The slow chug forward: Character sprites and interface

Development is now at a stage where the ball is in the air, so to speak. I’ve contacted AVGN and Yahtzee, but so far no response. Not that I’m holding my breath or anything; I know how busy these people must be.

And it’s not like there isn’t work left to be done on the game. The most pressing problem right now is the character sprites. This weekend I’m off to buy my own little ‘green screen’ (which will, in fact, be white), and then do some primitive motion capture for the main character sprite.

My big hope was that I could get everyone to capture their own likenesses for the game, seeing as they are all involved in the visual medium already. But I figured this is probably more time than they would be willing to spend on the game.

My go-to plan is to make South Park-style cut-out characters, using Google images of their likenesses, and doing the typical “South Park Canadian”-mouth movements (i.e. where their heads split open at the mouths) when they talk. It would probably complement the surreal collage-style background graphics nicely.

Only downside to this — beyond the fact that every character will have an arbitrary height — is that their sprites would perpetually face forward, even when turning left, right or backwards. Why? Well, you try finding a picture of the back of the Nostalgia Critic’s head. I don’t think one exists. So even though his body would face left, right or backwards, his face – and everyone else’s – would always face forward.

Then there are a few graphical tweaks to the interface I’d like to do. The inventory screen seems to be a bit confusing to people who have never played a Sierra game before. You have to click the ‘bag’ icon to close the screen, but people — no doubt used to games like Sam & Max: Hit the Road — keep clicking outside the inventory screen and getting frustrated that it doesn’t make it go away. I’ll need to make the icons more self-explanatory.

The settings panel also needs a lot of work. I’ve been toying with a number of gag ideas for it: My first idea was to use a mixing console — like in recording studios — where the sliders would be the controls for game speed and such. I tried a number of stock photos of mixing consoles, even going so far as to try and collage my own together from bits of several mixing consoles, before I scrapped the idea.

Then, I wanted to do it in the style of a Windows 3.1 dialog box, complete with unhelpful shortcut keys and a number of ‘fake’ settings. This is the settings panel that’s still in the build going around now. But I’m not keeping it – it clashes too much with the graphics in the rest of the game. So now, I have to come up with a third idea that’ll work, and be funny, too, because settings panel are usually piss-boring and I want mine to parody that.

I’ve also been toying with an easter egg in the form of a bonus room where I’ll get to pay tribute to all my favorite adventure game heroes. And I had an easter egg planned for the aforementioned settings panel for a long, long-ass time, which I’d probably ruin for everyone if I went into detail about here. Suffice it to say, none of these will have any impact on the actual game whatsoever, apart from being my excuse to geek out and have a laugh.

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