Welcome to Hero Tower Defense Thursday!
After some research we did find a solution and did a few tests which were giving us some positive results. However, in order to take advantage of this solution it requires the graphics to be processed a different way than how we've been doing it. There are a lot of little details involved in this that affects how the graphics are drawn and animated but essentially we have to revise the majority of the graphics. So with that in mind we started discussing our options and other concerns that we might be able to fix since we have to adjust the graphics. This led to the concern of the armor requiring a lot of work, which we were already aware of but if we could somehow make it easier it would save a lot of time. We didn't want to reduce the amount of character customization that the players would be able to adjust using equipment and other items because we know a lot of people enjoy that aspect of the game. Plus, it was something we really wanted to have as developers.
We spent some time thinking about it and discussing it and decided that perhaps the easiest path to take would be to make all the graphics in 3D instead of 2D. It would still have a similar cartoony/anime style to what we have now because the 3D graphics would be rendered out using a cell shading method. The reason for going to 3D is because it removes a lot of tedious work after the upfront work is finished. Here's a few numbers to give you an idea of what we're talking about here. On average we have around 3 frames per animation and estimate to have about 8 animations for the characters. So right there we have 24 frames, now that's only one angle. HTD has 3 angles (Front, Back, and Side which mirrors) so now we have 72 frames to draw, per item. So take a helm for example, that requires 72 frames ot be drawn. A full suit of armor (6 parts) is 432 frames that have to be drawn and that's just for one character, one race, one gender. The female would require a different set of 432 frames for the same suit of armor. A different race would require another 864 frames for both genders, etc. As we add more more races the amount of work required for adding a single piece of armor increases by a lot.
So with that in mind let's go back to 3D. I work 8 hours a day doing 3D for my full-time job and Evan has been working in 3D for awhile and taking some classes in it as well. Kevin and Bill are more specialized in 2D but their talents aren't lost because we need lots of concept art for both designs and animations, and both of them are very good at it. So how does 3D help us solve our problem? Let's take the helm as an example again. First, we'll have to model it based on concepts. Then we set it up on the character. That character would be animated to match the concepts. Once he is set up with the animations we never need to deal with them again. Since it's 3D we can just attach the helm object to it's proper location on the character and it'll position itself for all the animations automatically. Sometimes we might have to manually adjust it for certain frames but it's still a one-time set up. After that we have cameras and lights set up for each angle all we have to do is hit the render button and it'll give us all 72 frames or 432 frames for a full suit within minutes. Adjusting it to work on another gender or race is also far easier, just some slight adjustments and it'll be all set. Also making different colors and such will also be much easier and faster.
While 3D does require a bit more upfront work, in our case it's very much worth it and we'll be able to keep all our customization that we wanted to have available to you guys. Now, this isn't like we're redoing the whole game, it's just the graphics really. Sam has to implement the new method of processing the graphics in order to speed up the game, which he's working on now, but once that's done we'll be right back to developing the rest of the game using placeholders and whatnot. We'll be leaving all the current graphics in as is for now. We may or may not add them as we go or just wait till we have a bunch done and do it all at once, we'll see.
So that's where we're at. It's a speed bump but worth working through. This is just part of the developing process, it's nearly impossible for a small team to prepare for every obstacle and plan everything out perfectly. Plus the way we are doing it with giving you guys updates as often as possible through the whole process can complicate that a bit as well but it's more fun for us. We should be able to catch up graphically in a reasonable amount of time since all the concepts and animations are already done for the assets we have now. There won't be an update this week and maybe not next week but we'll still be posting about our progress as we go. We're certain this is the way to go so bare with us while we make this transition, it'll be worth it!
In the Works:
- Pet System (50%)
- Interface Revision (25%)
- Unit: Human Male - Revision (10%)
- Unit: Fire Gecko - Attack Concept (25%)
- Unit: Skeleton - Concept (50%)
- Unit: Meerkat Non-Combat Pet - Concept (25%)
- Unit: Goblin - Concept (25%)
- Graphic Processing Revision (10%)
- Saving Inventory and Equipment Setup (0%)
Check out Kevin's blog, KXN @ HTD for HTD art-related concepts, WIPs, polls, and more!
As always any feedback is welcome, let us hear what you have to say in the comments! Thanks!