Game Development Journal Part IV: Creating Living Environments

As I experiment with building environments for my game, I find that one of the biggest challenges is creating an environment that looks alive.  My earliest attempts looked like wax museums that the player would walk through.  People designed to add color and life to a scene looked like creepy statues.

I quickly learned that it was necessary to add movement to theses scenes.  People could pace back and forth in a groove, move randomly in a given area, or even just march in place.  But such movements invested them with a breath of life, making it look like they were actually DOING something before the player arrived on the scene rather than simply waiting for her to appear so they could deliver a canned bit of dialogue or inch the story forward.

RPG Maker’s system of introducing animations is not at all intuitive.  Every animated object, whether its a person or a door or a flower, has movements called “stepping animations” and “turning” animations.  For example, the sequence of moves one needs to input in order to make a door open is:

Turn left,

turn right,

turn up.

This will walk the door animation through three stages of moves that are “named” as turns as though the model is that of a person.

Does that make sense?  It didn’t make much sense to me, either.  But once one realizes that they must imagine every spite as though it is a person and that every row and column of sprites functions in the same way, whether its a person or an animal or a monster or an object, it became much easier to experiment with the sprites and get them moving how I wanted them.

In my next development blog, I will walk you through the first location in the game: a geeky convention where our heroines first meet each other and encounter the Fake Geek Girl meme that is zombifying the community.

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