Lately, as I mentioned, Donhonk and I have been ballsing around with a new project. So far, we don’t know what the project actually is, and that is super exciting, so much so that we’re almost trying not to find out. We’ve had hours of conversations about immersive sims and crazy David Lynch films and Interstate ’76 and Hitchcock and The Last Express and the works of Brendon Chung and Wolfenstein 3D and ludo-narrative dissonance (you can scoff, but Clint Hocking coined it, so forget you) and Quake 1 and Harvey Smith’s novel Big Jack Is Dead and Adventure Games and Twin Peaks and The Good Old Days and all kinds of shit. That doesn’t tell you Thing #1 about what we’re doing, but maybe it tells you something about our inspiration? Maybe. We’ve talked over a whole bunch of game ideas, at times feeling like we’ve found The Thing We Want To Make and then rethinking it the next day, and it’s fun as balls. I just spent over a year focused pretty much on one large, planned-out thing, so this is cathartic, and I’m not feeling a lot of pressure to decide what the Next Thing is yet.
The one thing that is completely static about this mystery project is the art style, which is actually what kicked the whole thing off. Donhonk has been talking for a while about his love for the blocky low-res unfiltered look you get in things like Quake 1, and I dig it too. I also love the low-poly, unsmoothed meshes in Interstate ’76, with their untextured faces and solid colours.
I looked into how to make the unfiltered-texture thing happen on UDK. It turns out it’s easy, and the unsmoothed-mesh look is just a matter of not smoothing stuff, so after a couple of experiments we pretty much have the look we wanted. By conventional standards it looks terrible, but in a way that we love. It looks like my inaccurate memories of the games I played as a kid.
The best thing about making things in this style is being able to quickly and easily make an asset and move on. The highest-res texture we’ve used so far was 256×256, and the lowest probably 8×8. It’s surprising how much detail you can pack into so few pixels when “just enough” is all you need. This is a scene we threw together in two hours (disclaimer: I had the tree meshes leftover from Shotgun Sunrise).
I like how aggressively, confidently bad these are.
I think it looks great, as good as it would ever need to. Possibly too good. I may down-res some textures. But mostly I feel good that an idea jumped into my head and I was able to get it on a screen in a couple of hours from nothing. After the amazing age of Half-Life 1 modding, I was always disappointed with the relative scarcity of Source mods, and I’m sure this was a big part of it. A style like this means we don’t spend time getting the specular just right on this wall, or tweaking the vertex animation on the other elaborate foliage material. We just make a thing, and then we make another thing.
Now to decide which thing we’re making…