PART THREE: From Vision to Wii
June 21, 2010 3 Comments
Welcome to “Making of Jett Rocket”, part three. In this part we will shed some light (and shadow) on the creation of the actual environments, where all the action is happening.
Our vision for the game was to make something colorful, beautiful and shiny. We wanted vast landscapes and open views. Although the game takes place on another planet we wanted the environment to also remind the player of interesting spots on planet earth. How could we wrap that all up? The solution was to use islands and plateaus as main playing locations. Those are of finite area and so you don’t get lost easily. Still they give the impression of a large location. We then created some first concept artworks to find the right mood, colors and forms for the stages.
The concepts are important to have a clear idea when later going into the 3D modeling stage. Modeling and texturing does take a lot of time and none of that should be wasted.
From 2d to 3d
As soon as we decided on the core elements in the 2d concepts we started designing the actual 3d elements in Maya (a 3D application). For all our Wii games we use a proprietary pixelshader plugin that emulates our Wii tech. So we have true WYSIWYG while designing each element. That saves valuable time. In our proprietary Game editor we place all of the geometry, bake ambient occlusion, setup lighting conditions and so on.
For the finishing touch we can export each location to a Wii devkit within a few seconds. All unchanged assets are cached on the Wii to minimize loading times. On the actual Wii devkit we finally adjust every nuance to look good. We also take care that the super crisp high resolution artwork still looks nice on a TV screen. Actually we need to use a couple of tricks on the Wii to have everything look crisp and detailed without having too much aliasing artifacts.
Lighting and illumination
We were pretty happy with our first location though it still looked a bit ‘last gen’. An important effect was missing: Proper lighting. For our type of game the lighting does not need to be physically accurate, but it has to make the setting more believable, add more depth and set the desired mood. To give the right impression of depth we added some atmospheric lighting. This depends a lot on the actual day time and weather. On top of that we add some dynamic global lighting. This emulates the bouncing of light rays in a scene. Actually it glues everything nicely together and enhances the overall look a lot.
No Light without Shadows
As important as proper lighting are shadows and ambient occlusion in a scene. They give you hints about the position of an object in the world. They also make everything more solid. We used a mix of dynamic and static techniques. The static shadows and ambient occlusion are very soft. The dynamic shadows are a bit harder but still have a soft penumbra to match the static ones.
For the player we take care that his shadow is always exactly below him. Although this does not match the actual light position it makes it much easier to see where you will land when you jump or fall down.
We love adding weather effects to our games. From thunder to rain to snow. It simply adds atmosphere and gives a great feedback. Actually almost every level in Jett Rocket has another weather condition. As the player warps from one location to another it also emphasizes the idea that you just have traveled hundreds of miles in just a second.
We hope you enjoyed all the bits and pieces from the development of Jett Rocket. And the best is that in just one week from now you can experience all that for yourself :)
Thanks for reading