February 18th, 2009
This is the first part of a series of blog posts explaining how I go about putting a 3D art asset into Overgrowth.
Everybody has ideas about what they want to make but how do you know your ideas are good ones? If you don't have any good ideas, how do you get some?
In a lot of ways starting is the hardest part of making an asset. One thing I think is important for this kind of thing is thinking backwards through the steps to get to your goal. Lets say you want a part in the game that is scary. You need a bunch of assets to put in the game, which means you have to texture and model a bunch of scary looking things, and so you have to design things that are scary, which means you need to understand what makes people afraid. The best way to understand fear is to think about your own personal experience of it.
So the first step of design is understanding other people and personal experience. Ironically, while this is very simple, it seems like one of the main things big name developers get wrong. Often instead of referencing anything personal or real, they reference other games or movies. These copies often miss what made the originals great, or even if they do get everything right it still feels like a stale rehash.
One of the main things I want to capture in Overgrowth is the stillness and freedom of being in a natural environment, far away from other people. I love taking road trips and hiking, and so I drew from those experiences. There is always the risk that your audience will not have shared your experiences. It is important to get down to the compelling details that made your personal experience memorable to you in the first place. That kind of authenticity is interesting to almost everybody.
Obviously it is not practical or even possible to experience everything personally that you may want to put in a game, but research is a pretty good substitute. If you want to make a game about combat, maybe you can read memoirs of people who fought in wars, or talk to people who are war veterans about their experience. I read a lot. Museums are great. Also, Google image search is an invaluable resource.
Next time I will talk about how to take these vague ideas and turn them into a concrete concept. What kind of personal experiences have you guys drawn on when making your own projects?