The original specs for RetroQuest called for 16x16 icons blown up to 32x32. In the very original version of the game (back before BYOND supported different any icon size that's not 32x32, and only had two resolutions for displaying them) I had to do this "by hand". The fact that BYOND could now do 16x16 icons and then stretch them in the viewscreen was a big part of why I decided to come back and restart this game.
Of course, I threw out any concept of a hard size limit almost immediately and made the character icons exceed the bounds of the tile. I liked the slightly larger level of detail this allowed, along with the effect of making them "pop" a little bit more out of the background.
As freeing as that was, the problem I ran into was with the elements that couldn't so easily be resized: the landscape turfs and the HUD elements that are meant to be in rows/grids. I had literally not given myself a lot of room to work with there.
And then when I was trying to refine the outdoor landscape turfs, I kept coming up with looks that would have worked out well if I had just a little bit more room, or if I could have made the tiles divide evenly into threes.
Added to this was the fact that my "larger than life" character tiles looked pretty snappy but made things confusing when a whole crowd of people are bunched up together... as happens frequently now that combat features multiple opponents in an enclosed space.
Then there's the fact that I've been rapidly running out of room to expand the map view area to accommodate the HUD features I want.
So I had the brainwave last night to just increase the base tile size to 24x24 and drop the "doubling"... that gives me a "discount" of 25% on screen real estate, gives me more whole factors to work with, and gives me more flexibility in designing elements that occupy a whole tile. There was a lot to be said for the idea, but I didn't do it right away because the loss of the super chunky pixels is a fairly major design shift.
I decided to sleep on it, and if it still seemed like a good idea in the morning to give it a try. The results... well, everything looks sharper when it's not being doubled in size, obviously. My main concern was that this would weaken the "retro" look beyond repair, but after playing around with it some I think the general low level of detail and faux monochrome display are enough to convey that.
I'm also pleased to note that having character icons that fit completely within the tiles (the body of a humanoid character is ~20x20, now centered within a 24x24 tile) works just about as well as having them pop out of the tile, for purposes of making sure they don't blend into the background... and better, when there's a crowd. There's always "daylight" between a character and a wall, or two characters. Equipped items can still protrude across tile-lines, but naturally they do so to a lesser degree now. It also gives a better sense of intended scale... when the character is smaller than the landscape tiles it seems easier to convey the idea of vastness. The one tile river seems less like a trickle and more like an actual obstacle.
And where before I was running out of room, now I can fit a 21x21-icon map view into my interface while only needing 15x15 for the actual map. That gives me quite a lot to work with.
This change does necessitate re-drawing/enlarging a lot of things, though not everything. Most items and monsters just need to be re-centered in a larger icon file. Larger monsters just need their offsets fixed. (I don't yet have a true "multi-tile" monster, just ones that visually break the bounding box in various ways.) A little tedious, but not like throwing out a ton of work.
Here's a glimpse of the revised graphics:
I'm not going to swear that the forest and mountains are finished but they're definitely more in keeping with what I'm going for than the previous, more rounded-looking ones. I think the reversion of them to an older style really helps preserve the intended feel of the game at this higher resolution.
Some of the HUD icons haven't been fixed yet, so you can get a visual comparison between the old size and the new size. None of them have been redesigned per se, just repositioned... the fast travel one in particular (the one that looks like a fast forward symbol chasing half a person) has some "room" for improvement now.
(I also note that the robe doesn't cover the "feet" of a tall character... I can't decide if I like that or not. I've considered giving it a more rounded bottom, which would easily fix that.)
Edited To Add:
I just realized another benefit of this shift. I tried experimenting with various text-on-screen solutions before, but gave up on them because I couldn't find a decent and appropriate font that looked when shrunk small enough to be at a reasonable size when doubled. With the doubling gone, I might be able to revisit that.
Edit #2: Okay, in response to feedback I've decided to put the intensity of the display in the players' hands old-school style, by giving you access to in-game "contrast" and "brightness" knobs. The exact interface isn't settled, but the settings will save at the account level so you don't have fiddle with the levels every time you make a character.
Aug 15 2011, 7:13 am (Edited on Aug 15 2011, 10:21 am)