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superluminal
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icon How would you fix DROD's graphics? (+2)  
I was perusing Steam reviews for GatEB and noticed a trend: a goodly few folks thought the graphics were old-school, and not in a good way.

It got me thinking. If you had unlimited coding/artistic powers, how would you improve DROD's graphics?

My thoughts so far:
1) Try to crank up the screen resolution. Tiles should be more than 22x22 pixels. Even something minor, like 24x24, could do wonders for detail.

2) Speaking of detail, redraw all the tiles to modern standards. The new roach queen graphics prove we can get real slick with monsters. Arky's model is also great, and tells me we could improve on human models a lot. DezzTech's obstacle improvements show a lot of potential for other elements.

3) Take the Nintendo route. Stylize. People will forgive limited graphics if they have personality. I think DROD does well in this regard, but it's something to keep in mind as we update the artwork.

What do you folks think?

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12-10-2017 at 11:27 AM
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Xindaris
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
I suspect some meaningful proportion of people complaining about DROD's graphics are probably graphics snobs who won't be happy unless it's in 3D HD resolution 60 FPS 70' widescreen progressive scan yadda yadda :P.

But in all seriousness, I don't know much about graphics, but DROD's characteristic ugliness is an important part of its style, and it's predictable that some people just won't get that right away. No amount of trying to make the graphics better is going to change that, unless we want to do away with the style the game already has.
Separately, the problem with changing the size of tiles is that a lot of custom graphics for things in published holds, including TSS itself, are tied to exactly that 22x22 size, and the people who drew those graphics initially are often going to be hard to impossible to contact to get them resized, and it's pixel graphics so just rescaling isn't likely to work.

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12-10-2017 at 03:13 PM
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Nuntar
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
I'd feed the complainers to gentryii and keep the excellent graphics as they are.

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12-10-2017 at 05:15 PM
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azb
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
Believe it or not, the complaint about graphics being "retro" dates back to before DROD was released on Steam:

Why DROD doesn't appeal to the masses (2009/2010)

DROD has a deliberate "lack of quality", relatively speaking, in artwork because artwork was never intended to be a prime focus of the game. DROD was and still is mainly a puzzle game. If everything became flashy/more detailed, it would distract from the puzzle element.

The size, as mentioned earlier, is not only hard to rescale without redrawing, but it would also be incompatible with the myriad of holds both published and on Architecture (which rely on the 22 by 22 tiles grid).

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12-10-2017 at 06:14 PM
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averagemoe
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
Make the character portraits do lip sync for speech?

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12-10-2017 at 09:17 PM
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Dragon Fogel
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
Actually, that does bring to mind one thing that could be done: adding character portraits for every monster in the game.

Right now, only a few monsters have face portraits. It's a gap that could benefit from being filled, though obviously it's low priority because it requires paying an artist. But it would be nice not to have to use Beethro or import a graphic when you change the player role to a roach, or if you want to have a wraithwing talk.
12-10-2017 at 10:00 PM
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averagemoe
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
quote:
Dragon Fogel wrote:
Actually, that does bring to mind one thing that could be done: adding character portraits for every monster in the game.

Right now, only a few monsters have face portraits. It's a gap that could benefit from being filled, though obviously it's low priority because it requires paying an artist. But it would be nice not to have to use Beethro or import a graphic when you change the player role to a roach, or if you want to have a wraithwing talk.


Branching off from this page, check out all the monsters that were in the original KDD.

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12-11-2017 at 06:16 AM
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navithmastero
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
The only thing I'd like is the ability to run the game engine at a higher resolution. When not in full screen, the game runs at 1024*768. Unless you're playing on a laptop, everyone has at least 1080p screens, meaning that's a lot of wasted screen real estate. When in fullscreen mode, the game stretches to fill the whole screen meaning that the game is out of proportion and unnatural. I'd appreciate the ability to rescale to at least 1440*1080 in windowed mode, and preferably to higher resolutions than that too!

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12-11-2017 at 08:49 AM
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xpym
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
Given unlimited funds, the answer is obvious. First you employ marketing experts to determine which art style is most likely to attract new players. Then you employ professional artists to implement it. Boring and unadventurous, like all established business practices are.
12-11-2017 at 10:59 AM
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Movac
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (+1)  
quote:
azb wrote:
DROD has a deliberate "lack of quality", relatively speaking, in artwork because artwork was never intended to be a prime focus of the game. DROD was and still is mainly a puzzle game. If everything became flashy/more detailed, it would distract from the puzzle element.



I don't think I can agree with this. While I don't mind DROD's graphics at all, I grew up playing a lot of shareware, so I'm used to seeing past slightly rough presentation to the meat of a game. There are plenty of puzzle games being made that are at least as readable as DROD while being more immediately attractive to new players. Games like Snakebird, Fidel Dungeon Rescue, Opus Magnum, or Tetrobot and Co.

quote:
navithmastero wrote:
When in fullscreen mode, the game stretches to fill the whole screen meaning that the game is out of proportion and unnatural.



You should be able to change this in your graphics driver settings! DROD just asks for a 1024x768 resolution, whether this is stretched or vertically letterboxed is up to your driver. With an NVIDIA card, at least, the setting is in the NVIDIA control panel -> Display -> Adjust desktop size and position -> scaling mode: aspect ratio. You may also need to tell it to perform the scaling on the GPU rather than the display. AMD and Intel GPUs should have a similar setting somewhere.
12-11-2017 at 03:00 PM
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ErikH2000
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (+2)  
Practically speaking, to fix DROD's graphics to make them modern, it would most easily be done with a rewrite of the game, and compromising the gameplay or changing the game to something different. In fact, this kind of experiment was done with TLK's DROD3D. It looked pretty good (modern for the time it was made) but was not fun to play.

Some of the design principles of the game go against cosmetics.

* show a detailed view of information (a screen crammed full of tiny tiles)
* show that information clearly, without obstruction (no 3D, avoid cool-looking vertical stuff like towers that extend over the informational area)
* moving characters and objects are instantly quantized to their squares, so the game moves along as quickly as your brain, and again, the information is clear (giving up nice little animations for movement)

That said, the graphics could be improved in a lot of the ways suggested in this thread. I think we had a lot of good artists working on it, and also, let's be honest, a few artists like me that have their charms, but don't quite get up to the 100% professional level. We did what we could with the wonderful volunteer and low-paid help we had. My goal there was always to have *likable* art.

I was very happy with the cosmetic improvements Mike added to the engine--the lighting effects, image backgrounds and overlays, the large animations in TSS. These were good examples of significant improvements that could be made without discarding years of code and starting over. Note it's unusual for a game to use the same code base for *decades*.

Don't let any of the above sound prickly or defensive. I like the topic. I like what people have said.

-Erik





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12-11-2017 at 03:32 PM
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ErikH2000
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (+1)  
quote:
azb wrote:
DROD has a deliberate "lack of quality", relatively speaking, in artwork because artwork was never intended to be a prime focus of the game. DROD was and still is mainly a puzzle game. If everything became flashy/more detailed, it would distract from the puzzle element.

Yeah, we worked within financial constraints and game design constraints.

I will say that we never had the ironic attitude of "make it sucky to show we don't care, ha ha" We always tried with the art. And there were times when it hurt a little for me to see a new indie game get a lot of press buzz because they'd figured a way to make their game look beautiful, and I hadn't.

But you are definitely right that visual appeal was not the primary goal of DROD.

-Erik

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12-11-2017 at 03:42 PM
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uncopy2002
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (+3)  
My 2 cents as usual:

It's easy for people to say that a game has shitty graphics, but the catch here is that you can't talk about improving a game's graphics if you have no idea what would be considered better graphics, or art style for the matter.

I suspect when people nowadays (especially on Steam. I don't think it'd be surprising how casual Steam players actually are on average) think about good graphics in puzzle games, they're think along the line of this:

- Casual puzzle games (e.g Snakebird). That kind of art style was a descendent from, naturally, Flash games, with Flash's signature flat color with thick, smoothed outlines as people just draw assets inside Flash itself.
Does DROD benefit from adopting this art style? Probably not, the outline alone introduces lots of wasted space, and DROD rooms are already quite cramped to begin with. This art style also creates an expectation for things to be smooth, including animation transitions, which are exactly the opposite of what we'd want from DROD: we want responsive, practical UX that adapts to our pacing. Waiting for animation frames is the worst enemy to this (yes, I've seen this on so many puzzle games on Steam. It's bad.)

- A 2.5D setup which is like *cough* DROD 3D. Again, very common among Steam puzzle games.
Does DROD benefit from adopting this art style? It's even worse, as we all know DROD 3D flopped like a giant enemy waterskipper being flipped over and its weak point attacked for massive damage. Being 2.5D also means you gotta have the animation transitions, which nobody wants to experience in rooms that take like 1000 moves. So no.

- A typical Unity game setup: Unity-like UIs (skin-swapped of course, that vanilla UI skin is ugly and nobody wants that), hover responsibility, etc. Also very typical among Steam puzzle games.
Does DROD benefit from adopting this art style? Hell no, that's that's a even quickly way to turn the game into garbage. Garbage as in those in Getting Over It, if you've listened to Bennett Foddy's insights.

- Pixel art (a.k.a 8-bit art) setup
Does DROD benefit from adopting this art style? Well, if you want to make DROD even more niche, that is. Also because of how 8-bit graphic games are overflowing the scene you gotta have lots of STYLE to make the graphics stand, and it takes even more effort and talent.

(Also, by the way, I don't think anyone has expected a puzzle game to have flashy graphics. At least not for the 95% of them. So that's mostly a red herring, I don't think such demand ever existed in the first place.)

---

What the above is trying to say is that when someone says "this game has garbage graphics" they clearly have an expectation of what would be great, but the most possible candidates of what they think, while mainstream and easily anticipated, doesn't really work for DROD.

DROD's UI comes from the era of DOS and shareware games: packed, practical, extensible (clicking will give you more information than you ever need), and complete. In fact DROD has one more advantage: the whole room is always visible. There are nothing surprising off-screen that you need to worry about ("should I keep this monster for the part I can't see right now? Or that? Arrrrgh if I made a mistake I LOSE LOTS OF TIME").

In this sense, what we eventually got was the natural evolution to what DROD graphics would be if it's gonna be HD-ified. Everything feels right on home, portraits are quirky but still nice-looking, terrain looks pretty on all room styles (especially cloud reflections on water, those are gorgeous), game element tiles are clean even though sometimes they can be compressed af (I'm looking at you, open-door-on-force-arrow-on-token-on-monster-on-weapon-on-checkpoint whatever the evil architects had come up with). I'd be rather off-putted if we instead get an art style that's completed different. That'd not be what DROD is good at.

---

That doesn't mean nothing is there to be approved though! There a few things I think could be improved:

- OMG those scrolls and room title backgrounds and who know what else, they're still as ugly and poorly cropped as if they've never been improved at all
- FONT, THE MAIN FONT IS ALMOST COMICS SANS TO ME and is probably the biggest visible eye-sore around, please choose something else that looks good when typesetted (but still maintains the feeling that it currently has now, I understand it has the vibe needed but it's still too ugly)
- Other than those... None! Great job! It's not easy at all to get such a consistent yet distinctive art style, but here we are. There are so many ways to go wrong, and we didn't head into any one of them. So heads up to ErikH.

[Last edited by uncopy2002 at 12-11-2017 05:27 PM]
12-11-2017 at 05:21 PM
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
I personally think they're fine as is; sure, the art style might not be for everyone, but Erik has his own signature style that you can look at and say, "yes! that's DROD!", and I think that's a sign of an art style you can easily associate with a series. As for the spritework, I think it works for what it's meant to be. Anything more complicated might get overwhelming if not done correctly (though the neat effects from TSS, those, I think are the exception because they're flat-out jawdropping in how amazing they are for a DROD hold).

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01-02-2018 at 05:48 PM
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enzi666
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icon Re: How would you fix DROD's graphics? (0)  
Make it look like a Pixar movie or Overwatch?

Apart from that, I think texture tiling is really bad or not enough variety.
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/TTJuCynlCqg/maxresdefault.jpg

The stone texture is too detailed to be used that often and makes the whole image very busy and not pleasant for the eyes.
This gravel texture is also a contender:
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/ht_ahFst-p8/maxresdefault.jpg

Instead of the semi-photo realistic look a more stylized texture that doesn't have so obvious tiling would be better.

It should also be pretty clear now that people don't need 3d or HD or anything. Lots of pixely games out there with great art styles.

I wonder, how much of this is a restriction of the engine? Drod is an old game and the graphic style shows at what era it was made off.


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