The past months we have been working away on production-level art and during that process have tried to figure out different aspects of our workflow and rules to help the art compliment, not get in the way, of game-play. The first area where we felt happy with the level design is the inverted gravity backworld, so we decided to start there.
The settings for this particular world are inspired by airships and renaissance design in the frontworld and sci-fi space stations in the backworld. We have tried to make each room distinct in some way and in this case it was a fairly easy choice to simply do that by giving them a functional purpose in the airship/station.
We also tried to map these areas to each other as much as possible between frontworld and backworld. In the screenshots you can see that a library is mapped to a server room and a cargo area is common between both. Similarly we also mapped objects between them, for example the foreground clouds are all satellites in the backworld. The reason for mapping them is to create another connection between the worlds which helps when drawing since it makes the differences in structures that are important to gameplay easier to identify.
Other than that we had to work a lot on the colors in general. For the background sky we had many iterations to figure out what would not be distracting while also interesting when giving attention to it. For the backworld, coloring mostly comes down to having contrast between what is solid and is only background and making sure you are not confused about which world you have drawn to at a any given area.
We will probably do a first pass on art for all our worlds before we continue to add animation, particle effects and some more detail work to all of them. We have started the first pass on one other area and will get started on yet another soon.
I went to State of Play in Dublin last week, bringing Backworlds with me to have some people give it a go. I brought one of the builds we recently sent out to some testers, which only has debug-graphics, because that’s what we had prepared. Then I showed off some prettier content to anyone that was interested. A major new feature we have in this build is that the world is persistent, meaning that any objects that have been moved around or any drawing done on a level will be saved.
As we have previously observed, the game again proved to be somewhat polarizing where about half of players did not enjoy or understand it while the other half seemed to get immersed. Which I think we are still fine with, we simply need to target ourselves towards fans of puzzle games. As mentioned in previous blog posts we have deliberately removed any twitch-based platforming to let players focus on finding solutions.
I made some good observations about issues we needed to fix like tweaking the order of levels, various design bugs that could cause the player to get stuck, and improving the visible difference between phys-boxes that block the player in both world versus one world. Another thing I found interesting was that the youngest player I had come around was really awkward using the WASD-keys to play, perhaps being part of a generation more used to touch screens than keyboards.
All-in-all it was a good experience and I feel like we are still going in the right direction with the puzzles and the open-world progression system. Unfortunately I did not have time to check out any of the other games at the expo.
The second half of this year has been good for us progress wise, despite our decrease in blog posts. I feel like I can finally see us completing this game! More recently we have been gearing up to start producing the final art for the game, while we do have some design work left we feel sure enough about the overall structure to begin that process in tandem. It will likely be an iterative process just like our level design but we have some fairly clear ideas of what we want to do.
I haven’t really written anything since I decided to take a break a year ago (big thanks to Anders for keeping on going), but I have been back on the project since about summer. In 2017 I will also start working half-time at my day job and dedicate the rest to Backworlds. Hopefully this will mean good things for our progress!
We wish you a good rest of the year and an even better 2017!
We have been thinking about and working on themes and art styles for our different worlds recently. I made a mockup in Photoshop for our inverse gravity world and thought I’d record the process of beginning to implement it into an actual level. The inspiration for this theme is, vaguely, Leonardo Da Vinci machines and Treasure Planet (which in my mind is easily the coolest Disney movie thematically). This obviously needs a lot of more work, it’s only the beginning stages, but should give you and idea of the direction. Some of the art assets I made before I started recording.
Music: Final Fantasy X – That’s Besaid The Point OC Remix by Anticitizen
I want to write about my own fluctuating motivation for Backworlds this month, this will be mostly personal so I won’t go into Anders feelings on the same subjects.
Our progress has been slow the last half year, with some stints of hard work with building level progression, adding some new mechanics and preparing gameplay tests. Just like Anders I have a full-time job within computer software and I find it exhausting to sit at the computer 8 hours a day and then go home and work for several hours more on our game. Which I have done in certain periods, but I personally can not keep it up for too long. Besides the mental drain it is plain bad physically to be static that much of the day and it is not very social so it takes a toll in several ways.
I do constantly think about the game however as me and Anders discuss it every week. At the moment we are talking a lot about how to present the story and we are experimenting with different implementations. It certainly helps to have another person to keep you on your toes and not procrastinate too much. The fact that we have people that have contributed money to our development and that there are people who seem to like the game is also very important and helps me keep coming back to it.
Perhaps it sounds like I have to force myself to work on it, but I really do love it. It gives me artistic satisfaction in a way nothing has done before. I’m proud of what we are making together and I want to make clear I’m not looking for sympathy about my “exhaustion” mentioned above. I only want to explain and perhaps you can relate to this if you are within software/game development yourself as many of us tend to have hobby projects.
I apologize for missing our monthly blog post at the beginning of the December, I was just quite busy so didn’t have time to think of something good. The latest news on the game is that we have been running a new round of gameplay tests and have prepared for another one in January.
We want to thank everyone who have given us feedback through the year and to all of our supporters! Here’s a holiday greeting from us both!
– Final Fantasy 8 – Fishermans Horizon (Christmas Version) OC Remix by Goomin Nam
– Donkey Kong Country – Christmas Cave OC Remix by Deimos
We have talked briefly about the story and narrative for Backworlds on previous occasions but I thought I would try to further extend our thoughts in this post. The most impactful decision we have made regarding this topic is that the story and narrative structure completely takes a backseat to our gameplay.
Something that I’ve always agreed with is the sentiment that if you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody. Perhaps this applies to many things but specifically within games it something I often hear and read, mostly voiced by developers and enthusiasts.
Those are mostly opinions but I would like to share how I came to find it applies to Backworlds.
William Crawford |
Rasmus Nordling |
Jari Kangas |
Frances McGregor |
Joel de Vahl
Izaak Middlebrook |
André Mossinato |
David Mann |
Fully Woolly Herdy |
Collette and Lua |
Martin Annander |
Carl-Henrik Åkesson |