What Does The Shining Look Like?
The other thing I said I would write about concerning the current development of Let’s Play: The Shining (which is going very well, thanks for asking) is the setting of the visual style as a way of making my way into being able to make the game. As it happens the visuals is a thing I really struggled with over the last few weeks, but then, on choosing a specific style, I found it incredibly easy to put together the required images. So let’s see… let me show you pictures. This could be embarrassing? Never mind.
I started off mostly doing drawings (in Pixen) to get some vague sense of how the screens could be laid out to encompass some sort of game play (this is obviously after having watched the movie and read the scripts and pulled out scenes in the first place). So these early images looked like this for instance:
In other words a pretty lazy throwing together of iconic bits and pieces with a garish colour scheme I was claiming to myself was “retro”. Looking back at it (and at, for instance, the Atari colours) I’m not so sure why I thought these colours were helpful. I was also pushing myself into a very low resolution which was leaving me pretty dissatisfied with what I could do – this was another misremembering of Atari games.
Eventually I went and played a bunch of Atari stuff and was reminded of a few things. Notably how much they mix resolutions and detail (e.g. the people in E.T. versus the buildings, say) and how their colours aren’t actually all gross like the ones I was using. In fact, I started wondering if I could actually make this game such that it served as a tribute to Atari games and their mechanics. Leading to something like this:
Yes, that’s the stairway scene with the baseball bat rendered as a version of Boxing on the Atari. I was pretty proud of this and I still think it would have turned out rather well. But in trying to commit to this idea of using diverse Atari games as reference points for different scenes, the whole thing felt like it got out of control visually – too much mixed style and colour. And further, I couldn’t always find an Atari game that made sense with what I was trying to do. The typing one was especially difficult, since relatively few Atari games focus on text.
At a certain point I made the kind of heartbreaking decision not to do Atari because it was simply diverting me too much from actually making the game. And it’s not just that it was “hard” (which it was), but much more that the trick of making different Atari-styled games wasn’t really contributing to making a game of The Shining specifically. So I made the executive decision to return roughly to the style of Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment, which is one I like, that is appropriately stripped back and somewhat Atari-like, but also feels fairly contemporary to me for whatever reason. (As a tribute to the Atari idea, I’ve been using the Atari palette.)
When I made that decision, and particularly the decision of what a “person” looks like, making the scenes for the game became rather straightforward. You draw the characters and then you just draw the environments around them based on their size and on reference pictures from the movie, while making sure to abstract away as much detail as possible without killing the settings. Leading to scenes that look like this:
And that’s the journey of the visual style for Let’s Play: The Shining! Here are some vaguely embarrassing other images (not in the final game) to round it out with so you can see just how terrible I am prepared to be!