Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Visual experimentation

I’ve spent the last day or three experimenting with various visual effects for GSB 2. This is kinda fun, but I also think its quite productive. If i was making the game using Unity or some other engine, I’d just pop along to the asset store and browse the effects other people have written and bung them in. Job done, ship the game.

I can see why a lot of people are attracted to doing that, but personally I’ve found rolling my own solutions to be much more rewarding, not just as a coding geek, but from a game design and visuals POV. The lighting effects in GSB 2 will not be the standard Unity effects, or the same effects used in any other engine, ever. they are unique to the game. They may not be ‘radically different’, but I think the distinctiveness helps. Sometimes i end up coming up with pretty wacky solutions to problems which allow me to include features in an unusual way. I think it’s a really good thing for different coders to be approaching each problem in a different way, after all we are supposed to be creating original, and distinct works of ‘art’.

When big movies add special effects, they don’t often copy and paste effects from other films. Arguably Star Wars has already done ‘lasers’ so you could theoretically just copy them. The problem is, you never get innovation that way.

I just watched ‘The Forbidden Planet’, a classic 1950s sci fi movie. it was the first sci-fi movie to have an all electronic soundtrack, which was amazing at the time. It’s cheesy as hell now. I bet one of the reasons for it’s success is how different it sounded as a result. they had to work out how to do that from scratch. Then sci fi movies all tended to sound the same and become tedious until Star Wars, when George Lucas decided classical music could work with a futuristic movie. Now, ALL movies copy that idea.

It would have been easier, simpler, and cheaper, and much more in line with what the audience expected if those innovations had not happened. But when they get it right, they get it right big time. I doubt that GSB 2 will change the future of gaming, but I like to think that by occasionally approaching things from first principles and hacking my own way to make things happen, I’m at least ensuring there is some variety in the way stuff looks.


BTW… On the topic of Robby the robot, what a flipping layabout! He is , if you read-between-the-lines a nightmare to work with. First he does this whole ‘Sorry I was giving myself an oil-job’ excuse (yeah whatever), when he can’t be found when called, then he mocks and sounds incredibly put-out because he is asked to make a new dress. then later, he tells the crew ‘if you need anything, use the beamer’ without ever explaining where or what that is. Plus he moves at about the pace of a snail. if I didn’t know better I’d think he did that deliberately so everyone got sick of asking robby to do something and did it themselves.

‘if you need anything in about 6 hours, use the beamer, otherwise you might as well do it yourself’.


5 thoughts on Visual experimentation

  1. I am not sure if you read my comment I linked previously on other site, but since you’re sort of touching the subject, I’ll re-iterate it here.

    “An interesting idea would be to have iMUSE like system for GSB – if the balance of the battle is tipping over to winning/losing, the music would change accordingly and perhaps also as your ships became more powerful (if in a campaign), the music would add layers to make it reflect you becoming more powerful in the game. Atleast in GSB1, the game engine could probably predict the outcome well before you could even in what might still appear like an even matchup, so the music could start to reflect the gravity of the situation bit early in anticipation of what’s going to happen.”

  2. I’m not sure if this game is unique enough (being a sequel now) but back in the golden days publishers hired the few pros around for many projects, as evidenced by playlists in online radios streaming old game music.

    I’d shop around with some top producers with track record of the kind of style that would suit the game. If you did implement some form of dynamic or even developing layers of music, then that’d have to be a selling point that makes them even more interested (as opposed to charging way). Some big name might already have all the money they need, so it’s much more about whether they’re really interesting in the overall project – perhaps because they saw a demo of what the game was about and got musically inspired, that’s the best case. Some sort of intro sequence to the game setting things up and then some epic space battles might be needed to set this up. Seeing just a menu or some battles isn’t enough, those games are dime a dozen. Maybe the players don’t care about the intro but I suspect if you want to get some known name on the project at a bargain, then whatever you save in the music probably needs to go on some epic well written intro sequence. (All those old games with great music had epic intro sequences, so I think there’s some correlation – setting the games story and mood for the writer of the music)

    There are other approaches to getting music for the game as well but I have doubts whether they are as likely to deliver good results. I know some cases where they worked really well but there were some exceptional circumstances that are no longer present. (eg. sc2/uqm – it worked great because wide variety of composers were limited technically the same way and the technicalities pretty much ensured a certain type of sound signature for all of the music)

  3. (as opposed to charging way more).

    I’ll also add that I’m not really sure if the composers back in the day actually saw any full intro. I think they might’ve seen few lines of writing for the intro, some high level design document, and perhaps preliminary art, as the publishers had those pros doing those cool illustrated realism painting for the boxes etc. I don’t really know. I just suspect that better results and better contract pricing could be achieved if you can get the artist/producers interested in the project for reasons beside$$$.

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