When we set up to do Chromeras we had one word in mind: FUN. We wanted our players to enjoy themselves blowing up into fireworks. Preproduction testing showed us that we had the most fun with games when playing against each other. That’s the reason we embarked on the adventure of making a multiplayer game. This implied a lot of risk, being VFS’ first fully networked game. Here are some of the challenges I faced during production:
One rig to rule them all
The moment we decided Chromeras was going to be a multiplayer game, we immediately set for a four players. We had some troubles with deciding the final look for the characters, we knew we had a limited production time (3 months!), overcomplicated rigs would only get in our way, and there were four of them. Discussions ensued: “What if they have as few limbs as possible and custom animations? What if they are all the same just with different materials?”
At the end we set to have a common structure: same amount of limbs and similar body posture. I had an universal rig that I adapted to the different proportions of the four characters. The differences were in details like the tails: Periwinkle’s (blue) tail goes up and the end goes down forming an “s” shape, like a fuzzy squirrel. Nanners’ (yellow) tail is slim and spirals towards him, like a candy cane chameleon. Still they have the same amount of joins in their tails.
What’s most important is that a similar rig helped with saving time for the animations. I could grab one Periwinkle’s animation and apply it to Nanners, making the necessary changes to fit its shape.
The map to the rainbow
“Lag” and “unsynchronized” were the names of the monsters we feared the most during development. Having a game on the network means having to optimize every way you can: Cutting polygons over here, compressing images over there. We soon realized that the one thing that was devouring our frame rate was the multiple lights in the scene. And to no wonder, while trying to create player paths with lights, and keeping an interesting ambience, I got a little bit carried away...
“No problem, I could bake those lights". The performance of the game improved a lot. But we had another complication: Chromeras features four different modes, three of which use the same level. To differentiate these modes we changed the color scheme: blue, green and yellow. Now my current blue light set up looked nice with the green mode, but terrible with the yellow mode.
I change the hue of my lights for the yellow mode and baked again. With the help of our programmer Francisco, and level designer Harry, we had two different sets of lightmaps in the same level that changed with the mode.
Are we alone in the universe?
We came to a point where we were happy with our level and characters. But it seemed like our arena was in the middle of nowhere. According to the Chromeras lore, these creatures are part of a cosmic civilization that holds tournament to choose their king. I had to do something about the background to make it seem so, without using too many resources.
Skybox: After fighting with seams, I managed to stick six images together and create the starry sky.
Skirt: Differnet levels of depth composed with planes and geometry. The planes’ textures were renders of our arena. I mixed in some low poly geometry to make it seem less flat.
Planet: The planet’s original function was to help the players orient themselves. It also helped to bring more depth (and cover some seams). Both the planet and its ring have a rotation script to make them more dynamic.
Aurora Borealis: Composed of a few curved planes, with a transparent material. The impression of moment was achieved by offsetting the texture.