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Old April 25, 2007, 21:23   #1
Leon Marrick
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Graphical ideas for *bands

Code:
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This post covers only the presentation of graphics - by which term is meant both bitmapped pictures and ASCII artwork - in Angbands as a whole. It does not handle the broader topics of user interface, multimedia, the proper relationship between game and display modules, or what have you. Just pretty pictures.


The problem:

Tim Baker went silent something like five years ago. From that day to this, Angband coders have sporadically tried to jazz up the presentation of graphics in the game he, Adam Bolt, and David Gervais added such sparkle to. Setting aside individual efforts, and looking at the game most players actually see, we've failed more-or-less miserably. For a old-school player like myself, used to terminals and text, this doesn't matter so much. Yet graphics make a vital difference to the ability of our favorite game to win new players - and it is they who count.

Most coders, lacking anything like the skill of a Tim Baker, would prefer to see Somebody Rather Else take charge of getting the game to look better. As there appear to be no obvious saviors, let's see if we can't spend our wait time more productively.


A sampling of possibilities:

There are a variety of practical ways we can make the game look better using tools mostly available right now and with no enormous amount of skill. Three of them are:

1. Colored ASCII artwork using customized extended fonts
2. The existing 2D bitmapped graphics, presented more intelligently
3. Any of several diffent kinds of isometric views


Tempt you with some examples?

Ideas and example pictures may be viewed at:
http://www.runegold.org/angband/graphic_ideas.html


... Or, because this is an honest-to-God graphical forum, you can view them right here!



ASCII artwork

Roguelikes have featured ASCII artwork since they began, but several problems - lack of custom fonts, very restrictive font selection, and inability to flexibly use all the available application space) have stymied progress. These problems are beginning to get sorted out, making it possible for ASCII artists to do things in *bands they never could before. If people decide to push ASCII artwork some more, we could easily start seeing screenshots like this (note that this is an example of the possible, not of something currently available) :


Here we see a simple Celtic knot border, drawn in a 4x6 font. Imagine how cool Saxon-style beast imagery and Scandinavian pattern-work would be!

If that border is a little large for your taste, there is always the option of going 2x3:


This probably doesn't qualify as ASCII art anymore but it would certainly fit in well with such.


Better use of the existing 2D graphics

Adam Bolt's and David Gervais' 2D bitmapped graphics have been presented only crudely thus far. A small but helpful improvement would be to vary terrain graphics depending on what terrain was adjacent. For example, a forest could be thick and bushy in the center, but show individual tress at the edge. Water is an even more obvious candidate:


Here we see what is very nearly the most primitive possible way to make water look a little less like blue paving tiles. Since we were too lazy to check diagonally adjacent terrain, you see some minor visual artifacts (the arrow points to one).
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Old April 25, 2007, 21:26   #2
Leon Marrick
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Isometric views

There have been a awful lot of isometric displays for various variants offered at one point or another. The one I believe to be the most advanced as of this writing is that of UnAngband, coded by Andrew Doull and displaying David Gervais' 54x54 isometric tiles. We will use this project as a frame of reference.

Of all the many ways to go isometric, the most common is what I call the "Civ2" method: Make game tiles horizonal diamonds and allow the graphic(s) in a diamond to protrude into the three diamonds above it. Here are examples from Civ2 and UnAngband 0.6.1:





The second picture shows which direction the character moves in when you press the number key shown. As you can see, the display is rotated by 45 degrees. This solves the vexed problem of displaying walls in a diamond, but may confuse players used to '6' or -> meaning "go right".


And we MUST use our full quota of images!

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Old April 25, 2007, 21:29   #3
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Is there a way to both show dungeon walls correctly and keep directions consistant with the keyboard layout? Maybe:




Here we see a series of mockups of an "offset view", using David Gervais 32x32 graphics. The standard offset is 12 vertical, four horizonal; the strong offset is 16 and 8. Tile images may protrude into tiles left and above.

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Old April 25, 2007, 23:24   #4
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Great post, Leon.

I would personally prefer isometric, without 45 degree rotation. Semi-transparent walls. Shadows. No vertical offset of sprite over tile.

For a visually appeasing, open source, isometric, hack and slash game I'd refer to Daimonin, which happens to be MMORPG. Screenie:



The difference is they don't do transparent walls (don't have to, they have a lot of large rooms and only a small number of rather wide corridors between them), and obviously they are 45 degree rotated.

Oh and be sure to add the hitpoint bar above each monster!
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Old April 26, 2007, 00:03   #5
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I like the isometric view in post #2, kinda reminds me of Heroquest (I wonder if I can find my disks for that, I haven't played it in years).
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Old April 26, 2007, 02:06   #6
Nick
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leon Marrick View Post
The second picture shows which direction the character moves in when you press the number key shown. As you can see, the display is rotated by 45 degrees. This solves the vexed problem of displaying walls in a diamond, but may confuse players used to '6' or -> meaning "go right".
If you use mouse control (which seems natural for isometric views - as in the Vulture's <> interfaces to Nethack), this is not a problem.
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Old April 26, 2007, 03:20   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick View Post
If you use mouse control (which seems natural for isometric views - as in the Vulture's <> interfaces to Nethack), this is not a problem.
Until you figure out that determining which grid is clicked on is in itself a problem.

I've made notes on some isometric resources in the Unangband to do list, which I will advance at some point.

Please note that the Unangband isometric view is really not that smart at all, and refreshes the entire screen for a single update. It should be possible to do a much nicer screen refreshes / scrolling and so on.
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Old April 26, 2007, 20:57   #8
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Personally, I think there is a certain value to simplicity in Roguelike Graphics; ones that let you use your imagination, but don't leave you wondering what something is. The one Roguelike that met those standards for me (though I haven't played it in a long time) is MacOmega:


I think a lot could be learned from this example (in fact, I'd really love to see an Angband version of this tileset...)
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Old April 26, 2007, 23:14   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arcum42 View Post
(in fact, I'd really love to see an Angband version of this tileset...)
that might actually look nice... i will probably never stop using ascii but i might try it out.
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Old April 30, 2007, 01:44   #10
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Hello everyone... I was vainly googling my own name and noticed this thread about Angband graphics. Wow, it's been so many years.

I guess I checked the old central Angband page every now and then, but it seemed pretty dead. I'm glad people got enjoyment out of my tiles for so long. It's funny how there were so many limitations to the art back then, looks like the game has expanded a lot. Good to see life there.

Unfortunately, I'm not here to be the art savior, just dropping by.

I've since done a lot of different graphic work, and I'll just put my 2 in from my experience with another game called "Clan Lord" by Delta Tao. It's an MMORPG with a very simple graphic style that serves it well. I think the same could be done for Angband.

Looking over these examples, the MacOmega one would be my choice. I'd love to see it modernized, maybe with vector graphics so you can scale in and out, and actually see what's happening with larger resolutions... play online in Flash, etc. I also like stylized, representative graphics, because Angband won't ever compete with Diablo and its ilk, but if it develops an interesting, clean graphic style, it could get lots of new attention. Just look at how successful the Nintendo Wii is with very simplistic presentations, marketing itself on gameplay.

I must say I've grown to dislike what the Daimonin screenshot represents, trying to put realistic detail into pitifully low res graphics. Frankly, that's what I tried to do with the original Angband tiles. But I was only 15 years old then. I've since realized that simply results in a muddy-looking presentation.

I'd say go for clean, pretty graphic representation, rather than detailed artwork. Spice it up if need be with some effects modern technology can provide. Dynamic lighting effects, spell effects. Play up the look of a strategy game rather than competing with the Big Guys.

Best of luck with everything!

-Adam
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