Project Good Robot 28: Art Creep

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 4, 2013

Filed under: Good Robot 88 comments

I’d guess that most people have heard the phrase “feature creep”, and I’m willing to bet everyone has been a victim of the mindset behind it, even if they’re not a programmer. You get amazing results experimenting with idea X, so you decide to turn idea X into feature X. But production code is more expensive than prototype code, so what was originally a one-hour experiment becomes a four-day job to add a feature that wasn’t originally planned or budgeted and which eventually has side-effects that impact the features you did plan.

In this case, I’m suffering from an art-based version of cascading feature creep. It began innocently enough:

For most of this project, my game environments have been pretty organic. There was rock, dirt, and plants. I made these lumpy tilesets that hid the underlying grid and made the gameworld feel a lot more random than it really was. But now I’ve added the factory level:


That was a quick experimental tileset that instantly became the most interesting part of the game. Several of my testers said it was their favorite part. So maybe I should expand on this idea and add another “man-made” tileset? I figure a factory needs workers, so I’ll make a tileset that looks like buildings. I’ll add some windows to the tiles and maybe it will look kind of like an underground city? As a test, I’ll just take one of my existing levels:

A cave.

…and drop in my “city” tileset:

A cave disguised as buildings. Or perhaps buildings in the shape of a cave. I dunno.

Wow. That doesn’t look “kind of” like an underground city. That just looks like a city. It also looks kind of… gothic? I guess? Whatever. That’s cool. Even using this cave-style layout, it manages to look a lot like a city. Let’s write some logic to generate proper building shapes:


That looks even more like a city. In fact, it looks so much like a city that it feels strange to have it underground. And now that I’m thinking about it, this is a lot more interesting than the tileset I’m using for the start of the game, which is just generic green hills and fields. The start of the game looks like this:


It feels like you’re starting in the middle of nowhere, with no sense of time or place. I could put this new city at the start of the game to make the first level more engaging and to give the player needed context: You’re on someplace that feels like modern-ish Earth, but with robots. Let’s try putting the city at the top of the game:


That’s a huge improvement. Except…

Now that I’m looking at the city here in the open with the stars in the background, it feels like something is missing. The buildings feel a little dull. Or dark? Hm. It feels like the city should be brighter, somehow. You know, I’ve got these glow effects in the factory. They wouldn’t really work here, since they’re based on this special tileset designed to have light fixtures attached. But I could change that. I could make it so any level could have an optional backlight effect. Let me just add that and re-work the atlas texture…


That’s more like it! Except…

Now that I’m flying around, all the buildings are starting to feel a bit barren and empty. Shouldn’t cities have signage? Or towers? Or something like that?

Maybe I could add a new section to the tileset that would define little doodads that could be stuck on flat surfaces?


Yeah. Stuff like that. I’ll just add billboards and radio towers and crap that can be randomly stuck on top of these buildings.

Of course, now that I see how much better this looks I’m kind of thinking I should do it for all the other tilesets. Maybe that green grass tileset wouldn’t look so boring if I put some decorations on it…


And the jungle tileset? I should add some stuff to that…


You know, this is pretty amazing. But this approach is kind of limited. I mean, I’m looking for spots where we’ve got three tiles of flat floor next to each other and placing doodads on the level surface, and spots like this are a bit rare. What if I also made it able to attach different tiles to the walls? Or the ceiling? I could have pipes sticking out of the walls, Mario-style. I could have vertical signs on the sides of buildings. I could even add space to the backlight area of the texture so the doodads could give off “light”. Maybe lit-up arrow signs could guide the player.

Let’s see. I’ll need to expand and re-map the texture atlas to make room for the tiles. I’ll need to add the logic to place the doodads. Then I need to make to 4 varieties of doodads, times the four directions (left wall, right wall, ceiling, floor) times my eight tilesets. I’ll need to add some system to control the density of doodads so that they don’t crowd the game space.

Hang on. What was I doing again? Didn’t I start out trying to add a new section to the END of the game, to make it longer? And instead of doing that, I replaced an existing section of the game and created a bunch of code and new art obligations. This was supposed to take an hour or so and I’ve blown three days on it, and the game has exactly the same amount of content and gameplay as before. Actually, I arguably have less, since these changes likely have introduced bugs to systems that were previously fine. I messed with the wall-building logic, which means a need to do some thorough testing to make sure nothing broke.

(Testing randomly generated space is more time-consuming than pre-fab space. In fact, you can’t ever guarantee it’s 100% correct. You just test it repeatedly and your confidence in the code goes up each time you don’t find something wrong.)

Yes, the game looks better. Of course, it’s ALWAYS possible to make a game look better if you’re willing to throw tons of time at it. If I were to make these changes it would basically double the cost of making tilesets.

Worse, I think I’m basically redlining it in terms of my artistic ability. I’m not an artist, and up until now I’ve been using tricks and hacks to cover up my artistic shortcomings. It’s easier to draw a silhouette of a thing than it is to draw the thing. With these doodads I’m moving away from that idea, and if I keep going I’ll end up with an art pipeline that I can’t use. I won’t be skilled enough to make art for my own game.

It would be stupid to throw away all this work and revert to how the game looked before I started. On the other hand, I’m only partway through an overhaul and this is a lot of work that doesn’t advance my goals. Right now I sort of regret this entire enterprise, but it’s too late to go back.

Suddenly I see how AAA games blow through their budgets and get mired in production difficulties. It’s hard to leave things ugly when you know you could improve them, but if you don’t put limits on the project you’ll never finish.

Once I get through this I need to put a lock on the art and make a deliberate decision to live with what I have, warts and all.


From The Archives:

88 thoughts on “Project Good Robot 28: Art Creep

  1. Nick Powell says:

    On the other hand, it looks very pretty…

    1. Usually Insane says:

      “No, my robot is good, it’s the other robots I’m a bit worried about”

      The doodads do a lot to the look, I’m really looking forward to seeing more doodads in the other levels, like maybe mining machines in the caves and storage shelves on the factory level, you could even have dormant robots hiding on the shelves in the background and come to life and approach you when you get close, maybe add a foundry level where you have these huge crucibles that tip over and deposit glowing hot robots that a…ooh, I see what you mean with art creep.

      It looks fantastic. Let me know when it’s being Kickstarted or on Steam greenlight. This just has to come out someday.

      1. ET says:

        Stop encouraging his art creep;
        He’s trying to lock down his art budget! :P

        1. bucaneer says:

          About encouraging art creep: the game should have an animation of the Good Robot putting on a pair of sunglasses, for use in situations like the header screenshot.

          1. ET says:

            That explosion actually looks pretty badass.
            I hope Sham-Wow is putting in fluid dynamics, so that these explosions can be animated properly.
            They should flow along the surface of the world, with drag, slowdown, etc.
            Can’t just have an expanding orange circle; It’s not realistic enough! :)

            1. MrGuy says:

              You know what would be really cool? Destructable buildings! They could even fall down in realistic ways when you destroyed certain key supports…

              1. Csirke says:

                Hah! This made me laugh!

                I wonder how many people remember the beginning of this series :)

  2. mac says:

    I thought the initial underground city looked better. Above ground, it’s just another city. Underground, and with buildings hanging down, it looks ominous and evokes a million golden age scifi stories.

    Oh, I believe I’m expected to say frist, or something?

    1. mac says:

      Apparently I was not, in fact, frist. And editing the comment doesn’t seem to work.

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        You seem to be sekund & thurd, respectively.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Does that make you frouth?

          1. anaphysik says:


    2. rofltehcat says:

      What speaks against having both a surface city and an underground city? There could be one at the top and one near the factory.
      The game could also start out in grass lands, then city, then whatever comes after that.

      So there is certainly room to use your new art assets. I especially like the idea of signs/billboards. They can be used to bring some humor into the game (see Guacamelee).

      Oh btw, can I suggest a crystal section of the game? With all those amazing glowy thingies? :D
      Oh, and a subway section under the city where you have to evade “subway train” bots that drive along the bottom as well as hang from ceiling-mounted rails!

    3. Yeah, I agree. The underground city looks like this weird underground city-ish-scape that of course has weird hostile robots lurking in it. The non-underground city looks like . . . a city. That’s nice. Cool glow-effects make it a bit more spooky, but still.

      Shamus just likes building procedural cities.

  3. Zeta Kai says:

    …And here’s the most appropriate time to drop some Good Robot fan-art (zoom for hi-res); enjoy!

    1. That’s gorgeous! Shamus, get this guy to help with the art.

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        Why, thank you most kindly. I couldn’t get higher praise from a sock puppet. ;)

  4. Lalaland says:

    And people wonder why some games start out with awesome level design and neat details and then kind of turn meh and copy/paste for the last 1/3 :D Feature-creep is a hard beast to slay as each additional feature/art asset/animation seems like such an easy win, ‘it’s only another hours work and it would look sooo much better’. I envy you not Shamus.

    On a sidenote this is one of those areas that really grinds my teeth when I see comments on indie game articles going ‘they only went 8 bit/16 bit/silhouette because it’s easy’. Art is not easy, regardless of format it’s good design that is hard. Not to mention the 8/16 bit aesthetic these days usually involves 32-bit colour values so you’re not even saving any effort (beyond the ‘so I’m out of green who gets to be neon purple’ conundrum).

    1. Klay F. says:

      One need only take a look at the developer of Retro City Rampage trying to port his game over to play on an actual NES to see how difficult 8-bit art is. Its absolutely ridiculous the restrictions they had back then.

  5. WILL says:

    I’m sorry but the windows and the doodads in the city look completely out of place with robots and lasers. It’s like a city in the 1950’s with robots flying around. That and the windows being tinted yellow and dim make them look more… realistic? In any case, dirtier than the rest of the game which is clean cut neon robots. It’d be a shame since the only thing this game has going for it visually is the art style, unfortunately.

    1. ET says:

      I too dislike the city-type screenshots.
      Personally, I thought that the underground-city level would look a lot better if the buildings were only on the ceiling.
      That way it looks more alien, and you’d trick your brain into not needing it to be such high fidelity.
      Like this, maybe?

      1. Daniel says:

        I really like that approach””like you said, it tricks my mind into not looking for as much realism.

        I think the signs have exactly the opposite effect on me””they make me expect a lot more detail than I was, and significantly decrease the (perceived) quality of the art. Plus, having them in english is distracting; the overall look has been pretty “alien,” so the english breaks my immersion and reminds me that it’s a game. (You haven’t discussed the plot/story yet, so it’s possible that it will be less alien anyway but I’ve been thinking of it that way for now.)

        I realize I’m just one fan and you should use your own judgment””I just thought I’d throw my two cents in. I’m really enjoying this series!

      2. Syal says:

        I’m not sure about only on the ceiling, but I do think it would benefit from having a lot fewer windows.

        Which segues nicely into my main point, that people more than likely like the factory level because it stands out. If you make everything look like that, you lose it. It’s fine to have some extra details, but limit them to boss levels or something, as sort of an “end of the line” punctuation to a section.

        (Also the backgrounds are like, recursive shadows or something? I didn’t notice that before, it’s pretty cool.)

        1. ET says:

          I was thinking that the buildings needed fewer windows, too, but I couldn’t figure out why.
          Now I know!

          It’s because, before Sham-Wow added the windows, all the detail in the scenery was on the edges of the walls/map tiles.
          It’s a 2D game, so having the detail on the edges, or very near it, reinforces the fact that this is a 2D game, and you’re only seeing a ‘slice’ of the terrain, so-to-speak.
          Your brain fills in the gaps itself.
          Plus, it’s a lot less cluttered, which helps gameplay and/or keeping the player’s eyes/brain from getting overwhelmed.

          I think this is why I’ve always disliked a lot of newer platformers, and thoroughly enjoyed the older ones.
          Even though we’ve had decades of graphical improvement, those extra pixels/polys go to waste if they don’t help the cleanliness of the interface, or add to immersion.
          Worse is when they actively subtract from the aesthetic, such as Shamus’ windows in this post:
          They’re drawn completely 2D, but are drawn on the inner part of the game tiles/map.
          In this location on the screen, they’d either need to be drawn in 3D (too much work, and also the likelihood of cluttering the interface), or exist solely on/very near the edges of the tiles in the map.

          1. Nick-B says:

            Pretty good point there, actually. The point of large blots of blackness in the walls isn’t because it’s all made up of black rock, it’s because it’s “inside” rock and thus light isn’t penetrating it to show anything. Similarly here, Shamus could either go full-on and draw interiors of buildings (bad) or just blank it out / draw uninteresting outsides, like solid blank/textured-brick walls (but make it all dark and not attention-grabbing). Put side-view cross-cuts of windows on the outer edges only.

            You want the player to pay attention to the main part of the play area, not distract away from it with bright yellow windows on building side walls (the side we – the player – can see), and these windows as-is are too attention-grabbing.

            On a side note, Shamus, have you considered building “secret” rooms, now, with these doo-dads? Make a small opening in the floor barely big enough for your robot, conceal the opening with shrubbery on both sides so it just looks like a V-shaped bush, and make it block line of sight. Also, slap a black square over the secret room (which holds a power-up) until the player enters it once, then fade it out permanently and reward the player with “SECRET FOUND!”

      3. Cuthalion says:

        I’ll add to the voices taht actually liked the city best before he made it just buildings going ground-up. Of course, that works to enhance the intro, above-ground section, but the buildings coming from everywhere below ground were pretty cool.

        I also agree with those saying that the windows ought to be a bit less bright, less numerous, or both. If you decide to keep the buildings.

    2. WILL says:

      Although if I can make a suggestion after whining about the art style, sci-fi factory settings/caves with moving pieces would make interesting levels and add some gameplay. It’s like your pixel city project – the more you move away from simple outlines and lights the weirder it looks. The sharp black and green enemies really feel strange on lit grass.

    3. LCF says:

      If my opinion is worth anything, I’d advise in favour of subterrean city, but against the yellow lights. An open-sky city with lights off and stars in the distance would be a nice, poetic outcome to a robot uprising, though.
      There also are two different approaches concerning the graphic details:
      -Roll’em back, keep the original ambiance;
      -Hide a couple funny one here or there, to be found/paid attention at.

  6. newdarkcloud says:

    The city reminds me a lot of Bioshock’s Rapture, except not destroyed.

    1. Which brings another question–if the enemy are bad robots, why isn’t the city destroyed?

      1. MrGuy says:

        Even bad robots need a place to unplug at the end of a hard day.

        1. SharpeRifle says:

          “Even bad robots need a place to plug in at the end of a hard day.”

          Fixed that for ya…

          1. MrGuy says:

            Nah, I’m sure they’re all fusion powered or something.

            But after a hard day jacked into the net, bypassing the protocols, hacking the core, rerouting the firewalls, and decrypting the stream, a robot just needs somewhere to relax.

            Oh, and shooting any Good Robots that happen by. Sometimes there’s that.

            1. Lachlan the Mad says:

              I really love how much story we’re interpreting merely from the names of the robots. I hope that the plot of the game runs exactly like this; no twist, no motivation, just Good Robot vs Bad Robots.

  7. Ilseroth says:

    While self depreciation is far better then arrogance I can’t help but tell you that while you may not label yourself an artist, based on the changes and additions you do have the capability to create art.

    I like the changes and while the underground city does look kinda cool, I feel like the above ground one feels more authentic to the game world, granted you haven’t given us much story but it feels more fitting.

    I find your mindset interesting, as you seem to be both going for the “My fun project at home” and the “serious time, going to sell a game” mindsets at the same time. Looking at this from the “selling” mindset, honestly, the art will do nothing but help.

    When I first saw the game in it’s semi formed state pretty quickly into your articles on it, it looked like a cute game that I might download for free off your site. As you worked on it, added more enemies, so on so on, and I was like “Well I could see this being on steam greenlight or him selling it off his site.”

    This update, granted I haven’t seen much of it only these screenshots, but this makes it look like something I would see on sale on the steam front page for 15-20 bucks. I’d say since it is a relatively short game, 15.

    Any case, I think these changes are good and I hope that while you definitely need to put a lid on it somewhere, you should still keep an eye out for new doodads you can add to make the game feel fresh.

    While it is waaaaaay too early to actually consider it, I was wondering, has your time with this made you more or less likely to make another game after it.

    1. ET says:

      I myself am kind of the opposite.
      Early on, when the focus was on gameplay, I was at maximum for wanting to buy this game.
      (Don’t get me wrong; I’ll still spend money on this when it comes out.
      Even if it never is released on Steam or anything, I’ll donate Shamus like $20 on his paypal when I download it.)
      But now, it seems like Shamus is spending all his creative time on graphical glitz.
      I like shiny graphics as much as the next guy, but that’s the trap which AAA people fall into – chasing down dollars with art budgets, instead of focusing on interesting, immersive gameplay and/or worlds.

      Again, I’ll be giving monetary support one way or another for this game.
      I’m sure I sound overly negative in the sentences above.
      Just chalk that up to my engineering-level communications quality, and shift the negativity/positivity slider about fifty points to the right.
      No, I’m not saying what the maximum on my scale is. :P

      1. SteveDJ says:

        Maybe he is just teasing us… for some future DLC? :-)

      2. Peter H. Coffin says:

        Once the gameplay is pretty solid, it’s usually best NOT to mess with it too much. It’s one area where more work (as opposed to more testing) is usually NOT an improvement. That’s how you end up with cumbersome, overly complicated mechanics.

        1. ET says:

          Good point.
          I didn’t mean to imply that Shamus should spend his time on messing with the gameplay.
          Actually, I think he should just lock down everything as much as possible.
          Just do bug fixes and so on; Leave the art simple(r) and leave the gameplay where it’s still fun. :)

  8. Asimech says:

    You could “rescue” some of the effort into a new segment at the end by having a city in the beginning and the end. Since the manufacturing place looks futuristic, maybe change the textures a bit to make the latter city similar? I don’t know how though. Maybe wide oval windows instead of high square ones? I’d suggest a slightly different generated shapes, but that sounds like more testing effort than it would be worth.

    I don’t know, or remember, how the above ground segment is right now, but if it suits it you could also start with an above ground city, move to above ground grasslands and then go underground.

    And I think I just fell into the pit of project creep by expanding the gameplay on above ground. Great.

    1. Skye says:

      This sounds like an idea though- he has the underground city generation code. The aboveground city is where people lived, then robots attacked, and they went underground. I agree with whoever said it above- the underground city is a cooler idea than a regular aboveground city.

      1. Syal says:

        If there are two cities, I like Daniel’s idea of having the buildings in the underground city only on the ceiling. Like, you start in the everyday world and end up in its opposite.

  9. Maeve says:

    It might be cool if your settings slowly lost complexity. That upper portion of the world is this big, heavily art-populated zone that you’ve created, but as you dig deeper and deeper down through it, everything gets simpler and simpler, those details vanishing with the ever-increasing robot tide. Or whatever.

    Though… that’s probably just more complications and a terrible idea.

    1. It’s a great idea in a way, but unless you were really really good at the starkly simple stuff it would mean the game lost atmosphere as you went along, which is kind of not what you want.

  10. Steve C says:

    > I'm not an artist,

    You keep saying that. Either accept the label or start getting called a polymath renaissance man in addition to being called an artist. You have been warned.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Indeed.Shamoose,you have written books,comic books,and are making a game.You definitely are an artist.You may not be a painter,but you are an artist.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        I agree. I’ve always been impressed by the work he’s done in all those areas.

      2. krellen says:

        Shamus is using the word artist in the meaning of “one who draws art”, not as “one who creates artistic work”. We have words for the skills that Shamus has – author and programmer – and sadly lack a good word for “one who draws art”, and thus “artist” has been co-opted to mean that.

        Art is created by a great number of disciplines, not all of whom are called “artists”; in English, that word means creating a very specific kind of art.

        ETA: Actually, “artist” generally refers to those that create “visual art”, excluding other types of “art”, such as music, literature, etc.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “We have words for the skills that Shamus has ““ author and programmer ““ and sadly lack a good word for “one who draws art””

          No we dont.Cartoonist and painter are two that spring to mind instantly.*

          *And before you go on saying how those two terms are ambiguous,both author and programmer are just as ambiguous.Author can write science books,therefore not art,or reference books,again not art,news articles,not art…Programmer can code data bases,which are not art,new word processors,not art,etc,etc….**

          **And before anyone else jumps in to say that all of those can be art:Yes,they can,but that is not their primary purpose,and not what they are usually made for.

          1. Syal says:

            Cartoonists exclusively draw cartoons, painters exclusively draw with paints. How do you refer to people who draw with any medium?

            1. anaphysik says:

              Drawer. Actually ‘draftsman’ is the term, but that term is also commonly used to refer to those who do purely technical drawing :/

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              “Cartoonists exclusively draw cartoons, painters exclusively draw with paints.”

              Digital paintings exist as well.

              But Ive remembered a third term that fits even better:Animator.

            3. Bropocalypse says:

              Illustrator is a word you could use.

        2. Zukhramm says:

          But this whole post is about the visual art of the game! And we have other projects like pixel city.

          Also, if you want some confusion: While the Swedish for for artist works just like the English word in that in can refer both to creating art in general and visual specifically the Swedish word “artist” generally only refers to someone who makes music.

    2. Decius says:

      I’m not going to police anyone’s identity here, but Shamus’ artwork is similar or superior in quality to other indie developers’. I don’t care if he thinks he is an artist or not- the artwork is adequate.

      I’d still change the signs to use some kind of illegible or alien-ish text.

  11. Exetera says:

    The new city generator makes very nice-looking areas, but I’m wondering how interesting they are to play in. The neat thing about caves, in my opinion, is that you’ve got relatively few restrictions on what you can do with your 2D space, leading to lots of neat structures for the character to zoom around in. With your aboveground city, it seems as though you’ve only got a 1D height map to work with, so the player will only want to get above the buildings and then just proceed forwards, maybe bobbing down now and then to grab powerups or attack bad robots. This doesn’t sound really interesting, but then again I haven’t actually played it…

    1. ET says:

      I also noticed that;
      Caves look like they support any playstyle/design, but the cities are limited in what gameplay they can support.
      I know Shamus is playtesting all of this, but I’m worried that this game will get gameplay sacrificed for the benefit of art assets.

  12. Spammy V says:

    Don’t worry Shamus, just release mod tools and modders will eventually make a city level. And a space level. And an underwater level with water physics. And a total conversion mod to X-Wing. and one based off of frighteningly anatomically accurate Elder Scrolls mods.

  13. Corpital says:

    Ah yes, good old art creep. This probably cost me nearly as much sleep as Minecraft.

    While I quite like the style of the city, I don’t know how I should feel about the background. The first screen with “proper” buildings looks a bit repetitive with the buildings on the left being repeated in the two background layers.
    Now, I don’t know how common this is and I have no problems with repeating shapes in the caves, but something about them in the city bothers me, even though I can’t really put my finger on it, sorry.

  14. atomf says:

    I’m getting a definite Knytt Stories feel from your later screenshots there, especially your billboards and streetlights.

  15. Adalore says:

    Speaking of “pre-fab” stuff taking less resources and the city probably being the most complex at the start, how about you just make level 1 always the same?

    then you can create a purposeful story using the area before going under ground.

  16. Nick says:

    Especially loving the billboard there. If the other levels are related to the city or had the odd bit of collapsed older building in it might be an opportunity to do some visual storytelling through older and older signs that track the descent into completely corrupted robot-force, but maybe I should stop adding to your art-creep :P

    1. epopisces says:

      While I like the humor of the billboard, it’s actually a pretty stark break from the style of everything else in the game, and looks out of place as a result. Maybe a neon billboard? Not the flashy annoying neon, more that color palette. Make it stand out, but remain cohesive with the world.

  17. EamonnLTreacy says:

    Those windows as they are now don’t really work aesthetically. They’re too bright, too straight and two-dimensional. What’s worse is that they draw the eye away from the robots. It looks like some kind alpha texture. Too my knowledge Mark of the Ninja did this silhouette style well.

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Aww… I really liked screen-shot #3. Maybe fix the background so that the windows show up there as well… You could even do several other styles, like windows with bars on them for the prison cave level, or ones with little domes for the underground hydroponics level.

    But since you’ve surrendered to the art creep… enjoy I guess! It certainly tends to ambush you, for sure.

    1. Atarlost says:

      I think I would put the windows only on the background buildings.

  19. Sir Anon says:

    But is there an underwater level where everything is wavey blue tint and all the robots and missiles leave bubble trails, and move slower/are harder to maneuver, and lazers atenuate more quickly. And then when things explode there is a concussion ripple, and some debri goes up as well as down. And then random gas pockets erupt from the floor causing robots to vear off course. And then theres seaweed, and clam shells and random schools of fish that add to the background. Don’t forget to have dynamic fish schooling logic that differs from type of fish, and a predetor or two that swims along chasing the fish and disrupting their schools so that they slowly group back up after the threat is gone, and then…

  20. Unbeliever says:

    For what it’s worth, I think starting in a human city with a mission of “go find Bad Robot City and stop them from coming to get us”, is kinda awesome.

    And I *DON’T* think you need to add detail/complexity to the middle levels. Let the doodads be a special thing for the start and end of the game…

  21. Octal says:

    I think it looks better right before you add the backlight effect to the aboveground city. gr28_city4.jpg looks like a vague, but cool-looking, city, whereas to me gr28_city5.jpg looks more like cutouts with holes cut in them and lights behind them (it looks like the backlighting is shining through the buildings from behind, which–combined with the light emphasizing the edges of the front buildings more–I think makes them look flatter than they otherwise would… even though they’re the same straight-on silhouettes, in gr28_city4.jpg they still feel like they have volume, whereas in gr28_city5.jpg the illusion is broken).

  22. Paul Spooner says:

    “It would be stupid to throw away all this work and revert to how the game looked before I started. On the other hand, I'm only partway through an overhaul and this is a lot of work that doesn't advance my goals. Right now I sort of regret this entire enterprise, but it's too late to go back.”
    Sunk costs fallacy much? I know it’s a strong urge, but sometimes you’ve got to throw out “progress” to get back on track. I’ve thrown away entire chapters when writing, junked hours of 3d modeling, and re-written code from the ground up before. If you can identify the mistake, it’s nearly always better to just roll back to before it happened. It feels like wasting time, but the real waste would be all the extra hours you’d have to spend getting the flawed “progress” to work out.

    But, it’s your baby, and your time. Just as long as you know you’re not actually trapped.

    1. Decius says:

      Fork the project three days ago, and keep the art fork as something that is being worked on. (That way it can be revisited when stuck on something else)

      When the art fork is finished, merge it back into main.

    2. WillRiker says:

      You beat me to point out the sunk cost fallacy here. Never be afraid to throw away work if it’s not actually helping you! Otherwise you’re just throwing good money after bad.

  23. Fabrimuch says:

    Hi! Long time lurker. Though I’ve never posted before, I’ve read most of your articles and I think the website is just plain awesome.

    Anyway, I don’t really plan on adding fuel to the art creep fire, but he I had this cool idea that, if you want to add doodads like that billboard to all the levels, you could use them to tell the background story of the game, kind of like how Left 4 Dead did using graffities and other background stuff.

    That way the doodads have another purpose besides simple decoration, you don’t have to spend time actively telling the backstory of the game, and it serves as a good reward to those willing to put the extra effort to go hunting for clues (I find that stories where you have to piece out what happened are often more interesting than those that tell you things outright).

  24. Nawyria says:

    Not to add more to your art creep problem than other commenters already have, but doesn’t it strike anyone as a bit odd how, in the first screenshot, part of the explosion is hidden from view due to line-of-sight, but the ambient lighting is not? It seems to me like it should given the game logic of light area = visible, dark area = not visible. But then again I haven’t played it so…

  25. anaphysik says:

    If you feel that an art addition generates atmosphere, keep it.
    If you feel that it just makes the screen prettier, drop it.

    Likewise ponder that whenever you come up with a potential addition.

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    “This was supposed to take an hour or so and I've blown three days on it, and the game has exactly the same amount of content and gameplay as before.”

    It’s called “polish”, Shamus. You’re not doing it wrong, you’re just doing it a little early.

  27. Kdansky says:

    I want to point out a huge mistake you made: You assume that more content is preferable to higher quality content. Which is obviously incorrect! I’d rather have a ridiculously pretty city for one level than seventy levels of boring boxes.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      It might be incorrect, but it’s certainly not obvious.

  28. Topazwolf says:

    You know Shamus, crowd sourcing music from your fans worked out pretty good. Maybe try doing the same with specifically desired art assets?

  29. I really like the look of the last few images.

    Hmm. But depending on the story of all this.
    A city of ruins, maybe some fires there, maybe the odd light on a few places (survivors? just power that still remains on ?) would help give a “you are all alone” feeling much better.

    Now if the city is actually sending the god robot down to handle something then a active city makes sense.

    It’s all about the narrative. (narrative art I guess).

  30. Kilt'd says:

    You might want to use a different word to ‘crazy’ for the robot billboards. I get that it’s in context, but the stigma behind that term runs deep and it could offend some people.

    Past that, the more artificial environments look interesting, especially the underground city and the factory level.

    1. Chargone says:

      … if That offends someone, you’re not going to win no matter what you do. They’re simply not worth the effort to accommodate.

      1. That words can offend at all is ludicrous to my eyes!

  31. Ben Macphail says:

    I just found this blog, and let me say, I absolutely can’t stop reading it. I’ve never been a coder, so this wording for non-coders really helps me understand what’s going on. But, if you never sell it on steam or whatever, will you at least release the source?

    1. Ben Macphail says:

      Also, I could test the program on my mac, see if it’ll compile/see if there are any major issues.

  32. Neil Roy says:

    This is all underground, so any cities that are underground are usually old ruins. I think adding in ruins would be kewl, no lighting needed. The signs could be broken, silhouettes of signs in the jumble of ruins. It would look nice, without changing things too drastically.

    You could save the ideas for more details as pictured for “Good Robot II: The Revenge”, and work on your art skills between games. 3D rendering packages are a great solution for those of us with limited art abilities.

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