Then and Now

If you’ve been following Loose Nozzles for a while, then you know that’s been in development for a long time. That’s had an interesting effect when it comes to the game art, and that’s what this post is about. Along the way I’ll give some behind-the-scenes info on the process of integrating hand-drawn art into the game.

Several months back, Ian saw the state of the upgrade screen – where you turn in coins earned on runs to add more seats, fuel tanks, shielding, and such to your ship – and thought it looked pretty drab. He went off with a clipboard, paper, and pencil, and came back with something he thought could make it better.

Initial Pencil Drawing

This cutaway drawing was impressively done, and carefully considered; note the instructions on the right for how different upgrades would be added or removed depending on the player’s load out – and looks nothing like something that a 5-year-old Ian would have done. It looks unlike everything else in the game; would that feel weird?

I decided that it was much more important to be honest to where we are, and be proud of how far Ian has come; if anything, this was a nice way to subtly nod to how long the game has been in the works. If I could find a way to blend between the older art and newer art, it might feel like an intentional transition.

So with Ian’s work done, my began. First was to clean up the art so address all of the eraser shavings, and too-faint lines. That brought us to this point.

Cleaned up.

The next step is to slice each upgradable component of the art into its own individual image, so that I can toggle them in and out of art in code. As part of doing that, I also flipped them from dark to light, so that we can present the schematic as a kind of blueprint.

Sliced ‘n Blueprinty.

With the art sliced, diced, and imported, the work moved to programming all the rules and behaviors to match what art is visible to the current state of the ship’s upgrades. In addition, there’s rules to swap between the traditional rocket art and the blueprint style, and between focusing on one rocket, and on all the available rocket “skins.” And creating visual flourishes and camera behaviors to smoothly draw the player’s attention from one mode or upgrade to another.

I track my work in Trello, and I ended up with a nice chonky tasklist for this one revision to an existing screen. If you’re curious how a task like this breaks down, here’s a look:

The result is captured in this video. I particularly enjoy seeing the transition from 5-year-old Ian’s art to 12-year-old Ian’s art. It warms my heart.

And with that in place, the game is one step closer to complete. Back to work!

— Chris

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