Archive for the ‘Rise of the Hidden Sun’ Category

Let the Treasure Hunt Begin!

You can’t have a treasure hunt without a treasure map! But does ‘X’ really mark the spot, or is it just the beginning of ‘Rattlesnake’ Jake’s epic quest to discover the Lost City of Gold?

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From Concept to Completion (Original Pencils by Hazel Mitchell)

So here we have the final pencil art for a new location we’ve just added to episode one. The top image is the original location sketch, which Hazel whipped up based on a description and some of my chicken scratches. (Discussed here earlier this month.)

Below that is the finished version, which reflects my suggestions for additional tweaks. The windmill and the vulture will be animated in the final in-game version of this screen.

There are four or five little “easter eggs” in here for adventure game aficionados, but I’m keeping the image size intentionally small right now so we don’t spoil the surprise. (Although the industrious among you can probably figure them out anyway…)

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The middle one is just right...

The poll results are in, and the verdict is a tie! Half of you were on “Team Big Jake,” and the other half were on “Team Small Jake.” So the winner is… “Medium-sized Jake.”  I think it’s a good compromise between the two looks. Credit goes to my lovely wife for suggesting this rather obvious (to her, anyway) solution.

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Which size sprite do you like best?

The current Jake sprite (above left) is about 200 pixels tall. I’ve been thinking about increasing it to about 250 pixels (above right). I think it will make each scene feel more intimate, although it could also have the unwanted side effect of making the screen seem too claustrophobic.

All our animations are originally rendered in Flash, so resizing him at this point is still pretty easy. Which version do you prefer?

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Colors by Jacek Grzeskowiak over original pencil art by John Green

As promised, here’s the final color work for the pencil-and-paper background screen I posted last month. (See the original pencil art here.)

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Sketch by Hazel Mitchell based on a concept by Josh Roberts

One thing that’s bothered me from the moment I decided to split Rise of the Hidden Sun into four parts is that the first episode is quite a bit shorter than the subsequent ones. It’s more of a set up to the main action than anything else, in much the same way that the opening sequence of an Indiana Jones movie is different than the primary quest.

So even though we’re focusing most of our efforts these days on completing all of the episode one animation sequences, I’m also tinkering with the early background screens to introduce a few more locations. Basically, it’s a way to expand the universe of episode one without introducing any new puzzles or animation sequences. (Some objects are being moved around within the game to justify the existence of these new screens, however.)

This location sketch here is for a new area called “The Old Sierra Burying Ground.” This is not a final screen, but it’s close enough that I thought I’d share it. I’m really happy with how it’s turning out. I’ll post the final pencil art version when it’s completed, along with some notes about what we changed, and why.

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Here’s a sneak peek at Rise of the Hidden Sun‘s very first in-game animation sequence: ‘Rattlesnake’ Jake arriving at the crossroads, wiping his brow, and checking the old treasure map to make sure he’s in the right place. For anyone curious about the technical aspects, we’re producing all of the animations at 16 frames per second. This particular arrival sequence is about 14 seconds long.

UPDATE: Watch the rough cut of this animation here.

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'Rattlesnake' Jake

One of my favorite indie gaming blogs,  A Hardy Developer’s Journal, has just published a new interview with me focusing on the development history (and future!) of Rise of the Hidden Sun. Among the topics covered:

  • How the project has evolved from 2002 to present
  • The major game and film inspirations behind ‘Rattlesnake’ Jake
  • What being an indie developer means to me
  • My thoughts on the adventure genre in general
  • How interactive storytelling differs from traditional storytelling

I didn’t do all the talking, though. Mr. Hardy himself had some really nice things to say about Rise of the Hidden Sun, calling it “the most legendary title that’s ever been in development using Adventure Game Studio” and “maybe even the most awaited freeware adventure in existance.” High praise!

To read the interview, head on over to A Hardy Developer’s Journal.

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As I alluded to in my last postRise of the Hidden Sun is a sort of love song to a bygone era of adventure games. Whenever I can work an homage for an old classic into this game, I usually do. And as you can see from the character design above, that sometimes manifests itself in significant ways.

We modeled our main character on this sprite from Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Why mess with perfection?

Personally, I think it’s a great look for ‘Rattlesnake’ Jake Dawson. Indy probably disagrees. I hear he gets a little uncomfortable around rattlesnakes.

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Early sketch of Old Sierra Town by Dan Lee

Although it’s not accessible until the start of our second episode, the town of Old Sierra is actually one of the central locations in Rise of the Hidden Sun. Here’s a brief description of it, lifted from the game bible:

Old Sierra has seen better days. Most of the buildings—saloon, coral, jail, hotel, brothel, train depot, mortuary, etc—are either completely run down or getting there fast, and everyone who could afford to leave has already done so. 

When Jake strolls into town, dusty and dirty from his adventures in episode one, everything about Old Sierra needs to suggest “ghost town.” At the same time, it also needs to look like a place that used to be a thriving boom town. So, providing a sense of scale is key. This place may be virtually empty, but it’s far from small.

That’s the discussion I had with Dan Lee, artist extraordinaire, who took the concept and ran with it in the early sketch above. Then we moved on to the equally important step of establishing a color palette to evoke the desired mood:

It just feels dusty, right?

This one scene sets the tone for all future work on the town area. It also provides the player with that important sense of scale I mentioned earlier. You immediately see several potential areas of interest—a hotel, the sheriff’s office, and a storefront with a wooden Indian on the porch—while at the same time being drawn first to the saloon.

Welcome to Spielburg

Oh, and there was one other thing we wanted this location to evoke in the minds of veteran adventure game players: a subtle, perhaps even subconscious, sense of nostalgia for one of the greats of the genre: Sierra On-line’s Quest for Glory I – So You Want to Be a Hero? by the  husband and wife team of Lori and Corey Cole.

Hey, the town’s not called “Old Sierra” for nothing.

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