Category: Art


Making Sparks with Caromble! Engine

A couple of weeks ago Thomas Schmall posted an article about the new particle systems he was working on. I finally got around implementing the last system, the spark particles.

I would like to show you two ways we can use this particle system, and give a brief insight in how the Caromble! Editor can be used to place and tweak it.

The first way of using the system is to emulate sparks generated by something like welding. They spray out in a coherent beam.

timer

Timer trigger that triggers every 2-5 seconds and send the trigger to a particle system

This effect works best if the sparks aren’t spawned all the time, so I’ve used a timer to spawn a spray of  particles every couple of seconds. In the screenshot to the right you see this timer. I’ve set it to send an event every 2-5 seconds.

Now we just need to place the actual spark particle system itself, and fiddle with the parameters a bit to get the effect we want.

I’ve included a screenshot of the relevant bit of the editor screen below. Five properties are important for this effect.

First of, it is important to set the release rate (very) high. The release rate is the amount of particles we’ll spawn per second, and since we’ll only spawn particles every once in a while, we need to spawn a lot of them in this small period of time.

A less obvious parameter is the “ContinuousParticles” property, which is ticked of to indicate that we’ll provide external triggers for the particle system.

The important settings for the spark particle system.

Next to that is the “PulseDuration”, which determines how long we’ll spawn particles after every trigger.

The collision object property determines which objects the particles will bounce of. For performance reasons we won’t bother the physics engine with all particles, so you’ll have to provide a list of objects with which the sparks can interact.

Finally the “MaxAngleRadian” property determines in what direction the particles will be spawned. Since this is meant to be a coherent spray, I’ve set the angle fairly low.

Alternatively the spark particle system can be used in a more continuous way, as shown below.

 

To use the sparks in this way, you don’t need an external trigger, the particles will continuously spawn, and Perlin noise is used to control the release rate of the particles.

Again I’ve highlighted some important properties for this system.

The upper triplet of properties control the release rate animation in a somewhat mysterious manner. The “FractionOff” number corresponds to the fraction of time that there should be very little particles (the lower bound of the release rate). The “ReleaseRateAnimationSpeed” determines how fast the animation over the release rate is running.

The other five highlighted properties determine the way the particles look. The “MaxAngle” is much higher than it was in the beam example, it now corresponds to a halve sphere. The “StartSpeed” and the “Gravity” property together control how the particles will act after they have been released. They have to be tweaked together to achieve the desired effect.

Finally the “MinLifeTime” and “MaxLifeTime” parameters dictate how long the individual sparks will exist on this planet.

With that I’ll conclude this post. I was hoping to provide a small peek into the daily live of us Caromble! developers, and about the tools we have made to work with. We might release the editor with the game (or at a later stage) so you might get a chance to tinker with it too.

Also, if you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Particle Animations

On the art side I can slowly move towards polishing, as at least the industrial set is basically finished. One thing that I really want to tidy up are the effects. My thinking is that if they are in style, then the whole look will come together much more.

The effects were so far really soft – and somewhat realistic. Which doesn’t fit to the more comic-outline style of the textures. The explosion for example is done via an animation. So I redid the thing and animated it in a more cartoonish style:

Here is a smaller hit animation – that will show up when boxes are damaged (that effect is not yet in the game):

hit particle

A smaller hit.

It would be combined with smoke, and also sparks. Here is the animation for it, which would only really work in motion.

Spark animation

A spark – supposed to be many that fly around.

And here is the explosion.

particle explosion

Explosion!

Here are some screenshots of the explosion in action.

Sphere Evolution – Now in 3D!

In the last art posting here, I showed the concepting steps of the sphere. Here is the progress on the 3D side of things.

These were the meshes I created to choose from. It’s quite a lot – but it is of course in important asset of the game.

We chose number four – and the team basically said “works really well, don’t touch it anymore”. The visibility is much better – and the rolling motion shows more clearly.
There might be an option to use the other versions as addons or bonuses.

Here is a is the work as a still image to enjoy ;). In the later stages I might tweak it still, to add the outline look that all other assets have.

By now, there has been quite some evolution of the sphere throughout the development. Uh, makes me feel nostalgic.

shpere mesh

The progress of the sphere mesh.

Sphere Concept Evolution

After showing how the art of the alien art evolved, here is an update on the sphere, that now is closing towards final.

The first concepts already had it as a blue glowing object with some pattern on it.


And it stayed that way for quite a while, whereas I tried around with making the pattern more readable.

That wasn’t quite readable still, mostly because of the light effects in the game. So here are some concepts that add a 3D shape, with more contrast, so that the sphere would work in dark as well as bright areas.

After choosing colors from there, I worked on the shape. I really liked the idea of having a glowing core inside.

Next time I’ll show how it looked in the game.

Black or white?

In a previous post we wrote about creating challenges, or a place to pile our feature creep!

This skill testing place now gets a makeover. At the time – some 5 months ago – we used the available assets to create prototypes. Currently, we are deciding on the final style.

We like this challenge area to look clean, simple, and fun. With this in mind we converged to a clownfish palette containing black, white and orange. With orange only being used for accents, so you’re not actually playing in ‘Clownfish Land’.

The important question is: what will be the dominant color? Black or white? Does it matter? A wise man once sang: ♪ It don’t matter if you’re black or white. Whoo! ♪

The screenshots below are our current mockups for the challenge areas. In a future post we will reveal the final style.

Black

Mockup for a challenge level using black as the dominant ‘color’.

White

Mockup for a challenge level using white as the dominant color.

Brushing up the Commercial Chapter

Here are some newly finished objects for our so-named commercial chapter. A train, and some more houses.
There are still a handful items left for this one, but it nears completion. After that I will concentrate on the challenge levels, that will get a completely different set. We’re getting good progress on several fronts, and it’s soon time to add more ooomph the effects and backgrounds. There is still much room to improve. Exciting!

Alien Evolution

As the gameplay of Caromble! is zeroing in on the final outcome, it’s time to do the same for the look of important assets of the game. This is a view of how the Alien design evolved.

The style matures over the course of a development, so it’s always a good bet to do these items at the last, to have them at their best. Background story and gameplay are still somewhat in flux, but little enough to give this a shot.

Above are three old iterations – with the first being from the very earliest posting about the alien concept. It became already more creature-like in the step some months later. And in the next version, when the game-story was defined, it became even more of a vicious actor.

We decided based on the latest story iteration, that the alien would hold items. So this is a very recent redesign – making it more into a shell.

The team chose the variation they liked. And since we’ve noticed when we showed the game that players sometimes didn’t know what to make of this thing (is it good or bad), the request was to add even more personality. So now the features look more like eyes, and I’ve added something like a mouth.
So here is the final version, that will make it’s step into 3D soon.

Evolution of Caromble!

Last week, we stumbled upon some old gameplay videos of Caromble!. It is fun to see how the game has progressed over time. Some feature changes I couldn’t even remember. For example, I forgot we ever had red bumpers. This made me curious and I looked for even older footage. The oldest video I found was from INDIGO 2011, where Caromble! was playable for the very first time. To show the evolution of Caromble!, I created a small video to show the different versions side by side, with the same levels being played:

The most striking difference are probably the graphics. The paddle is different, some better lighting is added and of course, newer textures. Also, we’ve improved some of the feedback to the player: the paddle reacts to its own movement and ball collisions, we’ve added camera shake and there is an effect when a ball hits a wall. Gameplay wise, you can see that the camera is positioned higher in the newer version, which gives a better view of the action.

I must admit that I kind of liked the very fluorescent yellow boxes in the older version. Because of the higher contrast with the floor, they really stand out as something you need to destroy. However, with a more ‘realistic’ style in mind, we felt that those kind of boxes wouldn’t fit in anymore. Mmmhh… perhaps we could still squeeze them in somewhere:)

We are working steadily towards the next step in the evolution of Caromble! and expect to bring Caromble! ‘Sapiens’ into your living room in the beginning of 2014. Stay tuned!

Inking Out the Texture Style

Pens used for hand drawn texturing

These are the two pens I use for drawing the textures.


I want to write a bit about the texture-making process for Caromble, which is quite different than I learned to make textures for bigger games. Early on I decided to try a more analogue texture look, while not going too experimental.

All textures are done first on paper with a simple ink pen (the Pilot G-Tec-C4 0.4mm). Before that step I put the A4 paper on the monitor and trace the texture layout on with a light blue pen (Pilot Color eno 0.7 “soft blue”). A bit of a low tech approach, but it works quite well. On the side picture you can see the blue traces.

Over the years of working on the game, the style and process changed a bit. Earlier Assets used to be much more detailed. Here are some of the later assets (with the signs you can see in a recent post). There you can see the lineart, that I scan and then color on the computer. Without effects it looks quite bland, so there are always specular maps (that change the shininess of an object) and normal maps (which add surface details). Sometimes some other render effects like illumination maps, that for example make windows and car-lights glow.

Texture layers of stylized sign

The textures of the bus. With the linart first, the colored texture, specular – and then the effect map that shows which parts should glow.

Texture layers of stylized sign

The textures for a commercial sign. With the linart, the final diffuse, specular – and a normal map.

Texture layers of stylized sign

Another commercial sign. Showing linart, diffuse, specular and normal map.

I think going for that low tech pen workflow was a good choice, since it saved time compared to tougher lead-penciling styles – even if that might have been easier to show off with. This way I can gather more experience before trying crazier art styles. For example I learned over time that I can work really small – a 512 texture only taking up 3cm. By now I could nearly fit the whole game on two A4 papers.
On the scan below you can see some earlier textures. While more detail looks nicer on paper, in the game (surrounded by lots of items) these just disappeared. The simpler and much quicker way looks better in the end. Win-Win!

A4 ink texture sheet

This is the A4 sheet I use for inking – it has half the textures of the game.

Here I’ve made a render with just the line-art. It looks also interesting – definitely something I will experiment around with more. The next one shows how it looks with all textures applied – the colors help the gampelay a lot, making it easier to distinguish items and their function.

Noshadow Lineart-game render

This is how the game looks with just the line-art (and a small black outline around the objects).

Lineart-game render

Here it’s the same textures, but with shadows, shading and some effects like blur.

Flat color render

This is a plain render – with no shadows or effects, showing the added color layer.

Effects render

And this is after turning on some of the effects you see in the game, like the normal maps, glowing lights, blur in the depth, and of course shadowing. The game actually has some more.

Levels in the new theme

A few weeks ago, our artist Thomas S already showed some of the newly created assets for the new theme: Metropolitan/Commercial style. We have been working hard to create some levels with these and I got official permission to give a sneak peek:

A train that rides more reliably than ours in Utrecht Doesn't the Alien boss look scary!?

We hope you like it! It’s not only the graphics style that is different in this theme. There will be some new gameplay features that could lift you right up:)

Also nice: this week the gaming news website Gamingbolt published a piece we wrote in their section ”Developer journal’. You can read it here. We hope to have some more journals there soon.

Oh, and if you accidentally find yourself  in Amsterdam tomorrow evening, you should go to Pakhuis de Zwijger. There will be another Control Gamelab. This time it is on making Game Trailers. We hope to learn enough to make our upcoming trailer super awesome! Expect it on youtube soon, of course with moving footage of our new graphics theme.