Hooray for ‘Splosions!

For a game with explosive devices in the title, BombSquad’s explosions have always been pretty tame; really nothing more than glowy orange spheres that pop in for a moment, grow, and then disappear.  I finally got around to pimping them out a bit though…  I find one of the keys to a neat looking explosion is to just add *lots* of random different stuff.. some sparks, some rocks, some smoke, some distortion, some scorching, etc.  Here, Spaz is kind enough to demonstrate some of the improvements for us:

Cleanin’ the Castle

Yeah, I know; I said I was done with levels…  But there’s one I just had to revisit: Crag Castle.  That’s the goofy one that looks like two mirror-image castles up on pedastals facing each other.

Here’s my simple little model I built for it originally:

And here’s what it looked like once converted to 3d, mirrored, and added to the game:

It looks pretty decent from a visual standpoint, but the problem arises when playing on it: all the neat organic lumpy imperfection in the model starts to detract from the fun of the game.  Its hard to judge relative positions of things or where bombs will land or how they’ll roll when they hit the ground because everything is so curvy.  Its also hard to judge how close to the edge of the level you can get before falling off.  Furthermore it feels a bit too large and all the contrast and bumps make it harder to pick out little objects and characters. In general, form has triumphed over function. So with all that against it, despite having spent a fair bit of time on the map, I was about to the point of chucking it in the ol’ virtual trash…

Thankfully I’m stubborn, however, and as it turned out it was nothing a bit of elbow grease and photoshop couldn’t fix.  After spending a chunk of my weekend flattening out the 3d version, filling in holes, painting over bumps, and squaring everything up, I’ve got something I’m happy with. The level is now much simpler and feels more natural to play on while still retaining a bit of the appealing organic clay goodness it started with:  Hooray; the castle is saved!  And now I really *am* done with levels. I swear.

Levels Complete!

I just passed another big milestone: all my maps are done.

One of my goals I made for myself when I started working on the game again last winter was to get a particular consistent look for all the characters and the maps.  When I originally wrote BombSquad I had modeled a few maps in 3d and painted textures for them by hand, which looked alright but always felt a bit ‘generic-video-gamey’ to me (example).  I decided I wanted to take the look of BombSquad in a more unique direction.

I love the look of real-life miniatures; things like stop-motion animated films or model train sets.  Even when they’re not high quality, they have that physical, tangible appearance that makes them interesting to look at.  When working in CG, whether for film or games, everything starts out geometric and perfect and it can be a huge challenge to make things look imperfect and dirty.  However, with real life models you get that look ‘for free’.  So to try and take advantage of that, I built all my maps in real life and then reconstructed them in 3d for the game, using the originals as textures and reference.  Finally, I added some vignetting, depth of field, and various other filtering to my game engine to try to accentuate the imperfect, model-like look.

Here’s some of the results:

The stuff of Eric Froemling