Going 3D (With a Twist)

One thing leads to another.

In the previous post I wrote how I’ve switched from SpriteKit to Unity, and today I’m so very glad I did. Now, my gut instinct is telling me to drop the textual locations navigation and go to a full 3D first-person exploration experience.

How on earth did I come to this?

Those who know me well, know that I am not that interested in making computer games. At least not in the plural; what I always wanted to create is a game, one heavily inspired by the legendary 1993’s RPG, Betrayal at Krondor (BaK).

When the idea to begin working on Call of Saregnar finally popped in my head, I imagined myself alone creating a game that would be much alike BaK, but of course modern, and at the same time – due to me working on the game all alone – cut down considerably. What that entailed was creating nice high resolution UI graphics, accompained by a text-based exploration interface (essentially replacing BaK’s 3D world exploration), and all spiced up by an engaging overhead 2D travel system with detailed camping. It sounded like a great BaK game in my head, except that… it didn’t. What CoS was lacking in my brain, was a true sense of exploration, one you could only get if you had the world in front of you, a world you could reach out, interact with and most of all, see.

I struggled with the idea of somehow taking CoS into the 3rd dimension for a very long time, but I was always hitting walls that indie developers know too well: you can’t do what the big AAA studios do; not alone, and especially not on low budget. What you need to do is find workarounds and make them look good.

That’s when it dawned on me. In the 2D realm, indies often opt for pixel art to compensate for lack of artistic skill or budget, or both. Not all, mind you, some simply love the pixely look, and create gorgeous pieces of art in that style. So, the question was, does anything comparable to pixel art exist in polygonal 3D? I was somehow surprised to find the answer at the very source: the crude BaK’s 3D world from 1993.

I am still working on the exact style I want to achieve in 3D, but I am thinking of the following:

  • I want to simulate a low-resolution screen (probably 320×240) all over the game.
  • I want to go with low poly 3D for the world and large other objects, like buildings
  • use billboards for detailed objects, like trees, bushes, etc.
  • I am not so sure about characters yet…

The goal is to have an old-school looking game, but one which does not look dated. A tough nut to crack for sure, but I’m sure the answer lies in the art direction, and that’s the side I am currently exploring.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

P.S. You may want to check out Neal Hallford‘s blog for his Betrayal at Krondor: Remastered project if you are interested in an ongoing implementation of Betrayal at Krondor in a modern 3D engine.

Be sure to follow ongoing and more detailed development of the game on Patreon.