There's a wonderful documentary about the director John Ford where Steven Spielberg recounts a tale of meeting the director when Spielberg was a young man. I'm taking this transcript from the Pop Matters review of the doc
Now I understand a bit about horizon lines and perspective in film (Citizen Kane
is a master course in cinematography, especially any scene that's a conversation between Jed Leland and C.F. Kane in a mostly empty newspaper office), and in still drawings. But video games are a different animal, especially 2D video games like ours where a severe change in perspective can necessitate redrawing sprites from different views. I was working on a technique for making backgrounds tonight and it occured to me to ask, if you'll excuse the goofy wordplay, your perspectives on perspective.
For instance, here are some questions I've got:
- How do you all generally manage perspective when designing your backgrounds (and, accordingly, your sprites)?
- Do you prefer one-point or two-point perspective (or, and I will be impressed with you if you answer this, three-point), and what do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of each?
- Do certain perspectives work better for interiors and others for exteriors? For specific environments?
- Is it jarring at all to mix one- and two-point perspective in the same game, the same area, the same room?
- Should the point in a one-point perspective image always be in the center? And how do you handle one-point perspective in a scrolling background?
- How do you handle horizon lines? Do you like them high or low? And if you like 'em low, how do you avoid drawing ceilings?
- How far can you break perspective for effect (ala Day of the Tentacle)? How and when do you know to do this?
- What techniques do you use in which programs to set up your perspective lines and points?
I'm sure there are many others out there. So I thought I'd open a forum post and invite you all to respond. Feel free to share your own work, backgrounds from games you like, crude mock-ups, or whatever. Share best practices, raise objections, offer philosophical ideas on the nature of art, or whatever you feel like doing. The general topic is perspective. Consider it open.
I'll start by sharing a technique I was testing tonight. I'm dealing with a lot of urban spaces in a game I'm planning, and got tired of drawing windows, doorframes, sidewalks, etc., in perspective all the time. So I cranked up Illustrator, and made a flat version of a building (This is a draft, just enough done to get a nice structure to work with. Also, this is scaled down from the giant file I accidentally made):
I then made a Photoshop file, 640x480 at first, and colored the thing neon green. Then, I expanded the canvas to 300% with the live green section in the center. I used Photoshop's ruler guides to set up a two-point perspective, pretty much at random distances, and a horizon line just a little north of center. I imported the flat images in chunks (the main face of the building, the two faces of the part of the building that protrudes onto the sidewalk, and the bits that make up the canopy), and used the Free Transform / Distort function to adjust them along my perspective lines. I very, very quickly threw a few shadows here and there, and some light. The perspective's still not perfect because I was trying to hurry, and the shadows were a quick inquiry into whether I could paint-over the distorted flat images to give a sense of depth (I think I need to invest in a more extensive test). Then I drew a quick...background to the background.
There are some problems that I think would have been solved had I kept my images Smart Objects -- the problems with the strip pattern on the canopy, for instance. I think there's some promise in this technique -- I could draw the same building from different views fairly easily if the game called for it, I'm able to standardize things like windows (which I think
I can individualize later by painting over) and bricks, and, interestingly for this project, which is set in the town in which I live, I could make my own 3D models of the buildings. There are other things I'll have to through and adjust -- the open sign looks really flat, for instance.
Thoughts on what I've done here, or on perspective in general? I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.