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How to make 2D ground more alive/dynamic?

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Hi Guys! :)


I am struggling a bit on the "feeling"/design of the ground of my game world and I would love to hear If any of you might have some ideas for how to improve it?



The Issue:

In the top-down 2D game I'm working on I so far have added quite a bit of stuff to make the game more dynamic, foilage motion due to wind, dynamic camera, camera shake, procedual generation of lakes, areas, particle effects, dynamic weather, day/night cycle etc. However, my game world still feels "flat" when there is no fighting going on :(


I really want it to be a rewarding feeling to explore the world (fighting feeling is going the right way at least...) However, although I can add more content to discover in the game world It still feels flat. I have added a few screenshots below for you to comment on, some sprites are very preliminary but regardless if I would improve foilage sprites, ground tiles etc I don't think it would make much difference :unsure:



The Question:

What else could I populate the ground area with to make it feel more dynamic? Or is it some lightning/shading etc. which is missing? How would you go about to get a more dynamic feel to the world?



Possible Solutions:

I've considered to add a large overlay map on the ground tiles to get a more textured feel but I am not sure if that to would get repetetive? Also, I might need some grass or somethink (preferable dynamic motion I guess) but I'm not sure how to add it so it looks ok in this perspective?


Any feedback is appriciated!












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Is the apparent grid intentional (I see it even in the water)?


Even so, I see it in the tiles themselves -- reworking the tile images to make the 'grid-effect' vanish is a good start. While the grid effect is present, any intentional deviation in tile image to add variety will feel out of place. Clear the grid first, then you can add variations that will help the broadly-covered areas feel more natural and 'lived-in'. Some of these variations could be longer lengths of grass that sways or ripples in the breeze, but even static variations will bring a lot of life back.


After you break the grid inside those broadly-covered areas, you can apply some blending techniques to the harsh tile transitions, such as between the grass and path, or between the different colors of grass in the bottom image. Smoothing out the squareness of it all will help the player feel immersed.

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You seem to be overlooking the particular strength of sound. Proper sounds and foley contribute a tremendous amount to the experience. Graphics alone will not make you 'feel'. Perhaps you can experiment a little with that.

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Fireflies swooping around. Little windblown dust clouds and leaves. Critters in the underbrush. Butterflies. Mice. Even if these things are non interactive, them just being there to add motion to the scene can make a big difference. Also a strong agreement with Prototype on the sound suggestion.

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It's not intentional, although its something I've been struggling with a bit the last few days when I added support for variable resolution, in short when I deviated from my standard resolution I started to have gridding which I'm working on, the grid-line should not be visible normally  :wacko: 

Variations would be a good thing, I will try to add some variations to tiles of same type and mix it up a bit between variation and direction, I will post a screenshot here once I've added a rough version, thanks!

For blending between tiles, yeah, maybe it should be improved as well, I currently have a map with different tile edges for doing transitions but maybe I should rework them a bit to get them less "square", although I've been trying to keep a bit of the square look intentional but maybe I should just try to get rid off it. I agree that the transitions is to harsh right now, have to figure out some way to improve this ^_^




I do have some sound added, although it surely could be improved a bit. Currently I have (as far as ambience is concerned) footstep sound depending on ground type, some ambient sound (forrest sound with some birds, jungle sound for jungle biomes etc) but I could probably add some more as well, I totally agree with the fact that's more than the static view itself making it feel "alive", I just have a feeling right now that even when I add those things on top, something is still askew with the basic rendering of the terrain :unsure: Very good suggestions though! 




As for dynamic effects there are actually a few, I do have fireflies, bird flocks flying by or being spawned from trees when impacted (when impacted they also sway a bit as well as having some particle effects). They can still be improved for sure, windblown dustclouds and leaves blowing by in the wind would be nice additions though, I will try to improve on that a bit, thx!





I will focus on some of the suggestions and repost a screenshot shortly!

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Ok I'm sorry it took a few days but I've been trying to add some modifications and I would love some feedback on what you think and If it's a step in the right direction?  -_-



Things added/modified:



Ground Tile Variation & Cleanup

I've added some more variation of basic ground tiles (this took quite some time.. 45 different ground texture and 6 new basic tiles for each... :wacko:  ) Also cleaned up the tiles a bit as well as removed some artifact issues. They added a quite a bit of variation, but I'm not sure if it is enough? It's definitely better though.


Foilage Lightning & Gradients

I've also made the foliage (trees and bushes) have colored gradients as a function of time of day. My idea was to give them a bit more depth, I think it panned out quite nicely, but was a hell to try to find a balanced shading to add but I got it worked out, somewhat, at least..


Zoom Level

I changed the zoom level a bit, not sure if it's better but I think a bit closer gives better immersion


Cloud Shadows

The last thing, which is not quite finished yet but almost, is that I added some parallaxing shadows on the ground from the clouds to break up the ground textures a bit as well, I have to balance shadow strength vs how strong the clouds are still a bit




Here's a screenshot of the current state








What are your general impression of the changes?



What would you have done differently?



Some other ideas?



Should I try to make edge transitions less square as well? The game is quite blocky in general so I'm not sure wether or not to keep the ground texture edges that way :wacko:

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I'd say its definitely an improvement, though this scene seems much darker than the others and that makes a direct comparison difficult.


Its improved, but I can still see the 'grid effect' I mentioned before. Its most obvious in the better-lit areas of grass. When I say 'grid effect', I don't necessarily mean that the borders between tiles are apparent (though often they are), I mean that the texture has an obvious repetition -- I can tell by looking at it where the squares are, even in a big field of grass with no other visual cues.


Those dark outlines at the border of grass/path, and dark-grass/light-grass are still problematic, IMO. They're narrow and high-contrast, especially in the lighter areas; that's not a thing that happens in nature. A more natural appearance would have the grass growing over the edge of the path, or the longer grasses growing over the edges of the shorter ones. Gradient and texture, not harsh lines.

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First off I apologize for the late reply to this thread, I was caught up with No Man Sky's to get some inspiration on procedual generation :rolleyes:


I still felt that I should update on how it sort of turned out in the end though. I added two main effects which in my opinion turned out quite well and I would like to share some comments regarding



1) Shadowmaps for Trees & Bushes

Geez that made a difference! I suspected it would add quite some feel to it but it wasn't until I actually implemented it I realized how much information the shadows of certain objects affects our perceptance of the actual object. As soon as I added shadow maps for the trees & bushes the general feel for the objects skyrocketed (Well at least IMHO  -_-  ) Coupled with tree motion (ambient wind etc) and scaling/direction following the day/night cycle it was a major improvement!



2) Ground Bump/Noise Overlay Map

Another detail added which is not as eyestriking as the shadowmaps but rather a bit sunconcious effect is the addition of a faint bump/noise map overlay on the ground. I had some hesitations regarding this as the only way I could think of on how to add it would be to have a very large bump/noise texture and simply let it wrap itself around over the enitre gameworld. I was worried that the players would recogonise the patterns but it seems that if the overlay is faint enough and large enough the repetition is very hard to notice and it really helped to break up the ground textures a bit!


3) #Re Ravyne

I see your point and I do agree, this is certainly something I will try to get around to change, however for the time being I will have to place it on the back burner though but I fully agree with you point!


Here's a few screenshot on the updated work:







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