Short note on sprawling cave systems

Here’s two snapshots from a level concept from yesterday and today for our space-fi game in-development.

While the previous is more colourful and works with contrasting colours, it sometimes felt hard to parse what’s solid and what’s distant background. This is because the four subpalettes get used for both to a large extent. To mitigate this potential problem, all solid rocks got a stronger/brighter outline to outshine intangible objects. Hopefully something along that way will do.

Next step is probably going over the distant background to separate it, in turn.

Other changes:
-Rock colouring is now regional, rather than random. A ”green” area is hinted at the bottom right, and there’s a single green ”milestone” in the bottom left quarter. While less colourful, my hopes is that things like that will help orientation in a larger, sprawling cave system.

-More distinctly diagonal shadows on the pillars in the bottom right quarter seems to help my depth perception.

-various details and decorations added. Some others might be cut in the future, but we still have half of the tile memory unused for this set, so there’s no hurry to rationalize.




Cross Section perspectives

Here’s something i’ve been working on. It could be seen as two projects, separated by theme. They both explore how to come up with cross-section perspective within the limits of the Famicom/NES. The first is a sci-fi/cyberpunk one, with emphasis on stealth. The ambitions for this design proved a bit much to chew within our the time frame we had set, so we shelved it for now and turned our attention to the second one, which is a gothic horror/fantasy theme more focused on exploration.

(click for pixel perfect view)

It’s easy to encounter perspective problems.  While the whole cross section perspective is exaggerated, the trouble appears in seams between perspective shifts – you can only have a limited set of angles due to memory constraints, and ease of level management (which in turn ultimately is a storage constraint – you need to come up with a way to compress stuff and varying angles will not help). That pretty much means you may feel the need to justify the cross-section, fish-eyed perspective with something other than mere presentation.

In the sci-fi example room, it merely serves as depth for its own sake. In the fantasy one, it provides a factual z-axis that the game can as a mechanic for one-way passages which should be able to lend itself to themes of exploration, puzzle solving, and object/enemy interaction. It probably would lend itself to a sneak/surprise kind of game too, now that i write about it.

But with multiple levels of height, things get even trickier. In the animated gif example, certain planes are hard to parse in the lower room. Besides getting a perspective problem on the low-right corner less wrong, i had to cut away pieces of two platforms to show walls at an angle in order to properly tell the player/viewer what relation the neighboring planes had. Shadows alone just wouldn’t cut it.

The form is still not 100% set, but i’m getting there.


The theme of the gothic fantasy project was largely scavenged from the design documents i had made for one of my earliest attempts at doing NES graphics. The idea then was to make it a purely isometric experience; but because of the PPU:s limited ways of handling colour attributes, it makes for a somewhat more monochromatic experience. That’s why every room in games like Solstice have a unified colour scheme.