Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Wed, 26 May 2010
Subject: Magnetic Billiards: Seriously Casual
Here's another little bit of graphics work from last week. This is what I did last Friday, with an extra hour or so of tidying up over the weekend.
I thought it might be fun to show the progression from initial sketch to finished graphic. The little sketches show my initial idea for the shape and the cover design, then a rough breakdown of the structure of the 3D model, and the layout of the texture applied to it.
We've written a fairly hefty in-game instruction manual for Magnetic Billiards, where all the depth and subtlety is explained in great detail for anyone interested in finding out everything there is to know about the game. You don't need to read any of it - the game is easy to play and explains itself very well - but we wanted to write down all our clever little ideas and tuck them away in the game for anyone who wants to go digging for them. So, we put together a large set of illustrated pages which we've called the FAQ, and this is accessed by clicking on a graphic of a weighty thick book, which seemed appropriate.
For the new Apprentice Mode we didn't want the user to be even temptated by the big heavy FAQ book, so we thought it would be fun to replace it with a light, flimsy pamphlet instead, containing only the briefest outline of playing instructions (which again are only optional, the Apprentice Mode is all about the player being free to discover the game for themselves, at their own pace).
Every element in the Magnetic Billiards user interface is a physical object, so I had to build a model and texture it rather than just drawing a 2D UI overlay bitmap. I thought a folded zig-zag would make a more interesting shape than a stapled booklet, as it would be hard to show the small number of pages (as distinct from the FAQ book, which had a nice hardback cover overlapping the pages) and would look just like a square block if I wasn't careful. I made the paper unnaturally thick, just so it would be visible at the relatively small screen size the final graphic will be displayed at, and pinched out the corners of the paper to make it look a bit worn and interesting and less computer graphicy.
I was a little worried that the text on the cover might be a bit fussy and hard to read. It's not in the game yet, so that still might be a problem (easily fixed), but I think it will be OK. Users will get the Apprentice Pamphlet at the start of Apprentice Mode (optional), and trade it in for the big FAQ book when you start the game proper (which you can do right away if you like), so we thought we might add a little section where the pamplet or the book fill the sceen when you first receive them - like getting a new weapon in a Zelda game! - which would allow you to read the text clearly at least once even if it's a little small when it's in its final resting place at the bottom of the screen.
Oh well, that was my week of drawing. Back to the server-side programming this week.