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      GameDev.net and CRC Press have teamed up to bring a free ebook of content curated from top titles published by CRC Press. The freebook, Practices of Game Design & Indie Game Marketing, includes chapters from The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, and An Architectural Approach to Level Design. The GameDev.net FreeBook is relevant to game designers, developers, and those interested in learning more about the challenges in game development. We know game development can be a tough discipline and business, so we picked several chapters from CRC Press titles that we thought would be of interest to you, the GameDev.net audience, in your journey to design, develop, and market your next game. The free ebook is available through CRC Press by clicking here. The Curated Books The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition, by Jesse Schell Presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, anthropology, and more. Written by one of the world's top game designers, this book describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design, demonstrating how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in video games. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. View it here. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, by Joel Dreskin Marketing is an essential but too frequently overlooked or minimized component of the release plan for indie games. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing provides you with the tools needed to build visibility and sell your indie games. With special focus on those developers with small budgets and limited staff and resources, this book is packed with tangible recommendations and techniques that you can put to use immediately. As a seasoned professional of the indie game arena, author Joel Dreskin gives you insight into practical, real-world experiences of marketing numerous successful games and also provides stories of the failures. View it here. An Architectural Approach to Level Design This is one of the first books to integrate architectural and spatial design theory with the field of level design. The book presents architectural techniques and theories for level designers to use in their own work. It connects architecture and level design in different ways that address the practical elements of how designers construct space and the experiential elements of how and why humans interact with this space. Throughout the text, readers learn skills for spatial layout, evoking emotion through gamespaces, and creating better levels through architectural theory. View it here. Learn more and download the ebook by clicking here. Did you know? GameDev.net and CRC Press also recently teamed up to bring GDNet+ Members up to a 20% discount on all CRC Press books. Learn more about this and other benefits here.
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Forest Splatting

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When you make a game, you have to make compromises. Doesn't matter what kind of game you make, 2D, 3D, RTS, RPG, FPS, TBRPG.... you name it, there are compromises you have to make.

Goblinson Crusoe is a 2D hex-based game viewed from a 30-degree angle above the horizon with an orthographic projection. At first glance, you'd call it isometric. Close enough. It does use a 3D renderer on the back end, though, to avoid some of the issues with sorting that a "standard" isometric has.

However, I am fond of using anti-aliased sprites with partial alpha, smoothly blended into the background. Partial transparency is still kind of a bugbear of 3D rendering. In 3D games, typically the "solid" geometry will be rendered first, then the partially transparent geometry is sorted back-to-front and rendered in another pass. Unfortunately, everything in Goblinson Crusoe is partially transparent. To help mitigate some of the sorting burden, and to fix some edge cases (co-planar terrain splats, for example) I built a layer system reminiscent of the old engines. (Things like this are part of the reason I find out-of-the-box scene managers for third-party libraries to usually be insufficient; they are built with mainly FPS games in mind, so the structure and optimizations they make can slow you down for cases like this.)

Anyway, to date I've implemented trees on the over-map as individual billboard sprites scattered about. This worked great as long as I was fine with relatively sparse forests or larger tree sprites, but since I've been working on the overmap art I've found myself wanting denser forests with smaller trees, more matching the visual abstraction of a world map that I am shooting for. However, I can't simply just bump the tree count up through the roof, because then I run into sorting slowdowns and other performance problems, especially on the cruddy XP boxes I have to work on at work, which is where I do the bulk of my development.

So today, I made a compromise. The billboarded sprite trees had to go. In lieu of separate billboards, I implemented pre-rendered tree "splats", similar to the terrain splats. They are rendered as a terrain splat, but are sorted into the same layer as mountains/mobs, and drawn with a slight scaling factor so that there is some overlap. It doesn't look quite as good as with billboards, especially as the player moves through it and there is unrealistic overlap. However, this is one of those compromises where the drawbacks are small enough, and the improvement significant enough, that I'm okay with the tradeoff. Even with a single tree model, no color variation, and one single pre-rendered splat, the results are quite nice:


With just 2 or 3 splats per forest biome, I could have some pretty varied overmap terrain, and the impact on the framerate is almost negligible. Setting up the splats in Blender as particle systems similar to the forests in the landscape renderings I did earlier is trivial, though I do have to render in 2 passes (1 regular, with a transparent ground plane; 1 with a high exposure and the ground plane set to a diffuse white to capture the shadow) and run the 2 renders through a composite pass to get the final sprite. This workload isn't crushing, and I think the result is well worth it.

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Nice! Maybe you also could mirror the drawing of some of the splats to get even more variation without increasing the number of prerendered splats

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