(PART TWO is HERE)
We have been working on Strange Days for just over 3 years. It has not been a continuous process, there have been breaks while we focused on other projects, but total time to date is around 3 years.
It has been a long process, and expensive too, as during the development time everything has been self-funded. So, what is Strange Days?
Strange Days is a Unique Action RPG!
You are the new kid in town, having just moved to the town of Newton with your family, ready to start a brand new life. However, this is no ordinary town, something very strange is happening, something terrible, something ancient and evil!
The insidious Disciples of The Infernal Church are taking over the town!
The town kids are going missing… the Altar of Infernal Evil has been hooked up to the electrical grid, zapping the kids into scary movies and video games, where the old Demonic Gods feed off their terror!
Travel to a range of different sub-game worlds and genres to rescue the kids;
top down shooters, isometric puzzle RPGs, first person 3D levels, platform worlds, and even text adventures! Variety, good gameplay and lots of fun.
Combining beautiful pixel art and retro 3D, Strange Days is a vast action RPG full of non-stop action & adventure, a lot of heart, and a touch of horror!
I’ll continue in the first-person now, as to be honest, it has mostly been me (Rich) working on Strange Days. Initially it started out as a top-down RPG, heavily influenced by Earthbound (Mother 2), and Zombies Ate My Neighbors. A vast chunk of the work so far has been creating the sub-games, of which there are currently 22. I will discuss those in a later post, but for now here are some links to various screen-shot examples:
2D Movie Sub-Games
3D Movie Sub-Games
Retro Game Sub-Games
No To Dungeons!
Instead of dungeons, I decided to do something very different; lots of sub-game areas, in varied visual and gameplay styles. I wanted a load of variety, fun and Easter Eggs. I didn’t want to go down the route of battling dungeon after dungeon, I wanted a fresh new approach, which allowed for a wide range of themes, and enemy characters.
For the main world, which incorporates the Town of Newton, and surrounding areas (suburbs, desert and beach), I used Tiled to lay out the maps, interiors and exteriors. It did the job, and I have revised the graphics, tiles and layout many times. Working and reworking furniture, props, décor, and terrain.
It has always niggled me though that a simple top-down 2D approach was too dated, and certainly publisher feedback we’ve had has reflected this. So, as of last week (end of October, 2021) I decided to completely redo all of the town, all of the buildings and the interiors, and reproduce them in 3D.
As you can imagine, it is a big job, I must be mad! I am developing Strange Days in Unity, which certainly helps take the edge off some of the workload. Here are the current town and interior maps (click each to view full-size, they are large!):
As it is such a big task, to avoid getting completely overwhelmed I decided to split the 3Dification process into phases. The first phase was converting the terrain, fences, mountains and town details to 3D. This covered everything up to the buildings and trees, and of course, all of the interiors.
The first part of the process was getting a third person 3D camera and prototype 3D town scene up and running, ready to start adding the details. I have included some shots below, click to view the full-size images.
As mentioned above, Phase 1 comprises the town terrain, mountains, details (lampposts, fences, post-boxes, dumpsters, bins, signs). To help with the 3D modelling of the objects, I replaced the empty town map with a version that shows the tile maps for the above details, which you can see below:
The first task was to cut areas into the map where the water would be rendered, and to add a real-time sky with a day-night cycle, and a water effect for the steams and ponds.
Lightwave Terrain Slice
Day to Night Cycle and Water Test
Thanks to the Phase 1 Town map above, when working in Lightwave (the 3D package I use), I can then build the individual 3D models with direct reference to the original 2D tiles. Most of the new assets were full 3D representations of the original tiles, but some were retained as sprites, which are rendered as billboard sprites.
A few example shots are included below, showing the 2D/3D comparison between the 2D tiles and the new 3D objects (again, click each image to view full-size).
A billboard sprite is a flat 2D sprite that always faces the 3D camera, so you never actually see that it is a flat 2D sprite. Billboard sprites are best used for objects that are vaguely cylindrical in shape, for example, a fern tree, which when walking around it looks more or less the same whichever angle you view it from.
The final element of the Phase 1 rework was the beach and sea areas. The water needed to be different here, with added waves and a more prominent foam effect where the water meets the shore. I added a second water plane, with waves and expanded foam. You can sit on the bench and watch the surf now!
Here are a few shots of how it all looks within the Unity scene view. You can see the individual 3D prefabs placed within the map to replace the old 2D tiles.
It’s a Wrap!
Phase 1 is done… It was fairly quick to do, just a few days. I doubt that Phase 2 will be quite so quick. Phase 2 will include the building exteriors, room layouts, graveyard, trees and any remaining exterior details. After that, it is onto the interiors details, furniture and then finalising the third person camera.
To save you scrolling back up, here is the Phase 2 map:
What Do You Think So Far?
Thanks for reading 🙂 We would love to hear any feedback or thoughts on the 3Dification via the comment form below…