Yep, it takes a rare breed to be a game developer. Not everyone has the unbreakable intellectual fortitude, the raw creative nerve to just sit there and try to create their own worlds. The stern determination to push through all obstacles and see their dreams through to the finish. Game devs may not be able to actually forge physical stone and metal surfaces simply by manipulating pixels and polygons; but just like a pampered A-list celebrity playing a rugged 1800s gunslinger, we can sure try to fake it!
That's what I've been up to this week, creating some new textures for the environments in our demented little horror/comedy game Twisty's Asylum Escapades, which we are now remastering for its upcoming release on Steam. Creating textures can be a bit tricky and there are several things you have to consider. It's good to have them detailed, but too much detail, or having too many textures at too high a resolution can begin to adversely impact the game's performance.
Another concern that I personally have to contend with, being the sole artist on this game, is that spending too much time on any one texture can end up being a waste of time and drag out the development process too long. Gamers will notice if a texture is bad, but at the same time, they're not likely to spend too much time really examining most of the textures in the game (keep in mind there are hundreds of different textures in these environments). So part of my job is to figure out and gauge the importance of each texture, how prominent it is and how often people are going to see it and even how well they're likely to see it; and then determine how much time to spend on each one (art can be improved infinitely, after all).
Twisty's Asylum Escapades also has quite a lot of interior hallways with different wall textures. These come with some of their own challenges such as finding a balance between repeating the textures and yet still keeping them interesting. It's technologically unreasonable to make a long hallway wall all one texture and so by necessity, these kinds of textures in video games often have to repeat. But we don't want them to look like they're repeating. So we try to find a way to make them look interesting, but at the same time to make them look all the same enough so that you can't see the same distinctive part of the texture repeating again and again on the wall.
Normal mapping (or similarly, bump mapping) is also very important for creating more realistic textures in games. And, whether players are aware of the mechanisms behind these things or not, this type of texture mapping has become part of the standards that players expect from a 3D game's graphics. In the image above, you can see a comparison of the white painted brick wall of one of the asylum hallways with the normal mapping turned on and then turned off.
You'll notice that simply having the texture without the normal mapping, which creates the 3D shadowy and rough textured effects, makes the white brick texture look very bland and flat on its own. Normal mapping is very handy for adding the appearance of small 3D textures like bumps and cracks and creases and other uneven elements to surfaces like that. The kinds of things that many objects have on them but would be impractical (takes too much time to model or would require too much processing power to render) to try to create as part of the actual 3D model itself.
Of course many textures in the game need to be similarly redone for this upcoming release of Twisty's Asylum Escapades and so I will continue to work on updating various textures in the game, in the weeks to come (but I probably won't blog about those specifically). I should also have some other cool things to show you as well.
I hope you've enjoyed this small look at the tough, rugged and unforgiving landscape of indie game development. I'm certainly no John Waynesque hero, in fact quite the opposite. But I hope that you will continue to follow along with this developer log as we twirl our mustaches, laugh maniacally and continuously try to tie the maiden of failure to the railroad tracks while moving forward with our sinister plot to unleash our strangely compelling indiegame onto the unsuspecting public.