Evolving the graphic style

Hey all, we wanted to bring up something we've been doing some work on in the last days. We've taken a look at the graphics in the game, and we concluded that while it looks ok, it also feel a bit dated, disjointed, and dull. It's a general feel of discomfort which personally I have had for a while, but I didn't know what to improve. And we don't want the game to "just look ok", right?
So, we've contacted one of our internal graphic artists who gave us a few interesting tips. Never discount an opinion using fresh eyes!

Some of these are a legacy of the intention to bring exactly the same style as the concept art into 3D. Unfortunately as it's often the case, what works in 2D not necessarily works 1:1 in 3D.

Even though we're pretty set in implementing some of them, we wanted to bring it all in a thread so you can give your opinion too before the new look is finalised.

Here's a few of them:
- The main one: removing the outline. He immediately pointed out that the characters feel like they don't belong, that they are overimposed on the 3D world almost as if Photoshopped. Now I cannot unsee it either! The issue becomes particularly bad at lower resolutions, but the lines are thick enough at full HD.
Here's a comparison of the game with and without outlines:


(ignore the blue shadows in the second shot)

Also an image comparison, taken from Full HD:


  • Putting colour in shadows. He suggested putting some hues of blue inside shadows, both in the characters and in the environments. This creates a nice contrast.

  • Removing some shadows from the faces of characters. He was mainly talking about the townsfolk, who look very menacing. This is because the toon shading, being a hard cut, brings a big part of the face into shadow. Plus, we don't have GI on the realtime objects so there are no bounces so they are less lit than in real life. For this, I moved the "needle" of the gradient in the toon shading more towards the blacks, which brings more of the geometry into the lit side. So the shadows are always there, but they are a bit less overall.

  • Making the black shadows less dark. For this, I made them just very slightly not black, and added some blue to them too. It's very hard to see and it depends on the colour the shadow is on top of.

Here's a comparison again:

6977171--822923--PreviousGradient.jpg 6977171--822926--NewGradient.jpg

  • Another suggestion he made was to not have the game in full bright daylight, to be able to play with lights a bit more and give value to the fires we have. We talked about the idea of setting the game in different times: as the player arrives on the beach, it would be full daylight (scenes Beach and Glade). When it moves into town, it will become dusk or afternoon, so there will be less light... maybe a sunset? In this case the festival would be set at that time, and the Forest areas. For this, the player wouldn't be able to go back to the beach (this would need to be taken into account in the story and quests), otherwise it's as if time would go back.
    For the final sequence of him leaving the island, it could be set on the beach again but at night. This would create some nice contrasts and position the adventure in the space of a day. Thoughts?

  • Finally, we need to pimp up some assets and some textures, which right now display a bit of a disjointed style. This will be done in time and on an asset-by-asset basis.

With some of these changes, it might be hard to take them in straight away, since we all got used to this style for 7 months. My suggestion is to take a look, step back, and come back to these images with fresh eyes.

Hope you like these changes and ideas.


Outlines: I agree that the characters look like they don't belong. Could it be because the rest of the world (trees, rocks, props, etc.) are not outlined?

Here's a screenshot of Borderlands, and the characters don't look too out-of-place. I think it's because the rest of the environment is outlined (it looks like the exceptions are the mountain and grass):

If the environment won't be outlined, then I think the characters shouldn't be either.

Shadows: I like the more bluish shadows of the second screenshot. But they seem to have become "hard cut" on the characters. I like the softer shadows of the first screenshot.

Lighting: I also like the idea of varying the sunlight. I think it would make the game more interesting. But instead of tying the sunlight to a scene, how about tying it with their quest progression?

The light could still change only between scenes or between cutscenes (so it's not confusing to the player), but only if they've progressed to certain points in the game. This way, they could go back to the beach whenever they want, but the light won't change until they've advanced in their quests. In any case, I think the beach at night would look awesome. :)


I really like these changes. These changes remind me of how some players for older 3DS Pokemon Games(Sun and Moon) removed all the pokemon outlines. With us evolving the graphic style, will there be a task to retexture or even remodel some of the assets? I'm also thinking that since we are changing the graphic art-style, we should edit the Art Contribution Guideline Document for new contributors.


So maybe we should define an overall color harmony after all. There is quite a range of blue between turqoise and violett. Apparently the latest UI-orange is hue 28, so for the perfect complementary contrast we should use hue 208 (=28+180) in the shadows. This is what the colors in this complementary harmony look like with different brightness and saturation:


This would require us to change the sky color slightly - it currently is around 217. Since we might work on the sky anyway this we might not be a big deal. Alternatively we can define our color harmony around the sky color, which would be 37-217. This would mean we either accept the UI is slightly off or we tune the UI more towards yellow, which I assume to be a higher effort. 37-217 would look like this:6979802--823361--ColorPalette37-217.png

Personally I can’t say which one I would like more. It would be good to have some more opinions.

This guy has some great ideas.

As far as I understand he uses our toon shader in it’s current form. What do you mean exactly is the great idea?

I actually like the outline, but I remember I was intuitively putting on everything, not only characters. I also think it is rather a question of consistency. Either everything should have an outline or nothing, we possibly might have thinner/less black (when going below 1 pixel) outlines for objects further away from the camera, to avoid the outline consumes too much of objects that are further away.

If we decide to drop the outline, we will also have to review the textures for inner black lines.


I meant that there are more pins by him and he is presenting solutions to common challenges faced by game devs.

I also find this a game made by two people

This has the zeldaesque aesthetics as well.

Is there something like a “zeldaeske” aethetics? Over the years Zelda has had hits and misses concerning aethetics.

The trailer you linked there I consider of questionable style - or rather it actually hasn’t a clear style. The characters are cartooblike including flat colors and outline, the background uses no outlines and is on top of that painted with fluent color gradients. No doubts the background is somewhat beautiful in itself but it makes the characters look cheap.

Honestly I’ve seen some games where the outline works. One example we were taking as a reference in the beginning was DragonBall Z Fighters, but maybe one mistake we made is that in that game, the characters need to stand out from the environments because the action can become really frantic, and seeing them is really important. Plus, they always move on a 2D plane so that creates a nice detachments between foreground/background. In our game, a dynamic character could be in the distance, half covered by a rock, and then it can look a bit strange.

Personally I find the style of Borderlands a bit heavy! Lines EVERYWHERE! My eyes! :smile:

We could try, I don’t know how it would feel because we’d have to come up with a quest which kind of makes you think about the passing of time, since when the pig does it, time moves forward :smile:
Something like a big task (which wouldn’t be shown on screen though?)
Having it as a consequence of moving is a bit simpler to implement, as it looks just as if the island is big enough and it took some time to get to town.


Just a note, it’s a she.
And no, I don’t think she’s using our shader, Joyce is used to code shaders by hand, plus she started the development of her game way earlier than Chop Chop existed.

Oh come on, their style is super cool! I think it works really well. I don’t think the characters look cheap at all, in fact they’re incredibly detailed. Maybe one thing that is a little under budget is the animation, which contrasts a bit with the over-the-top and energetic voice acting. But as you said, it’s a game made by a small team so what they achieved is already sensational in my opinion.

And yes, given the many Zelda that existed, I wouldn’t say they have zeldaesque aesthetics, they do have a rim light light Breath of the Wild and two-tone shading, maybe that’s what @aby_gamemaker was referring to.

Here's a small preview of what is coming in terms of graphic improvements. New skyboxes, light conditions, and the changes described in the opening post of this thread. Will soon be pushing all the changes to main and other branches.
(also new fire)

7022296--831592--1a.jpg 7022296--831595--1b.jpg 7022296--831598--1c.jpg


Another angle:

7022302--831607--2a.jpg 7022302--831610--2b.jpg 7022302--831613--2c.jpg


Hey all, the "new graphic style" has landed in main! Hope you enjoy the changes.

I also worked a bit on a new shader for the stones, more details in the shader thread.



Having some color variation on the grass and trees would help making the scene more interesting as well. Currently is very homogeneous.