First, here is what I had to start with, shown here with the old background for context.
I started with the fireplace.
The issue with the old one was that it didn’t fit well with the geometry of the play space (it stuck out from under the walkway for some reason, which didn’t make sense as far as the perspective was concerned), and it didn’t look very impressive given that it was the centerpiece of the room.
When I started out with this project I was working with MS-paint level computer drawing skills, and zero painting/drawing skills in general. I didn’t know the first thing about layers, or shadows, or how pixels look from a distance, etc. But I learnt a few things as I went along. First, that it is very helpful to have some references. So I started researching to get an idea of what I wanted to achieve. You can see here that I’m going for a nice wide chimney, that is recessed into the wall. I’ve also made the mouth of the fireplace almost twice as large, and put in some obvious supporting stones.
The next step was to add in some detail to the stones themselves.
Then I gave the stones some color variation, a bit of shadow and texture, and then finished off with some soot at the mouth, with a metal grill. It still needs a bit of fixing at the bottom, where it connects with the ground, to make it look more integrated (rather than floating).
Finally, I had to incorporate fading to the fireplace sprite, for when the player enters the four different bedrooms which are partially behind it.
Tables and Benches
The old tables were also clearly not going to hack it. Worse than the fireplace, these guys were drawn directly in the image editor which comes with gamemaker! This time, I would be doing everything in GIMP, before shrinking it down, cleaning things up, and slapping it in the project file. To keep the look cohesive, I re-used a slightly different shade of the same wood texture I created and used for the new walls, walkway and stairs.
In the image below, the above version is what I arrived at initially. I wasn’t very happy with the standard though, and came back to it later, which you see below. Each of the four tables has its own little unique details regarding damage, markings, etc. They are also tailored to better fit the perspective of the room.
The benches likewise received a new look to match. The above is actually already the improved one, compared to the original! But as with the table I thought it needed more work.
And here they are as a set.
The old woodpile also needed updating. This time I would have the wood actually piled-up, leaning against the wall of the fireplace. If I ever decided that there wasn’t enough wood stored in one woodpile object, I could flip the graphics and have two piles, one for each side of the fireplace.
Like the old version, the neat thing about this, and what made it so time-consuming to do, is that it is actually a sprite with 42 sub-images, one sub-image for each piece of wood. This allows for the player to actually see the pile grow or shrink as pieces are added or taken away.
The bar was similarly made with the in-game image editor originally. It was also made out of several different interlocking pieces, as my make-shift way of getting around some problems I had back then. With a bit more knowledge now, it was clear I could just go ahead and make a simple, single image.
In the end I toned down the redness, to make it fit in better with the other furniture, as you can see in images further below.
What I now needed was some new tankards to put in the top shelf. I had decided that the bottom shelf would be used by the player for storing different types of spirits. Again, the old tankards didn’t hold up too good, being drawn in game maker.
Much better. To be fair, I drew the one on the left when I was only a matter of weeks into my project, at the start of 2015. Just goes to show what you can achieve with just a bit of technique and some experience.
Actually, I started out with a much larger image.
Why do this? Firstly, because, again, I had learnt that you get a better result when you use a reference image, and I wanted to get the shape right. But also, I understood that I might want a larger version of the tankard for other purposes (for example, to use in different GUI images, or menu pictures). You can always shrink down from a large image to various different sizes, and tweak the image to fit your needs. Working back upwards though is really not an option, so you are forced to start again. This means you wont have a consistent look throughout.
With the new tankards done, I could make a sprite overlay for the shelf, with lots of sub-images to show how full the shelf was.
This could then be overlaid with some shadow to make the colors pop a bit less.
The barrels also required a complete rework.
On the left are the originals. Yikes! The middle are the high-res versions, and the in-game ones are to the right. They look a bit blurry there, which did worry me, but in they look fine in game as you can see in the next image.
Here’s the old trapdoor, alongside the new door I made for the new bedrooms (I can talk about the doors some other time though!).
So, pretty basic.
First thing I wanted was a proper cellar entrance, that looked like you could walk down into it. So again I had a look at some references, and then came up with this.
Note that it fits with the flagstones on the floor properly. On top of this, the trapdoor would be drawn.
Here’s the trapdoor in action.
And here is that same cellar GUI with the new barrels.
So, all in all it was a fair bit of work. A new fireplace, new barrels, new tankards, new trapdoor, new woodpile, new tables and new benches. When taking into account all the furnishings, revamping the look of the play space was a really massive project. And its not finished yet! What is still missing compared with the old inn is the light and shadow. Shadows under the walkways and stairs, the old shading system for when it gets dark, and functioning candles and fire. Of course, I need to balance all of that with actually bringing back in some mechanics at some point!
That said, the good news is that going forward I’ll have a firm base to work on. The updates were never about just making things look pretty, but about improving how things fit together, work together. Knowing that I am working with what is more-or-less the final graphics and the final sizes of the images lets me do things that I couldn’t really do when it was all just at the stage of a mock-up. For example, when it comes to adding lighting effects, I now I have new opportunities for improvement. I’m going to be able to experiment with baking in some of the lighting detail to get some really nice effects happening, because I know that any time spent doing that won’t be wasted, as they will make it into the final game.