Who Does What?Deimos was very much a team effort, made easier by a fairly clear division of labour. Sheryn was in charge of the design and creation of the background and interface art, and was responsible for the day to day running of the business (i.e. telling David he couldn't buy new hardware). David was in charge of the overall game design and programming, unit design, sounds and, eventually, sprite artwork.
Building the PlanetAfter experimenting with several graphics applications and methods, Sheryn chose Bryce 3D for creating the backgrounds. Although Bryce seemed ideal for creating 3D terrains, there were several challenges to overcome. Using Bryce for top-down rendering was unexplored territory and Sheryn had to develop some tricks and work around program limitations. Due to the large sizes of our backgrounds, the 3D Bryce models were huge. They were slow to load, slow to render (sometimes over 24 hours!), and tended to crash Bryce. Very sad after an all-night rendering session! Also, in order to avoid that distinctive "Bryce" look, it was important to experiment with new textures and methods.
Initially, the look of the terrain was to be based, in part, on altitude or satellite photography. However, we found that such images can be hard to recognise, or can look rather weird.
The lesson learnt was that copying reality is not always a good thing, especially in an arcade game. So the backgrounds took on a slightly abstract, even cartoonish look to them, fitting in better with the rest of the game.
The following picture shows the evolution of the terrain design over time. Backgrounds moved from being cluttered with trees, rocks and buildings, to a simpler look with broad areas of colour:
As the work developed, we realised that sometimes, less is more:
Another important change was an increased emphasis on shadows. Terrain height was exaggerated to produce stronger shadow lines, giving a better impression of height and contrast in an otherwise 2D image. Also, complex and visually jarring elements such as the roads were removed, and object textures were changed to better fit the environments.