Chosen is coming along slow and steady! Chosen is a rather traditional-feeling video game. It’s visual style, game play design, sound, and other features make it very evident. However, it is built as a modern one.
It doesn’t necessarily respect every rule that classic games had to stick to. That said, there’s a bunch of development techniques from yesteryear that we’re carrying over from our old days.
Such restrictions started pretty much as limitations, but slowly became a minimalist way of thinking and figuring out problems with very little resources, that give these games a very particular feeling.
8×8 Tileset Map Design
So we’ve been making some map tests. The whole game is supposed to be a gigantic map (*cough* like Super Metroid), and there are a couple of important things to address: the tileset and camera zones.
Tilesets are just tiny, TINY bits of game graphic goodness that have SURPRISING combinatory power. Usually they are some multiple of 8 (8×8 or 16×16) pixels, and can be flipped, rotated, palette changed, and daisy-chained like Legos to create complete worlds.
They are also responsible for the “game look” we all know and love:
So, hard as it may be for some to imagine, this tiny tileset makes up most of the map above.
A funny thing is that sometimes the same tiles become very different-looking depending on the other graphics surrounding them. The reason it’s super effective is that this is merely a 64×64 pixel bitmap. It’s also the reason why you didn’t see a lot of unique graphics in very old games.
A graphic that was meant to be used only once or twice wasted precious space that couldn’t be spared back then. Chosen, however, will try to have may variants per tile, and as many tiles as the game requires, some of them animated.
Not all tiles are created as tiles.
Sometimes they are drawn with more freedom, but they always have to fit inside the grid in the end. Square objects are of course the easiest to fit. Curves and certain details can be tricky, but are perfectly possible.
Now about the camera zones. Chosen won’t have just a “regular” camera that follows and centers the player. Because of the nature of this game, it will have a smart camera that will change depending on the situation.
For instance, in exteriors, the camera lock is free. It more or less tries to center on the player and show whatever is in front/top/bottom of them. This is great for “outdoors” platforming and exploration where the action could take you up, down, left, or right. You jump, camera follows you.
You run, camera de-centers so you can see ahead:
But the camera will also enter zones where the Y-axis will be blocked. That is, it will turn into a side-scroller like the original Super Mario Brothers. No scrolling up or down.
This is great for narrow corridors full of intense combat. It also won’t reveal hidden secrets unless the player suspects it and tries to force their way into out of reach places. In this case the camera will “understand” that the player has discovered a secret and reveal what’s beneath the wall or ceiling. These would be the “sidescrolling” zones.
Box Camera (Restricted Movement)
For other kind of area-contained puzzles, platforming, and even some bosses, the camera will be more or less free but it won’t go out of a confined box. In the case of a boss, this way you won’t lose sight the boss or have a general idea of where it is, unless intended!!
Having the camera behave like this is much more work, but will allow us to keep one cohesive gigantic map, and still be able to segment the game in specific “areas”.
We’re also working on other effects, like very effective optical illusions that resemble transparencies, all with the same four-color restriction.
They are very manual and a pain to animate, but the results are looking very nice!
Then of course, are the cinematics. Those aren’t going anywhere, and the animation is coming nicely.
Next we might have some interesting news about sound and music. You might be in for a totally unexpected surprise!
Development & Programming
In reality, gaming development, like most programming projects, takes a long time before results are clearly visible. It’s like the foundation of a skyscraper: it will take a lot of time before people can actually see how the building will shape.
Most game devs, indie or not, won’t post too many updates as people start to become eager to see real gameplay actual tests, which also puts a lot of pressure into the development phase, sometimes not in a positive way.
Even so, we have decided to share our visual progress on Chosen and our gameplay designs.
Leave a comment to let us know what you think!