Immersion through Technical Wizardry
Welcome to the Forgotten Lands! For those of you who still have no idea what that is - it is a place where everything that you’ve loved and forgotten about ends up. With that said, I want to reveal some memories to you that I have definitely not forgotton about.
This has nothing to do with any sort of zombies, world apocalypse, nor Brad Pitt (although at some point we did joke about making an endless zombie Anne destroyer game). As simply as it can be described: Forgotton Anne is a 2D side scrolling platformer, and is classified as a story-driven game. But make no mistakes here - there is much more happening behind the scenes. As the game was initially intended to be 2D, it ended up being something else - something way different than what is already out there. To be completely honest, the end result just came out of trial and error - just like an accidental happy coincidence. Okay, maybe an aimed coincidence. Our team never thought that the game would become ... “that”. But what exactly is this “that”? Let's break it down - 2D world, 2D graphics - just ‘X’ and ‘Y’. We always pushed for more and we always wanted to just try something else, something that made us happy. So right there, in that moment, we committed a crime - we implemented our 2D game into a 3D world. You read that right, there is a ‘Z’. Over the whole production period, the ‘Z’ conversation was a major topic when the levels were built. Some of you might think that I am just talking about 2.5D - but you are wrong. The whole world in Forgotton Anne is built entirely by two dimensional hand drawings, mixed into an extreme 3D setup. Think of the papercrafts that we all (or most of us) liked when we were kids - the idea is somewhat close to that.
As time went by, a key concept was constructed about how the game should work in terms of visuals. I remember being tasked with creating something that will group sprites and mark them to behave in a specific way. For better understanding - let us take a simple house and our character leaving that house. The problem here is: how would our artists and designers control this process so that they can create an immersion with the world? How would you, as the player, see the world through the eyes of the character. After some thinking, we came up with a solution for a universal system that would easily control sets of sprites - Global Shading Management. By the end of the production, this system became a monster. I will not go into technicalities of how exactly the machine works, but simply state that it allowed the design team to create both spatial perception and expression when changes occur in the environment. Almost all of the shaders are in-house baked, tightly connected with the shading system, and allow us to easily animate, adjust, and control everything that is on the screen for extremely short periods of time. I remember Halloween. Our art director made a few custom prefabs and changing the whole environment to accommodate those assets was just a few clicks away.
What has been truly amazing is that no matter how many challenges we faced, we always found a way to overcome them. We need crystals - we get ourselves nice looking refractive and reflective crystals. We need power running through pipes - we got that one too. With all of the particle effects, all the animations, and all of the hacky tricks we did, it has been one hell of a ride for us. We hope it will be one for you too when the game is out.