Using found objects to create the visuals in Denizen may prove to be too time consuming. The process of implementing this style may turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth, so I need to do some tests.
Obviously the best way to capture objects is with photography, but I want to find out what the best approach would be to capture flat surfaces like paper and cardboard. These are the materials that my characters and NPCs will be created from, so I need to make sure what the best approach would be. First, I need an object to use. I found some parcel paper which was left over from a delivery and drew a rectangular platform shape on it, I then used a scalpel to trim around the edges. This will be my test object.
First, I tried scanning the object using my desktop scanner. On my initial scan, I found that the resolution was far too low, to rectify this I simply increased the DPI setting from 72 to 300 in the scanner’s options. This effectively increases the resolution of the image and the native size that the asset will be. This can give greater fidelity, but can also produce an image with too much detail. I found 300 DPI to be a nice sweet spot:
Next, I imported the image into GIMP and cut around the shape of the platform. I also added transparency to the background and saved the asset as a png with a power of two dimension, this allows Unity to compress the image more effectively:
I then imported the asset into my Unity project and set up a simple scene with three platforms side by side:
Next, I added a new material to the sprite and some lights to the scene:
I’m quite happy with how the scans turned out, especially with the light added. I also think they would look a lot better as part of a bigger scene that contained multiple objects like these.
I repeated the same process as above, but this time with a photo of the platform instead:
Unlike using the scanner, I didn’t have to worry about DPI settings. Although, I did have to take into account what distance I was taking the photo from. The closer you get to the object, the bigger the native resolution will be. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you can just scale the image to whatever dimension you need, but it’s a consideration nonetheless.
However, this meant that I couldn’t save the file to a power of two dimension without scaling it first, so I just left it at its native resolution. I didn’t want to ruin the test by potentially losing detail when scaling the image. This meant that I could only include two platforms on the screen, instead of three.
As you can see, unlike the scanned image, the photograph inherits the light from the environment in which you take the picture:
I used the same Unity scene to conduct the lighting test, but as you can see, I get very different results:
Scans VS. Photos
- Even lighting
- Easy to determine native asset size
- The scanner limits the size of the objects you can scan
- No limit on the size of objects you can photograph
- The lighting is determined by the environment (this can also be a pro).
- It’s difficult to judge the native size of an asset
And The Winner Is…
Perhaps the most negative aspect of using a scanner is that you are limited by the scanner’s surface. Photos on the other hand don’t have this limitation, however, they do have their own issues.
The biggest plus for scanning is that you can get nice even lighting on each object you scan. This means that lighting a Unity scene composed of multiple objects will be a lot easier because they all have the same base light. In a photograph, lighting is affected by the environment. A simple way to solve this problem would be to use a photography studio and there just so happens to be one situated next to our game studio. However, I don’t think booking an entire room just to photograph small objects will be worthwhile. I want to iterate on my designs and test frequently, so the photography studio just wouldn’t work.
While searching for a solution, I stumbled across portable photography studios. They are essentially just boxes with LED lights inside. I think they were developed so that eBayers could take high quality photos of their items, but they will also be ideal for my purposes. Using a small portable studio means that I can experiment and iterate freely without having to worry about the time constraints of booking a dedicated space. I can always book the photography studio should I wish to take pictures of larger objects.
Now that I know the best method for implementing Denizen’s art style, I want to create some test scenes in Unity so that I can get a sense of what this process would entail.