One thing that’s been bugging me for a while is the overpoweringly plain background, which so far has been a challenge to improve. Because Game Maker doesn’t support large images, the background must be repeated in some way and can’t consist of one specially designed image. So far I’ve created one repeating image that repeats itself across the X axis at the top of the screen, but the image cannot be repeated vertically, so for the majority of the space I’ve ended up with a solid block colour filling most of the screen.
I’ve tried taking inspiration from existing games, although a lot of the most successful backgrounds (in my opinion) are either made of large complex images specially created to fit the foreground, or they’re smaller images that can have a “proper edge” because there is no moving camera change the background view. Above is an example from Braid, which consists of a huge background which pans the extent of the room.
A Boy and his Blob has some really great foresty parallax scrolling backgrounds, and to some extent some vertical camera movement. Here the trees have been scaled to create a sense of depth throughout the background, and brighter colours have been used closer towards the foreground to reduce the emphasis of distant background features. This is something that I could really consider incorporating. A while ago I posted about some trees that I designed to be part of background imagery, but I have since removed these because I felt the design was too inconsistent with the foreground. I felt inspired to redesign these recently after watching Tekken: Blood Vengeance (of all things :S) and seeing a similar style tree in the Japanese landscapes of the film.
I realised that in order to make believable, aesthetically successful trees I would have to pad my old design out slightly, and try to represent the trees textures much better, especially leaf formations. I mocked up this new design to check how well it fit into the level design, judging by its size and shape:
The colours have also been dimmed slightly, because I noticed that the old design cluttered the foreground a lot more than it should have done. I only have one tree made up with this new design, but it doesn’t seem to get too repetitive when placed throughout the game. I’ve placed the design into level one for now, although I’m considering only using Cherry trees in this level and saving the Bonsai style trees for level three.
I haven’t got round to adding any “depth” to the background imagery yet, but you can see here that I’ve been playing around with difference colour combinations etc. I’ve finally got round to brightening the ambient colour overlay which activates the lights, so the level feels a lot less dark now! The new colour is “grey38” from this list of hex code colours. The colour of the sky here may or may not stay, but this is intended to be level specific, so in level two the sky will be an orangey colour.
I’ve also been working on an alternative to trees in level two to add a little more variation to the level. Instead of a thick layer of trees, I’ve been trying out a thin layer of bamboo in a similar colour scheme to the new tree designs.
In this last image, you can see that I’ve added the same silhouette background, ambient overlay and sky colour to create a much more finished looking background, which is consistent with other levels.