Oct 24, 2018 IN Art
How to keep the content heavy games visually consistent?
TALKS WITH EXPERTS
Welcome to the 6th episode of our Talks With Experts series. This time, we will introduce you Peter, the Lead 3D Artist of our Seaport game, who will tell us more about adjusting art in content heavy games. In case you have some further questions, you can always join our Facebook group called Free to play game developers Free to play game developers and we will happily discuss them with you.
The game you are responsible for went through some major changes in matters of the graphic design in the past few weeks. Can you explain to us when and why are such changes needed and how you handled this task?
The Seaport game was released 3 years ago, in 2015. It was originally designed for the Facebook platform and its graphic design was adjusted for a big screen.
When we released the app for mobile devices in February 2018, it was suddenly too difficult to orientate in the game as all original buildings with their massive amount of details appeared extremely small. We quickly understood that major graphics change was a must and that we had to come up with a new design that will help the player to recognize and distinguish the building instantly. Another problem was that players were not able to differentiate between the upgrades of buildings as their transformations were not visible enough.
So we changed our approach. Instead of modifying the building visual with each new upgrade achieved, we decided to introduce eras. After 4 consecutive upgrades of the building, the player unlocks a new era with a distinctive new design. In order to recognize the achievement of new era instantly, we kept the original position of the building and the basic shape, but architecture and colors are changing.
By now we have 16 different types of buildings and more will come as the game itself moves forward. It is important to keep in mind that each of them needs to be recognized instantly both on big screens of computers and on a small screen of mobile devices.
It took us longer than we expected but so far the feedback from our players was amazing and it seems that we succeeded.
As the Seaport is already 3 years in production, how do you make sure that the originally defined art style of the game is kept all the way and by all team members?
Well, in the beginning, the style was not so consistent and many artists picked their own color when designing visuals. Moreover the style we set at the launch naturally evolved along the way. But we use some useful techniques that help our team of twelve 3D artists to keep our work in sync when it comes to the level of detail, color etc.
What keeps us in check is strictly set level of detail in texture. We use a low poly style, which means every building, ship or decoration is made of a limited number of squares and triangles. (For example, each ship consists of up to 1500 triangles.) Another big helper is a standardized color pallet for each event.
What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to art in content heavy games?
Sure, content heavy games need to be visually consistent, but for me personally, the biggest challenge is how to measure the quality of art and how to keep this quality data-driven. I always want to know where we are regarding players’ feedback about graphics. The best way how to measure this is either through app ratings in Appstore/GooglePlay Store or through social media and community.
You change the whole port visual and its backgrounds with each event, can you tell us how long does it take to make such change and if it is worth it?
Like most of the free to play games now, The Seaport uses the event system. We have approximately 12 events per year, each of them lasts four to six weeks and each of them has a very significant background. As we understand the event as some form of a reward for the player, we pay a lot of attention to the preparation of its unique and distinguishable visual change. In the beginning, it is the team effort when we brainstorm on the overall theme and decide what to sketch. Then one of us will finalize the visual. Usually, it takes up to 7 days to prepare the new event look. So far it seems that that the players really appreciate it. And if the community likes it, that s what matters, right?
And what about you artists? Do you think that community feedback is important? Do you care about it? Tell us about your approach. Don't hesitate to ask further questions and discuss this week’s topic in the Facebook group called Free to play game developers. Please feel free to invite your fellow game developers as well :)