Sunday, March 15, 2009

Evolution of an Effect

Directing is by far the most exciting phase of visual novel developement process. It's like baking, or alchemy. Take a bit of text, some pictures and music, add a pinch of creativity and COMBINE! Voila, a visual novel. Because none of the writers take the directing into account when they are writing, sometimes the director runs into problems with presenting the text. Usually this is when the characters are doing something else than standing around and chatting (the bread and butter of every VN) and it's not really possible to convey the events with just sprites and a background. In times like this, delta often has to come up with ways to have the presentation match with the text instead of just leaving it up to the readers' imagination, by utilizing our already existing toolset of visual effects or better yet, creating a new one. These effects range from pretty basic screen shakes and zooms to rather complex moves or particle effects. He likes to experiment and show off even pretty off the wall ideas and they are a popular item of discussion in the dev team.

This is the evolution of the "crowd" visual effect for KS, used for the few occasions where there is a need to show, well, a crowd of people.

This was the starting point. A bunch of silhouettes, some photoshop texture magic and the school courtyard in the background with Misha put in foreground to see how this works with the usual game assets.

The first attempt was deemed to grimdark and gloomy, reminding everyone of a zombie apocalypse so the tone was lightened up for the second, friendlier crowd.

The silhouettes were standing out too much for most people, so contrast was lowered next to make it more of a grey goo apocalypse.

Warp Speed! Some effects were added as a test. This one seems maybe slightly overdone.

A second effect test, with blur.

A tone change was considered as well. The theme colour of KS is sort of a beigeish brown, seen almost everywhere from the actual game UI to the blog and the website. So why not make the crowds in game beige as well? Maybe not?

Tone change + blur to keep up with the effects test.
The experiences from the previous attempts were collected and combined, to make the ultimate crowd. Some effects were used, but not to the extent of the first attempts, and the tone idea was discarded. Contrast is quite low to not draw attention from the possible foreground sprites.

And finally, the actual visual effect was stitched together in Ren'Py to bring the crowd alive.