Building Character, part 2

One of the first things we talked about on this blog was how the art of the Backworlds main character evolved – the character has looked more or less the same since then, but we have made a lot of subtle changes to how we render and animate it that I thought I’d go over today.

Sketchy avatar

This is the very first iteration of the Backworlds avatar after we had settled on a design – the artstyle was still mostly hand-drawn line art and the sprite would simply be inverted in backworld. The one big thing we added from the prototype was that the head was drawn separately, as mentioned in the Building Character post.

Avatar from IKEA

One of the first things we did was to remove the tails of the avatar and run a simple rope simulation instead – while this has led to some work over the years and there are some flaws still, it simplifies animation and gives the movement a lot more fluidity which we like.

It pretty much looks like this to this day

While the visual impact from the sketch version to the fullcolor version is probably the largest one, we barely changed anything from a technical standpoint. Rather than inverting the color based on the paintmask we changed the shader to use separate textures for the front- and backworld, but that was about it.

Mood: exchangeable

The next change in the avatar rendering technology was to separate out the eyes from the head. This allowed us to change the eye art without re-exporting the entire head, but more importantly it makes it possible to have the avatar move its eyes in response to gameplay events.

We can split the colorspace as well

We made the largest – and most likely the last – changes to the avatar rendering when we were reworking the avatar animations last year. Instead of using the sprites as-is, we encoded the layers of the source files into separate channels of the textures. The red channel was then used to mask in the paper pattern and the green and blue channels to mask in the primary colors.

The output of this shader is identical to the old character sprites, but it has the advantage that setting up the sprite is less complex and we do not have to store separate sprites for the backworld variations which saves texture memory. In addition, it completely removes all the complexity with hue-changing the avatar since we apply the colors every time we render it anyway and can change them as much as we want.

We are hard at work tying up loose ends and finalizing art at the moment, but more on that at a later date!

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