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Isometric depth problems.

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As you can see (ignore the ugly graphics), there is an obvious depth perception problem. There are three levels of elevation in this image, and it's hard to tell where each object is at. My question is, what could I do to make depth perception easier? Some form of lighting, perhaps? If so, how?

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Disclaimer: I'm a programmer, not an artist. So take what you will from this. And please don't laugh at my edits too much :(



Four quick things you could do to provide height cues:

* Shadowing, straight down. Easy to code - when rendering a tile, just check for a tile obscuring it directly above (to handle transparent materials, you can associate a 'opaque' boolean with each one, and only shadow on opaque ones). If it's obscured, render it darker. Here I just darkened by 33%.

* Extend the grass fringes a little, and put them on every wall-grass intersection. It looks like you already have these, but only on some tiles?

* Use different materials for each layer. Yeah, you were probably going to get around to this, and it's not so much a technical thing as a level design/art thing, but it helps.

* Try layer heights that aren't integer multiples of a tile's projected width. What I'm trying to say is:

Try a cube like on the right, instead of the left. You can sort of see this in action on my crappy topmost-level yellow-brown tile thing. I didn't adjust the height of the level, but you can see the tile boundaries don't intersect directly with those of the stone tiles on the layer above.

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Yay isometrics!

First off, I think a lot of your problems may be mitigated when (if?) your tile art moves beyond placeholder level.

Second, I definitely second mattd's point about making sure gridlines of levels separated by only one unit of height don't line up perfectly. Your tiles shouldn't be exactly cubes, or it'll be very difficult to tell where one level stops and another begins without a lot of context.

Third, I think a fixed, off-center light source would definitely help you out, probably more than just straight-down shadows. Picture a cube painted with all faces exactly the same color - it doesn't look like a cube, it looks like a roughly diamond-shaped 2D polygon. Lighten the top and darken one side, now it's a cube. Light will definitely enhance depth perception. Don't put it straight overhead, 12-noon style, though, since then there are no shadows for visual cues. Anywhere from 3 to 6 PM should do it :).

Keep it up... your work looks promising, and I love isometric games =D.

EDIT: If you do go with top-down shadows, please make things shadowed twice darker than things shadowed once. Look at the bottom right corner of mattd's image and notice that the distinct levels would be clearer were the lowest even darker.

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