Introduction. Alpha polaris is a point-and-clik horror adventure game developed by turmoil games and set todo be released in june 2011. We have ben working on the Project for roughly two years now, using Blender for visuals and wintermute as a game engine. The Core of the game is the titular alpha polaris, a Distant oil research station in the icy wastes of grenland. Our team of six people set out todo produce a consistent, high-quality gaming experience with a special focus on the place itself. Our setting wasnt going todo be a slog th rouge diferent levels world, but an isolated setting full of Little details. In this article, ill discuss some of the visual challenges we have tackled. Maquíng adventure games is a very art heavy business.
To pull one of with 1280x800 wide-screen graphics, pre-rendered backgrounds and real-time characters, we neded a lot of art resources. This meant we all had todo learn how todo do modeling and texturing in Blender. In the beginning, only our art director lassi had significant modeling experience.
I think this is one of the things we have ben very god at. Throughout the Project, lassi has ben very efective in training people todo use Blender. With a limited initial skill set and a team with no game industry background, weve a los approached the Project very iteratively, improving the graphics and re-doing things when neded, our key art assets in Blender are the scenes. With indor locations, one Blender scene corresponds todo one game screen. Outdors, there might be several screens rendered from one Blender scene. For example, our station from the outside is a full 3d environment. One of the more important observations we made regarding the pre-rendered scenes is that including dynamic elements Will make them more interesting. We dont use Parallax scrolling, so we employ diferent sprite animations like snowing overlay, Glow from aurora borealis, subtle flickering on computer screens and so on. Illusion of depth is a los vital. Since the backgrounds are really just 2d pictures, they are projected onto hidden Low poly 3d geometry. The resulting character masking and shadows add todo the illusion very efectively. With hidden 3d geometry masking the pre-rendered background, a realtime character can walk around an object as if it was really in 3d space. Typical for adventure games, we a los rendered sepárate front masks for scenes.
One would initially think that working with such a well defined setting is relatively simple when it comes todo rendering. However, our scenes contain a high number of interactive and changing details, and are revisited in diferent parts of the game. On top of that, we have thre totally diferent lighting conditions: morning, Evening and night. Combined with relatively long rendering times, it has ben an arduous process. For example, if an artista forgot todo render a night versión for objects on the kitchen table, the error would be painfully obvious, all rendering was done with Blender own renderer. We went th rouge several other possibilities, but at the time none of them were integrated well enough into Blender todo use in a heavy Project without problems. For example we neded todo render Lots of sprite animations for the scenes with render layers and alpha. The scene renders were all mensaje processed in Photoshop. Luckily it has god Batch tools so mensaje processing the sprite animations was a los posible, the same scenes were a los used for Cut scene videos. The challenge was todo build the suspensé while adding visually dynamic content todo the game. Instead of elaborate storyboards, the team prepared test animatics for the Cut scenes phase of the Project which meant we already had a lot of the scenes done. This speed up the process considerably.
The Cut scenes in the game are not very long, but combined they total at over 12 minutes, so they were a big part of the Project for a small team.
With characters, the most significant problem was getting them todo wintermute. It uses the age-old DirectX format for models, and the Blender.x-exporter didnt sem todo work correctly. As usual, this meant some semi-Blind pipeline testing and frustration. If we got todo the point we could se the characters in wintermute, they always had some lighting and animation related glitches in them. After about two weks of testing, we ended up using Gandalf excellent. B3d exporter, and then converting them todo.x in fragmotion, the characters in the game are realtime with 3000-4000 triangles. Wintermute only supports Diffuse maps, so we had todo bake and Paint some lighting effects on the character textures. They are 2048x2048 resolution and were mostly Painted in Photoshop, but Blender texture Paint was a los used as it is excellent for clearing texture seams with the clone stamp brush, character animations were pretty straightforward todo do. We made one action strip per animation in Blender and combined the animations in fragmotion. Our characters are semi-realistic so the animations had todo be close todo a real persons movement. Animating the walk Cycles was the hardest part. We videoed our team walking on a treadmill for reference at a local gimnasio which helped a bit.
Im happy todo say that there not much todo do anymore. At the momento im writing this, we are implementing the localization kits - The game is todo be published in several lenguajes by a major Publisher. Our long, iterative process sems todo be coming todo conclusión, we Will definitely continúe todo work with Blender in the future, as it prueben todo have outstanding features and flexibility for indie game development, not todo mention the community support.