slowly work to hone a visual narrative. Yet every time I begin the next day the struggle starts anew…
Also I changed the concept for the intro from 3 illustrations to 9, or 3 sets of 3. So that’s been slowing things down as well.
The most intimidating among these is one which I realized would work best if it depicted one of the areas later in the game – an area which I was not entirely sure what it looked like, certainly not enough to create an illustration. I did begin (but have never completed) a concept art of the area several years ago, and I’ve been able to work over that rough idea to create a more solid and polished version for the illustration – but, again, each time the sheer amount of precision and detail that goes into drawing something like this, not only a detailed building but a potentially extremely complex one, is intimidating – and every day it’s difficult to begin, though usually fun once I get started.
So, then, what are my current ambitions? What do I want to have done by this week, this month?
This illustration will probably take several more days of work, and the subsequent less complex illustrations will probably take a few more days. I think by the end of next week I can have these done, and can begin the timeline scripting for the intro – which will itself be very simple, and probably just a day of work. Once those are done the intro should hypothetically be basically complete and I will export a version of it and post it here for the next DevBlog… but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, because I may need to rearrange the intro music or create other assets to smooth things out once I see how it works in practice. Nevertheless, I hope to have it done within at most two weeks. After that, as mentioned before, I’ll be tackling character animations and the first area of act 1 – as well as, perhaps, a simple menu system which I can later expand and polish to be the final menu, but will in the short term just give me a way to skip the intro I’ve made and go to whichever level I’m currently working on.
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