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My game doesn't look good, what do I do wrong?

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The last many months I have been working on creating a complete game. During development I focussed mainly on gameplay and level design. Most parts turned out really good. I am happy about:

- gameplay

- level design

- local coop mode

- controls

- music

 

The game is ready to ship, however there is one major problem. After a failed greenlight campaign, I learned that the graphics are not good enough for a release.

 

Some notes about the graphics:

- I wanted to avoid pixel art. Every asset is drawn using vectors, and exported in high resolution.

- There is a lot of detail hidden in the game, for example the wheels of the jeep steer. Still, it feels 'too clean' and flat.

- The particle system handles debris, smoke, flames, explosions, craters and sparks. In busy levels over 30.000 particles should make it more alive. It still feels 'boring'. Why?

- The levels are dynamic and change during gameplay. Roads change. Levels are not ´drawn' images. This is nice, but it looks like a flash game. While it is c++/opengl.

- Everything moves smooth. Helicopters fly in and land and enemies do not move as they are on rails.

- The menu's are ugly...

 

I am definitely not an artist but a programmer. I could really use some hints on what I could do to make it visually more appealing.

 

DHlKJt.png

 

2WccJO.png

 

Link to game page, including images, video's and download link:

https://spdr870.itch.io/operation-sheep-defense

Edited by spdr870

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Needs some bigger, darker shadows. (I had to look at the full size images and squint to see them.) Edited by Nypyren

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So lighting, specular lighting, better shadows and bloom should do the trick? Did some quick experiments with just lighting and basic bloom. Specular lighting is harder to implement, but I will try. Did not do the darker shadows yet. I attached two screenprints, one is at night. It is really rough, but I attempted some hdr effects. What do you think?

Edited by spdr870

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About the menu problem, we're going to need to see those if you want input on that. Something you could do to make your levels look better is to add a transition between the edges of the road and the terrain. Another issue is how simple the terrain is. I would highly recommend adding moderately different textures for each level. So varying types of shrubbery/grass for the green areas and perhaps more rocky/cracked patches for the more desert-like areas. 

Edited by ChriHK

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Posted some screenshots of the (embarrassing) menu's... From left to right; main menu (the sheep walks by), coop levels, second campain menu, level menu.

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Thanks dbaumgart, that is some good advise. Hiring an artist is indeed not feasible, this is a one-man side project. I think I might be able to apply your feedback, and then see what the result is. I probably go for cartoony, this will also work well for explosions I think. Maybe even replace gradients for more solid highlights.

 

About: "An asset or effect can't be truly seen in isolation!". Couldn't agree more, thats why I descided not to use asset packs. Those assets might look better, but out of place.

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If I were you I would do some tests using real time 3D, maybe with an overhead orthographic camera with the environment and actors as live meshes.
- Animation can look smoother and more sophisticated, with more variation -- objects will actually be rotated rather than drawn as sprites.
- Using simple shaders and dynamic lighting\shadows will improve your visuals without much effort from your part. This can still work with a cartoon direction.

- The assets won't be too difficult to create. You have a few organic forms and the rest is mechanical objects, mostly segmented. These are simple to build with primitives and a little polygon modeling.

 

Some reference:

 

2nk6jhi.png image.png

 

Photo_Jul_25_10_45_59_PM.png image.png

 

WInz_Zxr.gif

 

  • Doing a black line stroke inside of text is not a good thing to do, don't do it!

 

What's your reasoning? Subtitles on video have a black stroke, and that's text.

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