It's been a while since I've put a full update on the state of Them Bones on the Pure ZC forums (if you want excruciating in-depth updates in real-time, check out the BoneZone channel in the Z-Zone Discord group!), but after a month-long break from ZQ and a flurry of new content, I feel like it's the right time to put together another teaser. Strap yourselves in Pure, we're going to the Sea of Stars... and also back in time to Glow Up some of Them Bones' awkward formative screens.
One of the main themes for this update will be the idea of voids; those wonderful unwalkable places outside of the player's reach. I've seen too many classic screens that fill a screen with a bunch of cliff tiles and a mass of water and some trees and call it a day --- so one of the design imperatives for Them Bones is "If there is going to be a void on the screen, make it interesting: no boring voids." The literal void of space that you see in many of the screenshots at the edges of the map was a simple solution that came about relatively early in the production cycle in reaction to my first screens being over-reliant on water tiles (it's a river delta, so sort of unavoidable), but over-relying on that gimmick would eventually turn it into yet another boring void; so in addition to the chasms dropping out into space, I've had to improvise a few other mapping techniques to keep things fresh. While I was building the ruined city for the new area, I was messing around with layered buildings and structures, one of which was an aqueduct. Since the city was an ancient ruin I modified some brick tiles to be shattered and set a few of the screens up so that the water flowing through the aqueduct would flood different areas, including an entire district of the city. Unfortunately this conceit had the unfortunate side-effect of obfuscating more screens with a massive amount of bright blue classic tileset water tiles. There was only one solution without scrapping the entire idea: transparent water. This change of design required a few sacrifices, namely layer 2 (and layer 5 on screens with aqueducts) had to be dedicated to transparencies. Since water combos don't function on layers, I made a suite of custom tiles for detailing areas underwater that were, in function, the real water, and used the layer 2 "water" tiles as a simple layer mask. This design choice opened up a new avenue for creating interesting voids, allowing me to go back to maps I had made early in the project, lousy with opaque rivers, and make them interesting to look at. So with this novella at a good stopping point, here's what you all really came here for: sweet sweet content!
---Part 1 Sea of Stars---
Strolling into town
Hasn't been revised yet to fit the new style, but still a cool shot
---Part 2: Revising screens from the first week of Them Bones---
Taking the transparent water from the new map is only one half of the stylistic changes going on at them moment: I've also created a set of custom tiles to blend different ground tiles together more seamlessly. I'm not afraid to admit that I was absolutely trying to invoke Super Hydlide with the pointillist spew of different ground tiles scattered about my screens. I've chilled on that approach, mostly because of the very few tiles that work effectively when creating a gradient color ramp. I'm aware that this is leaving traditional classic screen design and going into the realm of modern tilesets. I started revising my ground tiles earlier tonight while I was finalizing some of these redesigns. This style of ground will be retrofitted onto every screen I've made so far, so it's a bit of a project. Definitely worth the trouble though.
Boring voids, confused sense of depth. Actual trash, but be careful of who you make fun of in middle school...
... because they might just glow up. Opened up the lower pathway a bit. Terraced the cliffs to create a better sense of depth: the void is no longer boring.
Boring filler. showing growing pains from when I was still trying to figure out creating layered cliffs. Large boring void in the bottom left corner. random off-cset water tile.
Layering the water allows for more detailed void. cliffs brought up to the current standard consistent with the style of later maps. Cset 5 purged (cset 5 is being completely purged from the world map)
Iconic, classic, literally the first screen I made coming back to ZQ after not touching it for 15 years. Also sort of rough.
No boring voids to get rid of, but the new layered ground detailing does wonders for the chaos of the first shot, and also allows me to seamlessly transition csets.
Solid first attempt at no boring voids. Still not up to snuff. screen #3 chronologically
Fixed up the cliff layering. The underwater detailing really shines.
Edited by TheManHimself, 26 July 2021 - 09:38 AM.