Early Art Development

Phil Fish’s devlog for the upcoming game Fez begins with a Photoshop mock-up of his game idea, made in the exact style that the game would be made in. With my cute character in mind, I started to get some ideas of how I wanted the game to look, and the kinds of colours I wanted to use, that sort of thing. So I thought I’d do the same thing. This would also act as my introduction to making tilesets for games, which is something I’ll be doing for the first time during the development of Hanami. I drew up the sketch above to get me thinking about what sort of objects would appear in the game a lot, and tried to assemble them into a small demonstration of the look of the game. It also led me to think about scale for the first time, as games are often way out of proportion. In a screenshot of Fez, a fan pointed this out for example:

However, the strange proportions are necessary based on the size of the tiles used. I worked out that Fez uses tiles which are 8×8 pixels in size, but these are expanded by about 5x when the game is played. This gives the game its very square feel, as there is little room for small details within each tile.

Games like The Archer and Cave Story use 16×16 tiles. While these don’t have to be more detailed, the opportunity is there, so for now I’m planning to create tiles which measure 16×16 pixels. By applying tiles to the sketch, I came up with this solution, which is by no means refined or finished:

I started by applying the 16×16 grid to the image, and draw a rough outline of the shapes as they would fit into that grid. Obviously, only background imagery really has to fit the grid perfectly. Objects and game items don’t have to consist of tiles, although in this case the tree seems to stand out a lot from the rest.

I mainly tried to concentrate on the tiles for the ground, as this was a single strip of tiles which were very easy to place and repeat. The difficulty was making enough that they weren’t too repetitive! I also tried to make sure they weren’t too overcomplicated at this point. Most of the tiles could be repeated and placed anywhere, but I made special end tiles with rounded corners which would only ever be placed on the ends!

As well as seamless tiles, I tried out creating single tiles. This closed type of tile is used in all three of the example games I’ve given in this post already, and make it even easier to repeat tiles into any form. In this case, each tile has an edge and stands out on its own, rather than fitting in to a bigger pattern.

I later added in a little more detail to the grass line, and made basic block-colour tiles for the background of this image. The tree is pretty much freehand at this point, and doesn’t adhere to grid or guide. I’m not sure if this is something I want to use much for background imagery, however it seemed to work well for the clouds in the very background. This image ended up looking very bright, and in my opinion a little too bright. The colours at this point are very inspired by Fez, but only for experimental purposes!

The placeholder character silhouette fits into a 32×32 square, which is a pretty standard character measurement in classic games. In terms of proportions, this means that tiles can sit at half the character’s height, representing accessibility. Tiles which create a vertical surface equal to or above the height of the character represent inaccessible areas, without having to take up too much room on screen.

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