Of all of the things that brought me to this project, I can’t say art direction was on the list. The concept art was nice but generic, and the prototype footage was… let’s just say “not a selling point.” In fact, I initially only backed it for $5 as a good faith/bookmark pledge beacause it looked so hideous (upped that later once things started taking shape).
I’m happy to see Nate Wells joint the team and some bolder high-level art direction. It really makes a huge difference for me, and it makes this game stand out visually in a way that not many games in this genre do. Like I said before, they still have some work to do, but I feel a lot better about it now than when the Kickstarter launched.
Still a little plastic sheen on some background objects. Rough stone blocks especially should have very low reflectivity, I think
Surface of the skeleton feels undetailed. Blood splatters are too bright and uniform, and don’t read as blood, and there’s a need for more surface detail.
Just my personal preference, but I don’t think dark is an improvement. But the reduced fog might be. Volumetric fog could be nice if it’s a particle effect, but not that old-school solid blue fog like an N64 game.
One of the things I’ve noticed in the level today was the skybox i was using got vapped somehow. So the one that it defaulted to is an ‘outside’ skybox, and the way unity likes to play now is all reflectivity is off of the skybox so if it is bright and shiny…well, you get shiny. I’ve changed it out…and still think the crystal and water ones make it funky as hell, but I’ll go with mostly black for now. Note to unity users, even setting it to ‘use a color only’ seems to still pull reflectivity data from the skybox. Lame. The same shader is was effecting the skeleton too…and what you think is blood is magic marking. Obviously not showing for what it is.
As for fog we already pulled back on it a bit. Finding that perfect…ooooh fog is going to be custom work eventually.
I really like the screenshots for a work in progress and think the new direction has great potential to be amazing. I liked the previous video with the darker visuals as well but can understand that that would require an unbelievable budget and that that money is much better spent on developing a unique art style that doesn’t require as many resources and then being able to create a much stronger game in all of the other important areas (mechanics, interactivity, story, etc).
I remember absolutely hating the look of Zelda: The Wind Waker at first but that really grew on me and became very charming and memorable by the end.
To me the realo-immersive visual style of oldschool western RPG’s, like Baldur’s Gate, Ultima, Underworld, Diablo 1, etc. is most wonderful. These games felt almost sort of like isometric VR.
As I said, I respect everyones opinion and the developers decision. I see that devs are industry veterans, they know how things work and that to compete with the rest, you try to mimic those on top of the food chain and milk it equally (or fail miserably), or you do something very unique. I hoped the unique part would come through a unique design style (clothing, buildings, etc) and LGS type gameplay/mechanics, something that doesn’t really exist, not in RPG’s anyway.
The new art can become something beautiful, or remain very polarizing. We shall see.
It’s not news that concept art is concept art. I already stated I wasn’t expecting pixel for pixel recreations - but I’m not the only one surprised by the shift in art style, tone, etc. Concept art doesn’t just exist to make pretty “poster art”, not when displayed like yours was. It exists to show the concept of your game. What I’m seeing now (and I quite understand it isn’t close to finished) is nothing close to the concept that I backed. And, when art is used like it was in your Kickstarter (plastered everywhere, featured on your site, used to generate more funding by setting funding goals to add characters shown thru concept art, voting for one character style versus another for crying out loud) it certainly does seem like misrepresentation.
You chose a very convenient example of concept art not looking like game art in Borderlands to further your point, but the difference is, I didn’t fund Borderlands from a Kickstarter pitch showing that art. If I had, I likely wouldn’t have been happy then either, having been sold one thing, then having it changed significantly after the fact. (Although, I would argue that Borderlands in-game characters look a lot more like their concept art than yours do, at least having the same general shape with an added outline.)
You’re asking me to trust the team, but this sudden shift, saying you aren’t going for AAA, that you “can’t go up against Ubisoft or Bethesda” - all mentioned only after the major funding rounds, mind you - aren’t exactly inspiring confidence. (And as for your example of Borderlands - in this aspect, Gearbox isn’t the best example of trust - have you played Colonial Marines?) I am old enough to have played the original Looking Glass games and am familiar with the team and it’s success rate, but to be honest, this isn’t 1992 anymore, and I’m expecting more for my dollar, like contemporary art style (which is what was shown). I’m expecting something similar to what I was sold. Quite simply, I backed an apple, and I’m now seeing an orange. Both round and edible, but that’s where the similarity stops.
Long story short, I was once very on board, and now that things have changed, I no longer think I’m the target audience.
Every single Kickstarter has people that feel this way. It’s the nature of crowdfunding. You have an idea in your head of what something will be like, but it never exactly matches the end result. This is why you need to have a certain amount of good faith to be a backer; it’s certainly not the best way to buy games and definitely not for everyone.
It’s impossible to make something better without making it different. By that same token, it’s impossible to make something different and have universal consensus that it’s better. Nate’s new art direction is a more daring move than most, and it’s understandably going to divide opinions. But it’s by no means a betrayal of the concept as pitched. If anything, it’s an effort to make the visuals more accurately match the “feeling” the team wants to convey.
I feel similar as you do about it (but less angry), although in Otherside’s defense, at least from what I understood, they didn’t plan to delude us, they openly stated that they changed the course post KS campaign and the reason was partially to lessen the work load, because otherwise they’d work on the game for two years and then run out of funds.
Reality is reality, however when I look at Almost Human, the devs of Legend of Grimrock. They were like three or four people and self funded and they created a game with stunning visuals (given their capacity anyway), gritty realistic visuals mind you, and they were very successful and made a sequel of equal quality.
Sure the scope of Grimrock is not comparable to Ascendant, but I expected Otherside to hire people with the KS money, expand the team, bring in the work force, etc (although I know that 900k is few cents in game industry dimensions). I remember I raised a brow when I found out that the team are still 6 people not so long ago.
Also honest opinion. I found the old table top game art often good mood pieces, but often cheesy and ugly in looks. So I was little skeptical when this was introduced as the main inspiration for the entire visual style of the game. It would be good as concept art, that is not the final look of the game as the original concept art wasn’t. ;D
Anyway, I don’t want to give the team a bad mood (although they deserve it), so I’m gonna let that dead horse alone for now, till it turns to a skeleton and then I beat it again.
I imagine LoG’s artist(s) were able to concentrate more on a tiny number of assets because they were reused so heavily through the whole game, in a way that probably wouldn’t work so well in a non-grid-based game (let alone one depicting more natural formations, and possibly architectural styles of different cultures). I don’t know, I’m not totally on board with UA’s style but with some refinement I could dig it. But I didn’t care for most of UA’s earlier concept art in the first place, personally.
This is a great example. Wind Waker is now remembered fondly for its art, but it was hugely controversial when it was first unveiled, because it clashed with the set expectation of what Zelda was. It was also a work-in-progress, and took some iteration and refinement before Nintendo got it just “right.”
In the Kickstarter world, I can think of quite a few that changed art styles or developed art styles that clashed with backer’s expectations. Leisure Suit Larry, Double Fine Adventure/Broken Age, Steel Assault. Even Mighty No. 9, which was pretty consistent, got a huge amount of flak for not looking like the concept art. This is usually a good thing, but in every case it pissed off some people who sounded exactly like Skullduggery does now.
I think you might be misunderstanding what he said about realistic visuals. It’s not that they can’t do it on their budget, or even that they can’t do it well, it’s that they can’t do it better than the legion of AAA games out there with the exact same look. If they don’t visually differentiate themselves, it’ll just read like a less-good version of what’s already out there. And that’s probably true even of Legend of Grimrock. It’s a lovely game, but it’s art style isn’t what’s setting the game apart.
Also honest opinion. I found the old table top game art often good mood pieces, but often cheesy and ugly in looks.
No one would disagree with this. "Naive" is the kinder word Nate chose, but obviously this art was not "polished." This is also true of a lot of beloved outsider artists (Grandma Moses springs to mind. Daniel Johnston might be a good musical equivalent). It's an effort to capture a certain creative spirit and unique perspective that gets lost when you get taught to do things the "right" way, as well as (in this case) to give it a tinge of whimsy and nostalgia.
I’d also like to point out that this is very much true of the early Ultima games as well. A lot of early computer gaming was done by self-taught artists, and even those with formal training didn’t have formal training in pixel art because that didn’t exist back then. Look at Underworld and it’s squat, chunky characters, colorful gradients as shading… It’s not how you would make a game look now, even with the same technical limitations.
Maybe I’m misunderstanding the ongoing debate here, but it’s as if there’s only 2 choices - WoW / cartoony / clay / plastic (lack of better terms) or photo-realistic. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want either of those…
More to the point. Just looking at the screenshots, my initial response is – Why are the shots extremely biased to just a few colors? Is it because of Lava glow or some other glow everywhere? Also where is the texture detail? It appears to be a basic chalk / pastel look (the bones, paint, floor, etc). Not sure if I’m conveying this properly, but does adding that detail in imply having to go photo-realistic?
EDIT: on the flipside DOS1 looked great despite the cartoony look - I love that game. Digging the TTON screens, BT4 concept, Grim Dawn,
So I understand that they could’ve done the realistic visual style, but decided not to, because they couldn’t compete with other RPG’s, so they chose to differentiate themselves drastically. Can’t say I can argue against that, but can’t advocate it either.
It seems there is something that does, despite the non-competitive realistic visual style. I remember the way they sold it to the audience. They sold it as a whole. The beautiful visual style, the oldschool gameplay, the classical western RPG system. They did everything right, a real nice solid package. They could have gone for a WoW like style. Maybe they’d’ve been more successful, maybe less, hard to say, but I know for sure I would have not been part of it then. The visual style was an important part of what sold the game to me personally.
Regarding Zelda. Twilight Princess. :-* Boring and generic to some, absolutely beautiful to me. I love calm and natural colour palettes. It makes elements of energy (fire, light, lighting) stand out and alive, and the natural elements (stone, wood, plant) calm and passive. A world of balance and various levels on intensity. If everything is painted in fire, to me it crumbles. I love colours, but if it knows limits.
Just personal point of view, nothing others have to cater to.
I’ve backed many games, and I understand about faith, change, all the rest. I would disagree though, that this isn’t a betrayal of the concept pitched. That seems exactly what it is. From dark (read tone, not luminosity), gritty and (very subjectively I understand) badass - to cartoony, toylike and (very subective I understand) silly. If the current art style is the “feeling” the team wants to convey, they definitely shouldn’t have used the art they did, which conveys a very different feeling, to get the game funded.
I can handle change in backed games. This change, along with some of the comments about them, has me feeling a bit swindled. The fact that so much has changed “to be less work” after the game is funded doesn’t give me confidence in what this team is going to produce, and quite frankly, in my mind calls integrity a bit into question. Anger isn’t really the emotion I feel so much as disappointment. It’s extreme, only because I was so on board at the beginning - and now, I’m just not.
I understand my feelings aren’t shared by everyone, and that’s absolutely fine. It’s ok to disagree. Your thoughts are as valid as mine, I just don’t share your opinion. The game will simply move on without me, with whatever its target audience is now.
Legend of Grimrock is absolutely fantastic, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it, but it was more how it played that grabbed my attention.
But I also shouldn’t reduce this to a question of commerciality, it’s an artistic one. Grimrock is a gloomy game, and OtherSide doesn’t want Underworld to be quite so grim. If there’s a focus on an empowered player and a sense of adventure, the tone and art should reflect that.