Heart on a platter: blood and gore, part 2

After releasing the Beelzebox prototype, my co-developer Jack said, “well, that blood makes our game stand out. Why not develop that further?”
So I set out to create a true-to-God gore system. What inspired me mostly was this quote from Jay Wilson:

“We have this cool system where we can hit a dude so hard that his skeleton flies out […] But I have to say, it got a little boring after a while!”

Because it made me think: why not tweak it so that it’s a rare occurance, so that when it happens, it will never get boring? I have no idea why the Diablo 3 team didn’t do exactly that…
The first step of development was creating a system for modifying the textures so that they can be carved into, revealing deeper layers. The early prototype was promising.


 

My main ambition in designing the gore system was to create something disturbing and uncanny. That’s why I created textures that resemble actual muscles, bones and organs and put them on the simplified meshes that would fit inside the Konspiracja webcomic-based characters. One of the first models I made was the skull, which sports two layers. Let me show you:

 

A greatest inspiration were the fond memories of the classic Raven FPS, Soldier of Fortune. Its GHOUL wound system was a real breakthrough, one that I don’t think was surpassed in any video game to this day. While my method is definitely different from theirs, I am amazed as to why developers so rarely try to tackle making a gore system.

 

Adding internal organs was the next step of development. Additional texture for muscles underneath the skin was added. In all honesty, the research and development of both organ models and textures made me a bit nauseous, but I believe the current state of the system is quite satisfying.

 

The important thing is that the damage you see here will most likely not be as prominent in the actual game. It will require quite a few sword cuts or hammer smashes to reveal the organs (so that it won’t become boring, as it has for Jay Wilson), but the system should allow for creating zombies with randomized levels of damage and decay. And now I have a skeleton model as well, so another enemy type is basically ready.
Currently the system also allows for intestines to fall out of the enemy’s belly. They are hellish demon spawn, so I guess they won’t mind dragging them while still trying to kill the player character.

Heart on a platter: blood and gore, part 1

As per tradition, most modern ARPGs ooze with gore and blood. But the carnage is made to mesh with the titles’ artistic styles, making often appear cartoonish, especially in games trying to emulate Blizzard’s iconic style.

 QED.

 

It is common consensus that the genre’s progenitor, Diablo 1, was the one of the most (if not THE MOST) disturbing and gory title in the ARPG genre. Often it is described as more of a horror game than an action game, with every facet of the development underlining this – through music, deliberately slow gameplay, darkness shrouding the levels and amazing art. The Butcher encounter is a perfect example, with his lair filled with corpses hanging from hooks and impaled on spikes, the floor and walls soaked in blood. It’s a gruesome sight that fills the player with dread. The Butcher boss fight may be more of a spectacle in Diablo 3, but both his appearance and the boss arena give off a very different tone.

And that dark, horrifying aesthetic is what we want to recreate in Beelzebox. While our art style is based on a rather light-hearted webcomic Konspiracja, this doesn’t stop us from creating disturbing imagery – which I hope to prove by sharing the current status on our gore system in the next two blog posts.

 

The feature already available in the currently downloadable Beelzebox prototype is the blood dripping on the floor. Unlike Diablo 3 or its clones, it’s not based on decals but on the terrain alpha map that is updated with every drop of blood that falls to the floor. Below is an in-editor example how it looks in action:

 

As you see, the most blood comes from the player character, which will be changed in the future releases. The number of blood drops and the size of the splashes will be determined by the amount of health taken away on strike, as well as the size of the character being attacked. Status effects and gruesome deaths will cause the blood to spray as well. We hope it will be fun for players to hack and slash the monsters to see these effects.

 

The effect is made both to look fresh and gooey on high resolution screens through the use of normal maps, as well as resemble the classic Diablo 1 blood stain, which was just a piece of level decoration back in 1996.

 

Be sure to check out the next blog post to see the progress on something completely new – the dismemberment/gore system prototype that we are very proud of.

Font 1.0 complete

Alright, the first version of the font for Beelzebox is ready. It’s currently only in bold, but for monster names it will suffice.

At first, I actually grabbed a blank piece of paper and started drawing on that. BAD idea. Both because I don’t have a fine gel pen that’s best for such projects and because the results of turning a scanned raster image into a vector one don’t always recreate the original intent.

 

I decided that digital was the way to go. So I grabben by old Pentagram QuadPen graphics tablet and got down to drawning!

Well, actually… before I got down to drawing I discovered that the >10 year old device isn’t supported on any Windows version other than XP. The manufacturer pretends it never existed, in fact.

So I got my XP machine (shout outs to Artur, who gave me his laptop) and installed something that would work on the aged computer. I decided to go with my old copy of Jasc Paint Shop Pro 7, whick I grabbed before their aquisition by Corel, for the short period when Jasc distributed the program for free. The tablet itself works flawlessly on the setup and an ability to undo any skewed line I draw was a godsend.

 

Okay, so what are the results?

The font I created is called Fodiator (bounus points to anyone who can deduce why I used this name). While its basic shape resembles previously mentioned Exocet, there are multiple things I changed/added to create its unique flavour. The first thing you’ll notice is that the distance between characters is way narrower than in the Diablo font. This will allow for longer monster names (we’ll have a blog post about the name generator sometime later), I hope.

The change that gives the font its own style are the serifs. While the Diablo font had stylized serifs on all its characters, Fodiator has simple, hand drawn lines that are supposed to look as though the font just got drawn by a draughtsman. There are also several changes to specific characters (M especially stands out) and kerning applied.

I am very happy with the results! Fodiator doesn’t even look out of place on a page from 11th century Sacramentarium Tinecense, have a look:

Fonts, KONSPIRACJA and ARPGs

Way back when I started creating KONSPIRACJA the webcomic, I found out that lettering my dialogue by hand, without making any mistakes, typos or simply letting my hand slip was a rather futile endevour. Within a few months of meticulous handwriting I decided I needed my own font. This is when the original KONSPIRACJA font was born. Sample below:

 

When I started my work for a book publisher, I discovered a very similar comic/handwritten font has been created since then, one that closely resembles my work. Should have released the thing way back when I made it!

But I digress.

 

The main font I would strongly associate with ARPGs is the classic (although its creator would use the term ‘infamous’) 1990’s font EXOCET, created by David Bowie collaborator, graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook. The font seems to have come a long way, from being ubiquitous in the early 90’s to being only associated with Diablo, to becoming passé to an extent such that Blizzard decided to minimize its presence in D3. While we used the font in the Beelzebox prototype, a full-fledged, commercial release would require fulfilling licencing fees we just can’t afford as an indie team.

So my font-development skills have to be used once again, almost a decade after I learned them.

The original Exocet, while a true modern classic, has its flaws, the main being the fact it’s hard to use at smaller DPIs. In 2001 a font was released that tried to remedy some of its problems. It was called AvQuest. This is the font Diablo II used and which allowed for more text (item descriptions for example) to be displayed.

But the free font is not in any way perfect either… With modern in-engne rendering, AvQuest seems to be even less visible than Exocet when using small print, despite all the good ideas it tries to implement, including use of initials and improved characters. Comparison between Exocet (above) and AvQuest (below):

The font is quintessentially 90’s. And this is the most 90’s thing I could think of

 

So… Why not try to mix and improve the two? Why not try to modify some characters to be more readable? The current concept for the Beelzebox font is to create a typeface that goes back to the original KONSPIRACJA font (that it will be hand-written), while maintaining the basic shape and thickness of Exocet Bold and including changes and solutions borrowed from AvQuest.

Will it work? We’ll see. The current state of development of the font is shown below (with only characters up to j having been created):

There’s a lot of tweaking to be done but it’s a fun little project. Read about its completion here.