SoC:XXX - Art Direction
November 21, 2018
- Current Progress
- Next Steps
Contrary to how the blog looks, I have actually done a bit of work on Carbon in the last few months, specifically in regards to the art for the preliminary mech. Aesthetic for this game is something I’ve struggled with a great deal, but I think after a fair amount of investigation into different styles and approaches, I’ve found a look that I really like (and can make!).
MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat
It’s no secret that big inspiration for me in making Carbon is MechWarrior 2. Released in 1995 for MS-DOS, ithad some pretty incredible graphics for the time.
3D acceleration wasn’t really a thing yet, so all the rendering had to be done in software on the CPU. Getting a 486 to do textured & smooth-shaded polygons with a decent draw distance at a solid framerate was no small feat, but the game managed to do it. And I personally think that visually it holds up pretty well. This is largely due to smart art direction working with the confines of the engine. Every mech has a distinct silhouette that you can recognize from a distance and plan accordingly. The game doesn’t feature any skyboxes, but it does use a nice gradient effect that allows other mechs and buildings/environment obstacles to stand out clearly.
Speaking of buildings, these tend to be pretty hit or miss aesthetically. In some maps they’re nothing more than some scattered cubes, while others have some pretty well crafted, mission specific geometry. I guess the thinking was if it’s just something you have to navigate around don’t waste too many polys on it, which makes sense given the limitations they had.
I mentioned that the game has both textured and shaded polygons. I think that, while I personally don’t want to go to the extremes used here, the game does do an excellent job of using only the bare minimum of textures to provide necessary visual details (camo textures on the mechs to help them stand out from the level geometry, clan insignia, weapon barrels and the fronts of RPGs). Faking detail via texturemaps is something I really appreciate, and some of the later games in this post go into that in more detail.
So, big takeaways on MW2:
- Minimalism is key
- Clear silhouettes on important game elements improves gameplay