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Tutorial Game Aesthetics (How to make everyone swoon over your screenshots)
#1
I want to talk about what makes your fan game look good when you're putting graphical resources together. Even if your audience isn't exactly aware of why or how, having a unified artstyle is going to make to make your game stand out in a great way. Just because three different things both look awesome, doesn't mean they'll look awesome together; they'll usually weaken each other.


So what qualities define an aesthetic style?



Outlines

Some things to think about are how much emphasis each object needs. Typically, something stands out more if it's outlined at all, and will really stand out if that outline is in black. Knowing this, you can try styles like these:
  • Tilesets that are completely lineless. These really make lined characters stand out, but can also look disconnected from the characters for the same reason.
  • Mixed styles for different tiles. For example colored outlines on nature tiles like trees, but black outlines on buildings/other man-made objects.
  • Any mixed style can make for an easy way to show players what can and can't be interacted with. Like in traditional animation when you can tell an object is going to be interacted with by the way it's drawn.  Wink
  • Mixed styles for human characters, pokemon in the overworld, and objects in the overworld. All these are different, so why not highlight that difference a bit?
  • Using a more uniform style on everything will put less emphasis on specific objects and instead put everything on an even field for the player's attention. When using this style, it can make it even more rewarding for players to discover what objects you've made interact-able.
  • You can change up styles between indoor and outdoor maps, since those tiles won't normally be seen together. (Probably should keep the palettes though)


Shadows

  • Having solid colored shadows is an option, but if they're a light gray then they're not going to look like very good shadows.
  • Just having light colored shadows in general isn't a great design decision for most. Adding a slight gray tone over grass tiles or whatever doesn't exactly look like a shadow being cast.
  • You can change up styles between indoor and outdoor maps, since those tiles won't normally be seen together. (Probably should keep the palettes though)
  • You'll want to coordinate shadows with shading; if an object's shadow is indicating a light source on the left, make sure the shading is saying the same.

Shading

  • More complex shading takes more time to edit properly.
  • You might notice some rips gen 5 have gradient shading; the entire object is shaded, and it doesn't allways make sense for a light source. It's mostly person preference if you like having more colors or think it's muddy compared to more pixelized styles.
  • Simpler shading ususally lends to a more cartoony look.
  • A lot of lineless styles go for more complex shading, and these things combined might be described as a more realistic look. When lineless styles have simple shading, they can sometimes look too flat.
  • You'll want to coordinate shading with shadows; if an object is shaded with the light source on the left, make sure the shadows do the same.

Proportions

  • Of course not every character needs to be the same height, variety is great! But there still need to be some standards.
  • Head size is usually a constant. Just putting a head on a smaller body can make a character more childlike.
  • If a building has multiple storeys, they don't need to all be the same size as the ground floor, especially if the ground floor is a size for the player to enter the building; you can cheat the upper storeys much smaller.
  • Because the door is where a player interacts with a building, it's a good reference point for designing the rest of the building.
  • For the above reason, comparing door sizes is usually an easy way to tell if two buildings are the same scale.

Palettes

I'm personally very bad at this, so I'll try not to preach much here  Sick
  • Mostly this is something you need to get a feel for yourself; there are calculable reasons why certain colors/hues/shades go well together, but there are many different ways to go about making a palette.
  • A palette can be a very distinguishing feature for any artstyle, and if you're making graphics yourself it's usually best to start here and decide the other aspects after.

Mood Lighting and Music

Doing this well really adds a beautiful polish to your game.
  • I personally am a great fan of using fogs. These are a popular choice for making your forest darker, but can be used for other things
  • Even if you don't want to use fogs, just take a look at different different tones and think about what would work best for your project.
  • As for music, most people already know that it can set a mood on its' own. I just didn't want to skip over it when talking about aesthetics.
  • Think about a scene of the player walking up the staircase to the champion battle for the first time. With that same scene, music can make the player feel brave and adventurous, or instead tense and reflective. Will the champion's battle music make it a ceremonial battle between a champion and challenger, or will it be a high energy clash between rivaling skills?
  • Special note: I think something often overlooked in fangames is having a special musical intro play when the player has been spotted by a trainer. With all the nonsensical things a trainer can say before battle, it's just a nice cue to the player that a battle is about to start. (this thing I'm talking about is mentioned briefly in the Structure of Trainer Events, please do check it out.)

Animation

  • Movement draws the eye and makes things seem more lively.
  • Adding movement to pokemon characters- inside battle or in the overworld- can really add personality to them.
  • Water is commonly animated, but I'd say that you don't have to animate pond water. Ocean water, or using a water tile that clearly has waves? Kinda weird if it's not animated.


Quick Mentions

  • Your personal mapping style; Do you like trees in straight rows, or staggared? Are you the type to place small decorative tiles everywhere, or keep things simple?
  • Overall UI design
  • Screen size; can be more rectangular, a square, or imitate a dual screen.
  • Anything regarding speech bubbles; using colored text to your advantage, having them scroll or align differently for reading signs versus talking to characters, or choosing to add something like transparency or little speech tails to them.

Alright here's the part where I get wordy
I recommend making a set of rules that define your aesthetic. Specific ones. Now you don't ever have to write them down or tell anyone (unless they're making something for you, then please tell that person), but keep them in mind when making or editing resources. What do I mean by rules? Well here's a set as an example:
  • Overworlds are 5th gen style.
  • Palettes are taken from HGSS.
  • Buildings and other objects get colored outlines, but flat things like grass and water are lineless.
  • Shadows are pure black, and go to the bottom and right of their object.
The point of having rules is to just be aware in case any style mixing happens; otherwise you end up with a pile of objects that don't match each other all on the same screen. Even if formally making rules isn't your style, please just keep the qualities I listed in mind.


As allways, please point out if I've missed anything, I'll want to add it in!  Smile
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#2
That was pretty thorough, nice work. If I had to sum it up:

Quote:[Image: bb8URaR.gif]

If you're using graphics from the actual games, try to not do trans-generational stuff. The graphics in FRLG were originally designed to look good with the graphics of FRLG, the graphics of BW2 were meant to look good with the graphics of BW2. Even mixing the different universes of the same generation don't always work out too well - the color palette of HGSS is noticeably different from the color palate of DPPt.

But on the other hand, I make a lot of design decisions without really being able to explain why, so maybe I'm better off trying to learn from other people for a while. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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#3
So... my general method of "eh, that looks passable" won't cut it any more?
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But that lemonade will taste like crap because life doesn't give you the sugar and the water.
2052
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