28th November 2010
Keyhole challenge : depth
This is article 5 in my series on developing a tiny-screen game.
So far in this series I've described two layers, composed of three types of tile. The tiles the player interacts with are either empty or solid, with the former being dark and the latter brightly coloured. The cosmetic foreground will also generally be brightly coloured, but is generally fairly thin so hopefully it won't be mistaken for solid material.
A distant backdrop
I also wanted to add a slowly scrolling, distant background, to add a feeling of depth.
While I could add several parallax background layers, I think that is often unnecessary - and it certainly is for this game. The nice thing about a distant background is that it can really emphasise the difference between underground caverns and the outdoor landscape.
Backgrounds can be created in a variety of ways - it's not uncommon to use a tiled system for this, perhaps with a different size of tile to the foreground. Sometimes a free-placement component system can be a good choice. A large picture is also an option, depending on how far it need to scroll. However the background is generated, it's usually desirable for there to be at the very least some stylistic difference with the foreground, as otherwise the game can become a confusing mess.
Given the tiny scale of my game, this was a particular concern for me, particularly since I've
already used bright and dark in the foreground.
However, I've found what I think is a brilliant solution - use a greyscale image. I've chosen an image by the famous American nature photographer, Amsel Adams, which is in the public domain due to America's enlightened copyright policy for federal works.
This high-saturation foreground/greyscale background approach isn't for every game - I don't know of another game which does it (although I'd be suprised if it hasn't been done before). I think this gives my game an interesting look. Doubtless this choice will set some people against the game - but then, as a developer every little thing you differently will draw attacks from some players. Unless you're set on making derivative games without innovation you unfortunately just have to put up with this vitriol.
I think I've written enough about this now, so here are the promised screenshots. Please bear in mind that these locations will change at least cosmetically in the finished game.