Background query

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grelphy
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Background query

Post by grelphy » Fri Dec 26, 2003 8:23 pm

I was working on the final level for the first episode of my mod, and I couldn't help but notice that all my passageways, tunnels and evil traps seemed quite empty. Actually, I had been looking at Spleen's screens right before I started, so that may have had something to do with it. Anyway, I started going through and adding backgrounds - consoles, radar dishes, light switches, etc.

It still looked empty.

So here's my question: What exactly does it take to make your backgrounds look good and "lively," rather than flat and blank? In other words, what the heck does Spleen know that I don't?

Joseph

quick

Post by Joseph » Fri Dec 26, 2003 10:10 pm

That's a good subject question and I don't have an answer right off the bat. I do say though that it has just as much to do with the regular tiles as it does the background, everything has to be integrated with everything else and must add depth to the world. What I'm trying to say is that the background isn't an isolated part of the world, you need to make it a part of the foreground. One way I achieve this is by having tiles that are both in the background and foreground.

Example, a tree would be in the background but its branches, which Keen can walk on, will be in the foreground.

I have also observed a problem when working in my own mod, having a black tile around the tileset seems to help separate the background from foreground. Remove the black line and design your tilesets a little differently and maybe things will be better.

There are no rules for how to make a 2d game, the background doesn't have to be completely integrated if you don't want it to be.

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CommanderSpleen
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Totally Unexpected Arm Implosion!

Post by CommanderSpleen » Sat Dec 27, 2003 5:52 am

In other words, what the heck does Spleen know that I don't?
I think my apparent success in this area is more to do with the fact that I tend to clutter my levels too much--I find myself constantly cutting back on points and enemies, and making more room.

I've changed the item scores (50, 200, 500, 1000, 20000) so I can place more items throughout my levels so there are less empty areas, but still my backgrounds are quite bare. I use one particular background item (the '+' shaped tile seen in the very first screenshots I released) and that adds a bit to the depth of the levels, but still there's a lot more that can be done.

I hope to use more inactive backgrounds and such in the full release, but for now I'm still trying to work out the balance between empty space and active items. At the moment the closest I've come are green essence storage containers that Keen can stand on, and pipes that pump essence into and out of these containers.

It can be quite challenging to find the right balance of empty spaces in contrast with the surrounding areas, but with some experimentation it's amazing what can be done.

>Commander Spleen

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Post by KeenRush » Sat Dec 27, 2003 8:38 am

Wow, Grelphy, you're pretty fast! Why, oh, why I need to do those sprites.. I'm fast on levels and tiles, but sprite animating.. Argh.. Ok, enough complaining for this post. :)
Yes, this is good topic. I really don't know, but I guess it's the same said before. To me (if I even would have done good backgrounds, well, I'll make in next one) they need to looks somehow that they are on the background. I guess that's the depth you're talking about. And they need to look good, nobody likes to look at some tiles that hurt your eyes. :) Sometimes there can be somekind of bigger detail, for example windows (like in your first mod Grelphy), some pipes, doors, lights..

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re: background

Post by XkyRauh » Sat Dec 27, 2003 9:43 am

This is going to sound totally bogus coming from Xky, whose Keen1 mod got nailed for bland scenery, but:

Highlights! This is such a simple idea... you've got your basic background tile, right? (let's assume you're using the light grey) Make a few nonsense background tiles with little squiggles/patterns of each color: red, cyan, yellow, green, magenta, blue, etc. Now go back through your levels and look at where your points are placed. Are they just laying on the ground? That's a problem. Put them on a platform (the ones Keen can move freely up/through but can also stand on--in Keen1 they're the rounded vertically shined bricks) and then pattern below them with these new color tiles.

Gimme a sec, I'll post some example screens, simultaneously showing off the first-ever shots of my Keen2 mod ^_^

--Xky

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re: Highlights

Post by XkyRauh » Sat Dec 27, 2003 9:54 am

Alright, here we go: check out this dead-end with some goodies in it (along with a Narln guard):

Image

Looks pretty drab, right? Ammo, some points. Once you snag those goodies, everything's gonna be barren in there! [Also--notice that Xky STILL hasn't come up with a replacement for those little flame-spouts, so they look incomplete... oops]

How about we toss in a couple platforms and some highlights?

Image

Much better--and color-coded, too! :-)

--Xky

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Post by KeenRush » Sat Dec 27, 2003 10:02 am

Looks good Xky! :)

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grelphy
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Post by grelphy » Sat Dec 27, 2003 3:15 pm

Wow!

My problem has always been that I can never make a random colored background something look good or integrated, or whatever. It never seems to fit in.

Spleen: your levels seem to have plenty of depth; I haven't missed any, anyway. Maybe I'm not looking at it the same way you are.

Anyway, give me a bit and I'll try to post some screens...

Here we go!

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

How's that? Some of these are actually OK, but many (think second-to-last) still feel kind of empty.

All are also available on my website at http://grelphy.spatang.com/projects/mod/vox1.htm

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Post by xtraverse » Sat Dec 27, 2003 6:00 pm

I'm not sure how this might turn out, but adding stuff like girders and structure to the building in the background might make it less empty. So far it's looking good :P

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Post by KeenRush » Sat Dec 27, 2003 6:31 pm

Wow, looks pretty good! Good use of palette patch too, I like those new colours. ;)

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XkyRauh
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re: Building

Post by XkyRauh » Sat Dec 27, 2003 8:29 pm

Grephy--go play some Keen5 and look at the techniques they used to keep their big level edges from looking bland--something as simple as a vent with pink ooze coming out, or more flexible like pipes that you can squirrel around the playfield... something that you can stuff into those large dark cyan areas to make them seem less abyssmal.

Another suggestion would be to come up with a universal way of defining your wall width. In some of your shots, the walls are only 1 unit wide, and later 2 wide, and so on. This isn't bad level design if you're doing a cave or cloud or something--but if you're aiming for a building or ship design, you may want to try and make things look more uniform. Define all your walls as, say, 2 units wide. This helps you space your level a bit more, and gives the player something stable to rely on.

In the default Keen2, all the dark blue ship walls are 2 units wide, because of the way their tiles construct them--if the designers wanted a 1 unit wide wall, they had to use something else, like a girder or different block. These alternate wall blocks can be (as seen in your screenshots) ANY COLOR! :-)

Don't be afraid of DROP SHADING. Look at the points in the screen captures I posted: See how there's some dark-grey pixels below and left of the actual green/pink/white forms? They add a small but significant amount of depth to those points. Add that here and there on items and background.

My final suggestion is to maybe limit your color choice in places--there's nothing wrong with using the entire spectrum in a single level, but having a place where you can vividly see twelve different colors of brick onscreen is going to be jarring! In my Keen2 mod, I went through and decided "Okay--Level02.ck2 is going to be Blue and Yellow, while Level03 is going to be Red." and I worked from there. Because I decided ahead of time, I'm much more confident with my level designs and can work more smoothly. With my Keen1 mod, I was never sure when to use what sort of graphic (I had no plan ahead of time) so my whole package seemed bland, even with a few of the visual goodies I added.

--Xky

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Wow. Just... wow.

Post by CommanderSpleen » Sun Dec 28, 2003 2:09 am

Man, looks like we can be expecting some phenomenal mod releases over the next year or so. Xky and Grelphy's mods are looking absolutely brilliant.

Looks like you've already got a lot of background activity happening there, Grelphy. My mod probably only looks like there's a lot of depth because of all the points scattered around, but it still seems rather empty, IMHO, after all the points have been collected. Though I may be wrong--I've gone all-out on shading, so that may still help retain depth when there's only background left.

Taking a second look at the screens, though, I agree with Xky that some more colour and wall-size unification would much improve some areas.

The downward passageway on the right in screenshot two has some extra opportunities for shading--the corners either side at the top of the 'T' in particular. Perhaps fade out the light further down as you have in screenshot four.

Ugh... that vent looks ugly. The cyan-black-red combination makes me nauseous. Argh! And it turns up again in screenshot six!

Maybe you could add some extra background parts into the walls themselves. Aha! I think we just found a better home for that vent!

It looks like you're being particularly conservative with points, otherwise I'd suggest scattering some more around which, combined with the background effects Xky suggested, would help fill out those empty passageways some.
Grephy--go play some Keen5 and look at the techniques they used to keep their big level edges from looking bland--something as simple as a vent with pink ooze coming out, or more flexible like pipes that you can squirrel around the playfield... something that you can stuff into those large dark cyan areas to make them seem less abyssmal.
Excellent advice. I was thinking this when I first read the post but the words never manifested. Keen5 backgrounds were particularly well used.

I still can't get over how good that dead end of Xky's looks, even before the background effects are integrated. All these screens are giving me a lot of excellent ideas.
I'm not sure how this might turn out, but adding stuff like girders and structure to the building in the background might make it less empty
If this path is taken, it'd need to be done consistently--finding structural components in one area but not in another where logically they'd be of equal necessity diminishes their credibility (ie. perceived purpose) and renders them pure aesthetics.

Great to hear (and see) all these ideas.

>Commander Spleen

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