March 6, 2011

Simplicity and Magic

When conceptualizing Impulse, we decided it was important that our game's camera renders with a zero field of view (FOV). We also decided later on that the game would, at any given time, only have three tones of color and no shading. The tones of color smoothly transition based on the current night/day cycle in game, and also based on the world you're currently in.

What we didn't realize early in concept, was that a zero FOV and three tone color scheme would allow us to do some really cool effects. One example is our character's Token ability. During gameplay, the player will be able to place save tokens, and at any time be able to recall themselves back to them. The recall animation looks a little something like this:

This sort of effect would normally be a bit difficult to pull off in normal real time render situations. What we've done is that when the character finishes their movement animation, the 3d model is swapped out with a completely flattened 2d mimic. This 2d mimic contains many smaller models that are cut apart and fit together. We then animate the new replacement 2d model to disintegrate. This would not be possible without a zero FOV render camera, and would certainly be very challenging if we had anything more than three tones of color to create 'tell marks' when doing our model swap.

Another example is found in one of our game's hazards, something we've been calling the 'slow plate'. The purpose of this hazard is upon contact, the player loses all built up speed and is slowed to a crawl, removing much needed mobility. It looks like this:

To get this sort of effect, we are simply rotating a set of corkscrew shaped models, and to get that nice separation, we just placed a larger white model behind the black. This white model is invisible because of how it lays on the white background, resulting in a nice separation between the two models we wanted to have show up clearly. This is what the models look like when viewed from the side:

Our decision to use a simpler presentation of our visual assets has given us a lot of freedom to do some pretty cool things. Anytime a new effect is fleshed out, we try to take advantage of our game's newly found capabilities, which we hope will deliver a unique visual experience to our players.

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