A Valley Without Wind 1&2 Catch-all

Gremlin wrote:

See, those look fine. In the video you can't see the paint strokes, plus it looks like there's some kind of fringing or blending issue on the edges of the sprites. Clicking through to the larger screenshots, they still look like a bit of a mishmash, design-wise: the colors and designs clash in the composition. Since it's the early stages of procedural generation I can definitely cut you some slack on that.

EDIT: and you posted a massive thing while I was still writing! Glad to see you're on top of the transparency thing; I think if you can get that sorted out it'll look a lot better in stills.

My thoughts exactly. I still don't care for the style, but at least I know that the quality is better than the video shows us. Thanks for the candor, Chris.

If nothing else, this thread got me to buy AI War.

Thanks for the kind words, guys. And my pleasure on stopping by. Thought you might find the latest dev journal entry to be particularly of note:

Figured out a lot of stuff today for improving the art, and actually improved the framerate massively while I was at it.  See above, and click for the fullsized screenshot (from the Unity Editor) if you like.

Instead of rendering quite so many short, tame grasses, I've taken the original renderings that I did and re-processed them at 4x the prior size, leading to a far more detailed (consistent with the rendered trees) look.  It's also something that comes up to the character's chest, rather than his ankles.  I figure that if these wild parts of the world are meant to feel post-apocalyptic and intimidating, the plants would really be taking over even more than I'd had them doing before.  And this is now much more like what I'd been imagining from the start, anyway.

The plants by the skyline are also similarly improved, and the alien-like strange reeds that pop up every so often near the cliffs in particular look even freakier.  I didn't re-render anything, I just went back to my source rendered images and then scale and post-processed them differently.  Even the post-processing is mostly the same technique, but it's applied in a slightly different way and has one critical new component: KillWhite.

Topaz Labs got back to me about their filters not working the way I want with complex transparent borders, and basically said that it isn't possible at this time, but that they'd talk to their dev team about it to find out if it's a possible new feature.  I thought that was quite fair, but needed to find a workaround (or permanent solution, even) in the meantime.  The Topaz filters work just great for things that I do want to keep the hard border on, of course -- objects and characters, for instance.  It's just when I want that painterly style all the way up to the edge of a plant that it gets troublesome.

But, KillWhite allows me to do the compositing and filtering on a plain white background, and then lift the white out afterwards.  When I have white elements that I need to preserve, I either have to have a duplicate layer for that part of the image (as with the birch tree trunks), or I temporarily invert the color of the object itself and then do the on-white processing, and then invert the color back (for the purple/white reeds shown above).

The end result is something that has the painterly styling all up to the edge, has much more natural edges in general, no longer has the white halo effect that makes it look like a magazine cutout, and has a graduated alpha feathering at the edge that gives the trees a slightly more three dimensional look.  Awesome.  I re-processed every plant and tree in the game using the new tools and technique.  As you can see in the screenshot above, the result is far superior.

We'll have a full batch of new screenshots later this week (showing off the first magic spell, too, actually -- among other new things), and I'm sure a new video, too.  But since there had been some concern over the other screenshots from some folks, I wanted to go ahead and share at least one new one early.

Since I was one of the ones to complain, I feel like I should say that my reaction to this screenshot is--awesome. I can get behind this art style.

Whoa that sure is pretty.

I want to say "sweet!" for the new screenshot and also "thank you!" for the KillWhite filter tip.

Changing the size of the grass makes things look much less empty. The place looks even trippier now.

The paint style is pretty interesting, and those HD screens look sweet. I stand by my earlier comments regarding specific imagery, but it's always nice to have a dev step out into the community, so welcome!

New interview on RPS.

To be expected, the comments on the art are brutal.

One of the comments that caught my attention, though, suggested that if the game looked like Alundra on the PS1, the game would be much better received right now.


While I don't know how that resonates with others, it definitely hit a chord with me. I loved the old NES and SNES Zelda games and would love that art-style attached to Arcen's ideas for AVWW. At the same time, I admire them for going their own way with the art direction, trying something different than the norm and something that falls within their skill set and budget. If Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress have proven anything, it's that gameplay trumps graphics.

God people are such drama queens. That RPS comment thread makes me want to give on humanity.

It's a weird style, but it's super early. The perspective is strange, but it will need to be seen how it works in game play.

And the people saying, 'Hey, it would be so much better with generic anime-style pixel art.' Ugh.

Thanks for the kind words, guys. And yes, the RPS comment thread is definitely unusually brutal (usually those guys love us, but what can you do). In terms of Alundra, I'm also a huge fan of that sort of pixelart look -- Chrono Trigger and FF6 are my two favorite games of all time, and I have a real soft spot for Zelda 3, also.

That said, the pixelart look has been done, done, done. And perhaps more importantly, it's a skillset I don't have in spades. I can do some pixelart, but I'm not great at it, and it's something where the pixelart has to be amazing to really work.

I'd also suggest that the screenshot for Alundra above would get the same bad reaction if you took out the HUD, the dogs, the detailing on the buildings, and the fountain. If all you had left were the trees and the grass and bushes scattered around, plus the occasional sidewalk and rough shape of one of those buildings... I think the reaction from folks would be that the graphics there stink. Which is not the case at all.

I guess something I need to remember is that while game designers are used to looking at things component-by-component and imagining how they will fit into the whole, many gamers are not. Maybe it's a bit too much "how the hotdogs are made" type of info at this stage.


I should also note that Alundra and AVWW share the exact same perspective, and AVWW is slightly more zoomed-out than Alundra. It's interesting how the change from pixelart to the painterly style shifts impressions of that sort of thing, given the comments about the camera being too close and/or the perspective being unusual. I'm trying to make a painterly, higher-res version of what used to be done via pixelart. I'm partly done. I thought the results so far have been pretty cool, but there have been varying degrees of disagreement around the Internet.

Bottom line is that I guess we'll see what folks think as the style evolves, anyway.

x4000 wrote:

Maybe it's a bit too much "how the hotdogs are made" type of info at this stage.

A very real risk. I tend to think of the RPS commenters as more sophisticated than most, but a lot of them seem totally shut down regarding the art, imagine this got to Kotaku? Gamers love to complain that everything is the same, but will lash out at anything that dares to be different.

I'm sure though that as things come together impressions will change.

I'll keep an eye out for it, definitely need to see more gameplay footage in action. As it stands though, I'm not particularly interested in the art style. The higher resolution images look nice, but just not my cup of tea.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

And the people saying, 'Hey, it would be so much better with generic anime-style pixel art.' Ugh.

I wouldn't say it would be better, just different and that a Zelda style brings back some happy gaming memories for me. I like that AVWW's style doesn't look like anything else out there. The problem is, a lot of gamers (myself included) judge games (pre-release especially) based on how they look because that's all we've got to go on. It can be a hard obstacle to overcome. Like I said above, though, good gameplay will almost always trump graphical style, which I've most recently discovered with Minecraft and Din's Curse.

Anyway... Hurray for indie devs, without whom gaming would just be a steaming pile of unimaginative sequels and fetid mediocrity.

AI War and Tidalis didn't push the right buttons for me, but this one does. Looks like a Day 1 purchase if the concept is delivered properly.

I saw this video clip linked on Arcen's Twitter feed a bit ago, they got someone's game stuck in their painting.

Even with only rudimentary gameplay elements included, the new video shows you a lot more of what they intend.

Regardless of personal taste there is no doubt that the art style of this game is unique and that's a wonderful thing. It reminds me a bit of "And Yet It Moves" with more robust assets.

So often we decry the lack of innovation in gaming and the cookie-cutter approach of big publishers. Here we have a game with a fresh art style and high aspirations for gameplay and people want to turn it into a SNES rom so it will fit into the ideas they have of what a game should look and play like. (note I am not singling THIS community out based on this thread, but that RPS link was just....ugh..)

I hope they can pull off the features they have mentioned. It really sounds like a great concept that is totally up my alley. I love exploring and I love the idea of the Dwarf Fortress style procedurally generated worlds. Sadly there is a dearth of these types of games. I find Dwarf Fortress far too labyrinthine and Minecraft just doesn't have enough game in it for me. I'm hoping AVWW can deliver a more casual than DF/less casual than Minecraft experience that allows me to explore and impact my own world.

At any rate I will be adding this to the pile because I really enjoyed AI Wars and I'm already sold on the concept.

Update time!

By the way, in addition to the Arcen blog, Chris keeps his own blog called Games By Design where he has a couple entries up going into a ton of detail about the ideas behind the game and the process of making it. Might be a bit too much for some, but I like the way Chris writes and thinks, so I love reading his stuff. Below are his two latest entries.



Wow, it's amazing to see how much they've done in so little time. I'll have to check out the blog posts, too.

It's amazing what a difference the shadows make. Whereas the first video seemed very flat and 2D, these new videos have so much more depth. I'm really digging the overgrown look and that windmill looked pretty awesome. I'd pre-order this.

ebarstad wrote:

It's amazing what a difference the shadows make. Whereas the first video seemed very flat and 2D, these new videos have so much more depth. I'm really digging the overgrown look and that windmill looked pretty awesome. I'd pre-order this.

Yeah, the shadows push it from "interesting" to "gorgeous". I'm not going to mind looking at this game while I'm playing it.

Latest video. (New spell looks pretty sick.)

Latest update.

Latest dev journal.

Another huge update from Arcen.

I'm excited about "Proper Character Animation Offsets". After reading what that means, I'm really really excited to see the character animations now.

It's amazing to watch this game develop -- and so quickly. I'm really glad they have stuck to their vision and art style for the game, too, as it it really looks great now.

Michael wrote:

Another huge update from Arcen.

I'm excited about "Proper Character Animation Offsets". After reading what that means, I'm really really excited to see the character animations now.

Hey! That's my job.

New video up:


The animations look a LOT better than before. The arm swinging seems a bit much, but overall it looks pretty cool.