Exploring Colour


It’s been a difficult task trying to figure out the exact shade of a typical Cherry Blossom, because there just isn’t one. I’ve had to come to the conclusion that most shades of pink work.

I picked this close-up photo (believe it or not it’s from an old myspace layout!) to be my official blossom reference. I can’t guarantee its authenticity, but it does show a promising contrast in colour from its very pale pastel tips to its desaturated centre. And the colours aren’t affected by any other sources, such as vibrant lights or contrasting backgrounds. I found a really great site called Color Explorer which rips colours straight from images and creates a colour palette for you, complete with RGB values. Here’s what it made of this photo:

It’s just as I was hoping really, you’ve almost got a completely smooth gradient from light to dark, without too many anomalous colours in between! I won’t need all of these colours for one very low-res flower, but the full colour palette can now be used for anything to create some consistency. I haven’t put much thought into my User Interface yet, but I would assume this would be a good application of this particular palette!

I made myself a little colour card to reference the flower colours, from the dark centre to the light petals. For each colour, I picked a slightly darker shade and a slightly lighter shade to act as shadows and highlights:

This is the result when applied to a 16×16 Cherry Blossom:

The shape of the flower was fairly difficult to apply to such a small image, however I’ve tried to give the impression of some depth as the original flower is far from 2D. Obviously at this stage, the flower is roughly the same size as the character, throwing away any hope of proportion! The flower object will work at half this size, although a lot of the detail is lost.

The size I use will have to depend on which looks better in the game. The flowers needs to be conspicuous enough to stand out as collectable objects, but subtle enough to add an aspect of challenge. As it’s an important part of the game, I don’t think its colossal size will seem out of place, but aesthetics may prove otherwise.

To make the game a little less samey, I’ve been considering varying shapes and shades of flowers. This example is a very “standard” flower, with no irregularities. I was particular inspired to do a little palette-swapping by this image, which I included in my previous mood board:

This photo shows the Sakura Blossom in a completely different light (I’m being serious, no pun intended!) Color Explorer mainly picked out shades of blue from this example of the same flower (although it could be argued that this image had a lot more background influence…)

I especially like the silhouette in this image, which is kind of recognised as the official shape of the flower. It inspired me to recreate it in simplified vector form in Illustrator, which may well be transformed into a game asset later.

Sakura Mood Board

It’s not a real mood board, but this was easier than cutting and sticking! These are some of my favourite Google image search results from the keywords Sakura Blossom (Japanese name for Cherry Blossom.) The results are interesting because, although you’d generally associate the blossoms with the colour pink, the shades seem to vary infinitely throughout every image. This could partly be down to varying camera settings, but at times they are definitely represented as a very pale, fragile mass against a blue sky, and other times they are shown as a vibrant, luscious blossom.


The main point of this selection of images is to get a feel for the colour schemes of the flowers. They seem to have a huge impact on the areas around them, as if they emit their own colours against any background. I especially like the high contrast between the trees and the blue sky, although I similarly like the combination of browns and traditional Japanese reds.

In Hanami, I will probably be using tree sprites as background imagery, but most importantly, I must create a flower object which is collectable by the player!

Hanami

If my last post has left you going “Wait…Hanami…What?” (and I hope it has!) then here is a little insight into Hanami. I can’t remember quite how I discovered it, but as I often have Otaku tendencies it managed to come up in some routine internet browsing recently. I love all things Japanese. Originally introduced through video games and cartoons, I’ve extended my knowledge of Japanese culture to pretty much every aspect, and I even speak a little bit too ^_^. I’d love to visit some day, and experience the culture and lifestyle first-hand.

Hanami literally means flower viewing, but generally refers to watching cherry blossoms or ume blossoms. It has become a custom in Japan, where cherry blossoms bloom and fall within a short one or two week period around the end of March or early April. People go outside for parties and picnics, simply to enjoy the short period when the blossoms are on the trees. Japan-Guide.com states:

Hanami can be just a stroll in the park, but it traditionally also involves a picnic party under the blooming trees. Hanami parties have been held in Japan for many centuries, and today are held in public and private gardens and parks across the country. Famous cherry blossom spots can get very crowded, and the best picnic spots are fought after.


After reading about this for a while, I started to wonder what happens at the end of Hanami, if there is such a thing as the end. My imagination immediately flashed up images of parks and streets void of people, where everyone has simply retreated back inside. I imagined a world where the blossoms just drifted on the wind and sat on the ground before eventually completely disappearing. At first, I assumed it might be quite a calm and peaceful scene, but after thinking about it a little more I thought “perhaps it would be lonely.”

I’ve never been to Japan, but I’ve seen enough photos to realise how beautiful it can be. This sense of beauty comes across well in anime set in Japan, where backgrounds are typically exaggerated. In 5 centimetres per Second, the falling blossoms are compared to falling snow, and are placed floating around ordinary objects to make them appear nice than they really are!


I think this kind of imagery would work well within a game, immediately any object can be stylised with the addition of a slightly pink hue and an array of blossoms! There are plenty of other typical Japanese objects which could be applied to give any game world a far-Eastern feel, without having to recreate actual Japan.
This video is a compilation of photos after a man’s one year stay in Japan. It helps give a good, personal sense of what makes Japan different to anywhere else in the world, and with a little help from the music suggests an sense of calmness and serenity. There’s a huge difference between Japan’s big cities and rural areas, but these are often brought closer together with the help of things like Sakura blossoms in urban areas.


I don’t think Japan is really a lonely place, which is why it might be so poignant to portray it as deserted and eerily quiet. The objective of a game set in such a place would probably be dispel its loneliness…