As you may or may not know, we’re going to try to show off the new SpyParty artwork in-game at PAX Prime, August 30th through September 2nd, dates which are closer than they appear, and they appear pretty damned close! I’ll post more about PAX in a bit. On the run-up to the show, we’re going to start releasing videos of the new characters animating every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, starting today!
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The new art will be “limping along” at PAX in a single map, more like a tech demo tacked onto the side of the game than a competition quality map at this early date. The old art, which may be ugly but is very tuned and balanced for competitive play, will live on for quite a while as the main maps for real games. The new art will go in as we get it working, with very limited missions available at first. Initially, it’s just going to be the conversation animations, bugging the Ambassador, and checking watches. More missions will follow as John gets the animations done!
If you’ve joined the beta, you’ll get to see the new art come together and go from “neat tech demo” to “fully playable level” as we update it. You’ll also get to help me find bugs in the new renderer and post in the forums about how OP the old black guy with the cane is! I’ll probably update the public beta build with the new art right after PAX.1
Like the new environments we revealed last week,2 all the characters shown in the first art reveal last year were rendered with full raytracing and global illumination and antialiasing and other fancy settings that make them take hours to render. The stuff we’re going to show in these animations is all rendered in real time on my two-year-old laptop. There will be some hiccups, I’m sure, but my goal is to keep the minimum spec machine for SpyParty as low as possible; I want as many people to be able to play the game as I manage.
I will talk more about the aesthetic goals for the animations as we go on, but at a high level, we want the animations to have that same “illustrative” quality we’re going for across the SpyParty art style. We don’t want them to be too realistic or motion-captured, which I think leads to a bit of a dead look; these are all bespoke hand-animated movements. At the same time, we don’t want them too exaggerated or cartoon-y, so we’re using reference videos of people doing similar motions so we can anchor ourselves with plausibility as we get a grip on the style. Hitting just the right tone and avoiding the uncanny valley on one side, and cartoons on the other, takes constant vigilance and attention to detail across every aspect of the visuals, from pixel quality to the movements.
The first animations are of two of the characters talking, so we looked for reference of people lecturing, giving monologues, or just conversing in a stylish way. We haven’t chosen in-game names for the characters yet, so we’re going to name them by letter for now, which sounds all spy-like and mysterious, but is mostly us just not knowing what else to call them. I’ll probably involve the community in naming the characters when it’s time for that; I did that for the old characters and we got some really great spy fiction names.
Hope you like them as much as we do! I felt kinda bad putting the old characters in there for comparison, but it had to be done. You can defend their honor in the comments!
- It’ll almost certainly have bugs and performance issues, and I can’t afford the time right now to fix those bugs before the show, hence updating after when I can actually do something about it when it all breaks for people with different graphics cards. Yay PC games! [↩]
- Yes, I still haven’t posted those shots to the blog, I will do so this weekend, but here are some awesome news stories about them: kotaku, destructoid, polygon, rockpapershotgun, joystiq [↩]