Friday, March 25, 2011

Before and after screenshots

I haven't written anything recently, as I was busy porting Jigsaw Guru Free to Android. I have a lot to say about this experience, but before that, here is another post I've wanted to share for quite a while: the "before and after screenshots" comparison.

I suppose this is not something developers show very often, but I think it can be interesting to see how a game evolves during its development, and what a difference real content, as opposed to placeholders, can make (this article only talks about graphics, but this is the same for music and sound effects).

Some people have multiple talents, and can create the different elements required in a game (design, code, art, sound...) on their own. I'm not one of them, I was born a programmer, and all the art I can make is coder art with underappreciated colors. As soon as I started working on Jigsaw Guru, I knew I would contract somebody to make my game look prettier (which means I didn't even try to make my best coder art ever ;)), let's see the result.


Title screen

before

after

This is the title screen and main menu. The old background (top) was generated programmatically, by separating and randomly rotating the pieces of a completed puzzle, and using a different photo for each of them. At this stage of development, "best times", "credits", and "settings" were simply not implemented yet. "Support" was reusing the Help icon, since I didn't know what to draw. The round buttons (bottom) with little blanks and tabs making them look like puzzle pieces were the artist's idea.


Picture selection

before

after

This is the first rotating menu the player sees in the game. Having a background was always part of the plan, but the black border was not; this forced me to push everything (buttons, texts, photos) a little bit away from the sides of the screen, and you may notice the photos are a bit smaller. Lesson learned: don't put your UI elements too close to the borders of the screen, even if the platform you're working on doesn't have a "title safe area" like the Xbox360.


Puzzle screen

before
 
after
 
On the puzzle screen, I used a checkerboard pattern for the longest time as the background, and also in the piece browser on the left. Initially, this was because it wasn't easy to see the shape of dark pieces on a black background, or the shape of bright pieces on a white background, you get the idea. After a while, I added an outline to the pieces to solve this issue, but somehow the checkerboard remained, until only a few days before submission. You can also notice the 4 buttons are in a different place, when the photo is horizontal like here they move to the bottom of the screen so that they don't hide the picture.
 
 
Pause screen

before

after

I still kind of like the way the old version looked: even if the image was a bit stretched (from a 4/3 to a 5/3 ratio), it was nice to see it in full screen. But depending on the colors of the photo, the round buttons, and the texts under them, were not always very readable, and the old layout didn't work well with vertical pictures. And since the photo is smaller, I got some extra space to add tips, and encourage players to discover more features (such as the helps: I was under the impression nobody wanted to open that menu, maybe people feel like they failed if they use helps? Personally, I use them all the time!)


Helps

before

after
 
 Speaking of the devil... This is another rotating menu, that combined the problem of the photo selection one (UI had to be moved to make room for the border) with the checkerboard pattern of the puzzle screen.


Overwrite confirmation

before

after
 
This is an example of a false good idea: you're on the pause screen, you hit the save button to save the current game, and instead of replacing the pause screen, this confirmation shows up on top of it (if you didn't see it, look carefully at the 'before' screenshot: you can see the full screen photo, and the 'save game' and 'help' buttons, 'behind' the current screen). In the best case scenario, this doesn't make much difference, in the worst case, it's confusing and less readable (not to mention: inconsistent with the rest of the application).


That's all folks

Hopefully this post convinced you presentation is important, and there's nothing wrong with working with other individuals who are more talented than you, while you focus on the things you like and do best. Also, when you program menus and other non-gameplay screens, try not to use a black uniform background: once you replace it with something else, you might discover some UI elements or texts don't work well with the new colors or patterns, and you'll have to spend some extra time to fix them. Believe me, I've been there.

3 comments:

  1. Those look interesting. Keep posting.

    katelyn
    www.imarksweb.org

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this post. Keep it up. Hope to read more post from you guys.

    Wendy
    www.gofastek.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love it! Very interesting topics, I hope the incoming comments and suggestion are equally positive. Thank you for sharing this information that is actually helpful.


    ufgop.org
    ufgop.org

    ReplyDelete