In the Monday Musings I try to talk about the stuff that’s happening in the world of Game Development, from interesting game releases, to interesting technology, and game business happenings.
Let’s start this Monday Musings with a little video:
Now I had to look a couple of times to notice the little flaws in the rendering.. but it’s mind blowing that this is a game, and these are in-game graphics!
Being a professional (read: doing it as full time job) game developer for almost 2 decades and dabbling in programming and game creation for at least another 10-15 years before that. Graphics like this are like magic to me!
A kind of magic
My game-development knowledge started because I turned my pen and paper drawing skills, into art-skills on a computer. Once I discovered how much fun that was, I wanted them to move around the screen. For that you needed to learn how to code (back in the 80’s and 90’s.. there was no fancy visual tool for it). So I did.. I read books, I typed in listings from magazines that I would then tinker and modify, and I bugged my brother for all his knowledge (which in hindsight was probably only a little more than my own knowledge of things).
I’m very good at learning just enough to make things work, and I still describe my games as a bunch of pictures that move around 60 times per second according to some rules.
Those rules of movement and positioning have gotten bigger and more complext over time.. the graphics are still pretty much the same colorful cartoon pixel characters in colorful cartoony worlds.
Now, I know my code and art has hard limitations. In the best case, I could probably change up my work-flow and go with high-resolution graphics at some point, although I wouldn’t call that an improvement, just a visual change, and it can be great, but pixel-art would sometimes still be better depending on the game style.
But beyond high-resolution 2D graphics, I know that 3D is very unlikely to be part of my future workflow. Even tho there are many tools and engines available to make things “easy” – I also kinda feel too old to learn those new tricks and things. If I’m honest: I just don’t want to learn them!
Looking at those hyper-realistic graphics, I can see the technical achievement, and I can really enjoy such achievements from a user perspective and technology lover. It’s just such a distance away from my end of the gaming spectrum, the games I work on every day.
The last few days I picked up the game Kena: Bridge of spirits for my Playstation(4). The game is gorgeous looking, and it constantly felt like playing inside a Disney animation.
When I play games, my mind is often dwelling over how certain things are most likely handled in code. I think this is a common thing for most gamer developers, in the same way that a movie director will always look at a scene or shot and think about the other options they would personally have chosen to shoot a scene.
Things like characters climbing the walls, jumping, swimming, it all looks amazing and in my head I can translate those into how I would code it in my 2D games either side-view or top-view, but I also know the knowledge to make it work correctly in 3D requires more technical know-how than I currently have.
So while playing games like these I sometimes get jealous of what other developers are capable of. And I know there are many tools and assets for Unity and Unreal that will get things going without really having to learn all the details… but I like knowing the details that happen under the hood of my games!
And finally, let’s not forget, that games like this are not created by solo-developers like me.
Productions like this are way out of my budget, even for smaller 3D games: there are multiple people creating the 3D models, textures, world building. Then there are a bunch of people writing the code, testers, and the list is much longer.
My games are created by me.. drawn by me.. designed by me, world-building by me, and I get a freelancer or two to create music. Sometimes I hook up with other people for small parts of the game, but in general, at least 95% of the worlds I build are mine.
If you go for a game that looks somewhat like these big budget titles, you are also raising expectations towards gamers. You’re code, game design, world-building, story telling, it all has to be at that certain level, because your visuals are making such expectations!
Games have a broad spectrum in visuals, designs, and gameplay. And that’s probably also the cool thing about creating and playing games: There’s always something else to dive into!