Indie Game Developer’s Diary – In-game Objects & Props

We have used last few weeks of development to come up with many in-game objects like crates, crystals, rocks, pipes, ventilation shafts, etc. You know, all the little things that you barely notice during the gameplay unless you are able to smash them :) But combined, they create that unique look and feel of the game. A proper platformer is full of such objects. Each takes only a few hours to develop. But when you start doing the math, few hours per dozens of objects will give you a lots of time! So, what does it take to make such a small prop from start to finish? Here are few steps:

  1. Design decision. Does having this object in game make it more interesting or nicer? If yes, go for it. If not, don’t do it. To maximize your output, each object should be used more than 3 times in a game. Ideally, have variants – smaller, bigger, curvier, old, new, damaged, in various colors.
  2. Search for an inspiration. A little research time. Search some keywords and images on the object you have only in your mind. Or sketch it down. It doesn’t matter if you end up with something totally different since you have to start somewhere. So start ASAP and let’s see where your creative process will take you…
  3. Model. Now some skills are required to create a 3D model. We use open source tool Blender (http://www.blender.org/). Mind the number of polygons, especially if you develop for older devices. Almost everyone can make a decent-looking object with hundreds of thousands polygons. But can you make it with 500? Or even 100? Worry not, if you develop with e.g. Unity, there is a store for objects. Costs money but saves time – your decision.
  4. Textures. To give your object the final look, you need to apply some surface textures. A word of warning – be reasonable with texture sizes and don’t use (large) textures on what will not be seen in game. There is a huge difference between desktops and mobile platforms. On desktops, almost everything is possible. You can have many materials and you can utilize various mappings that will make your models look as close to the real thing as possible. This is usually not the case for mobile platforms, well, unless you want to bring to players a slideshow instead of high frame rates :) Hint: you can buy object with textures already applied ;)
  5. Putting it all together. All done? Well, let’s see it in action. Under different lightning, in motion or next to other objects in scene, you object might not be as stellar as you expected. No problem, just go back to step #3 (or even back to #2).

 

And all this effort just to create a small object that your hero will run around and you will barely notice it? Well, as a wise man once said: “Perfection is many small things done well”.