The Making of: Orbital Decay, Part 2

Insider 30 Aug , 2009 30

…or how to make the graphics (when you’re not an artist).

I planned Orbital Decay as a solo enterprise and making the graphics took most of the time: out of the 5 months it took for the project to finish, 3.5 were allocated for the graphics. I opted out for a retro-pixel art-“16 bit graphics” style, as a homage to that gaming era and because I wanted totalΒ  control for the details on the assets, a thing pixel art is good at for this small resolution (e.g. ports, turrets, hatches, etc).

For each ship, I followed, more or less, a routine: researching for a design (this included the general shape and the details, big and small), 3D modeled the shape and the rough details with Truespace, rendering a side view of the ship, then start editing at the pixel-level in Photoshop. The whole process usually took about a couple of days to a week, intricate ships like the Radiant Star or the Aru Destroyer took even more.

Here’s how this worked, in visually comprehensive but not exhaustive way:

Perspective View
Perspective View
Making of, frame by frame
Making of, frame by frame

As a side note, the design of the raider capital ships (the frigate and the carrier) date back a very-very long time ago – when we’re designing the Pure Power universe, submarine-shaped space-ships were supposed to fill the fleet ranks of one of that game factions.

Anyway, here’s the making of the raider frigate:

Perspective View
Perspective View
Frame by Frame
Frame by Frame

In the hind-sight, I feel that I should have kept more frames from the making of, they look pretty funny. And instructive too! πŸ™‚

On to the actual pixeling technique. After the side render was imported in Photoshop, I used “Levels” to cut it down to n (n was usually, 8, 12 or 16) levels. Then, I prepared one or more gradient palettes containing shades. For example, in the particular case of the raider ships, there were 2 gradient palettes, one for the base color (the orange) and one for the details (the grayish shade like the tail engine and other details). Then, the fill tool was used to fill each strip with the corresponding shade in the palette.

After the rough pixelated sketch followed the detailing with grates, bolts, channels and the whole lot of devices a starship is supposed to need πŸ™‚ Then, depending on the actual look, I took some time to add shadows for a more “volumetric” look – at this stage, I used the pixel-tool or even the brush, sized 2 or 3, with black or whites and alphas in fixed percent steps (25-50-75 or 33-66). I’m pretty sure the pixel-art purists will be horrified by the barbaric defacing using an alpha brush πŸ™‚

Designing the player ship, the Radiant Star, was a frustrating task. I experimented with a couple of designs, but the results weren’t offering a certain bulky-massive feeling I wanted to achieve. One of the earlier incarnations was looking like this:

Alternate Design
Alternate Design

After some more research, I settled on the carrot shape relatively similar to one of a Vaygr carrier from Homeworld game series.

As I said earlier, I’m no pixel artist, so along the actual graphics, I had to create a process to mutate the 3D skills to the pixel-art I was trying to achieve. In the end, I’m quite happy of the results πŸ™‚

Written by
Stefan Dicu
Owner of Piron Games and game developer.
COMMENTS #30
  • HeavenlySword

    the original shape is very sexy looking

    I loved the Homeworld games, and it comes through in the design

    Reply
  • Jack Beenstrock

    Very awesome! When can we expect this to be released, along with your tower defense game?

    Reply
    • Karg

      Orbital Decay is out in the wild for about half a year now. Its add-on may be released in a couple of months (though I’m also weighting the possibility to compact all the add-on features/story-lines in Orbital Decay 2) and the new TD (Born of Fire) will be out possibly in October.

      Reply
  • 31pm

    while the original one is good, the one in the game is perfect because it lets you know how damaged they are and how old and decrepid the ship is but you can tell though the dialog that they have no clue and are just learning about their misfortune to be in the wrong time altogether

    Reply
  • Jason

    when is orbital decay 2 coming out??

    Reply
    • Karg

      not anytime soon, i’m afraid. probably toward the end of 2010…maybe.

      Reply
  • Cannonski

    Loved this game when I played it on kongregate.

    I’m not sure why but it reminds me faintly of an old B-17 flying fortress sim oin the Commodore Amiga in the early 90s.

    Essentially one could take up any post on the plane (from gunner, to flight engineer to pilot), and could also manage crew resources to fight fires, navigate the plane, drop bombs, and even focus machine gun fire from certain areas of the plane in order to create an intense cone of fire against enemy fighters.

    Anyway I eagerly await to see the sequel.

    Reply
  • Kamil

    Good game im can whait when is orbital decay 2 coming out

    Reply
  • elvin

    this is the best game ever i cant stop playing orbital decay its awsome thx for making it
    for me i think its better than halo3

    Reply
  • orbital decay fan

    i like orbital decay 1 but before you finish orbital decay two here are some last minute sigjestion
    1when doing jumps the stars should streak bye and you should here an engine noise

    2 you need music

    3 you should make the sounds louder and you need to make the main cannon sound more powerful

    Reply
  • orbital decay fan

    oh and please post the game on kongregate its my favorite game website and one of the most famous in the world

    Reply
  • orbital decay fan

    oh and i hate to flood but CONGRADULATIONS!!!!!!!!! this is the first defense game that i have been able to play all the way through before i got extreamly bored it was thanks to the rapid change in enemy types and good storyline also i like how you didnt re use enemy types like putting raiders in the last act also another idea for orbital decay 2 counterstrike ability like send a wave of drones to attack the enemy base and thus reduce the amount of time before you reach the next chapter also you should be able to build mutiple types of fighters

    Reply
  • orbital dacay fan

    really good game, on the other hand the ship style is very similar to the homeworld series ships.

    Reply
  • Jarkeph

    need sekund parrtt

    Reply
  • Anonymous

    pls make the sequel soon pls I love orbital decay MAKE THE SEQUEL QUIKLEY PLLLSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • Robertistu.RO

    i love very much this gam but this need a continue (a hole on final of game is not end…he ned a realy end (30 chapters) pls create part 2)

    Reply
  • shooter52

    well its 2011 and you said it would be done at the end of 2010

    Reply
    • Karg

      hah…for a long time i was looking for a reason to say this. so here it goes:

      orbital decay 2: when it’s done! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      damn, now i feel like a rock star πŸ™‚

      seriously now, if you’re looking for tight release schedules, maybe you should try over at EA, Ubi, rest of the bigwigs. i’m just one guy releasing crappy games every now and then πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • whoami

    orbiatl deay 2s out

    Reply
  • shooter52

    whats ubi

    Reply
  • shooter52

    oh my gosh hurry it up ropedo

    Reply
  • Anonymous

    orbital decay u shound be the aru

    Reply
  • awsome guy

    stupid you said it wrong in orbital decay2 you should be the aru

    Reply
  • Deathoru

    Loved Orbital Decay, can’t wait for Orbital Decay 2. Any word on when it’ll be out?

    Reply
  • higuy

    when is it going to be out

    Reply
  • Anonymous

    i cant wait for orbital decay 2 to be made

    Reply
  • quilsnipe52

    hurry up please i really cant wait anymore u said urself it would be out in 2010 now its 2012 i cant wait any longer!

    Reply
  • Quickline

    Seriously,i am getting impatient. all your games are amazing.Just make another one with the name of “Orbital decay 2” πŸ˜€

    Reply
  • logan g.

    dear KARG, i love obial decay a lot, and becuse of it i have a dream to be a programer, just so i could make a sequel to this,and games that have no sequal when they should. but i see that you are all ready making a sequal, and i was very happy. you have a lot of talent. and i beleave you will go far. do not ruse the sequal. a rused game is a bad game, but plz, every now and then work on it. thanks.

    your beloved fan.

    Reply
  • Drago

    So, is this dead? I’d be really dissapointed if it was.

    Reply

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