The Tree That Refused to Shed

Bubblien Attack

Striding Bird

Scary Story Kit

Balloon Kingdom

Bubblien Attack: Creating Chemtrails

I've been working on my latest title "Bubblien Attack" for months now and thought I would write about a small part of the development process.

Those that have been following me on Twitter and Facebook have seen various bits and pieces now and then, however most of these bits and pieces were simple screenshots and/or concept art.

Here I will outline the creative process I went through to introduce one of the "Specials" that will be available in my game. The idea of specials will allow the player to initiate things such as Healing, and Special Attacks.

My first thought was that I wanted to create some kind of "Airstrike" ability as it's always fun to call upon air support in games when you're in battle. Mixing this generic ability with something more relevant to the characteristic and subjects of my game was something I felt was important. Its one thing to just name it "Airstike", but I wanted something a bit more unique.

I thought about the theme of my game. Aliens? Bubbles? Space? Something that, in my mind, by a stretch might relate to Aliens would be "Chemtrails". As there are conspiracy theories all around the world in terms of Aliens and UFOs. There are also conspiracy theories that the white gases you see occasionally trailing aeroplanes are actually mind controlling gases, released by the "powers" to manipulate and keep populations under mind control. There are even conspiracies that the "powers" are Aliens! But anyway, that's a story for another time.

So okay, that will do. Rather than a simple "Airstike", i'll have "Chemtrails". I'll have planes release chemtrails that will harm the enemies. So first things first, let's draw the plane! Firing up photoshop, I sketch and refine. Doing it in a higher resolution and shrinking it down later to fit in the game.

Okay done, drew the aeroplane, although during the initial sketching I didn't like where it was headed. The final image wasn't too bad. So I stuck with it and moved on. I've found that as an Indie, I don't have too much time to spend on any specific task, and a lot of valuable time can be wasted with indecision.

Now to think about the smoke, or the "Chemtrails". Firstly I plan to have planes coming in from the left and the right of the screen, passing each other and leaving a trail of chemical smoke behind them. There are various techniques i've used in the past to create smoke. They include:
  • Particle Effects: Basically have many many semi-transparent "smoke like" textures appear and fade away. Advantages: Can get very realistic smoke movements. Disadvantage: High processing and can hurt frame rate.
  • Particle Effects animated through flash: Create a static animation of the smoke in an animation program like Flash, then export it as a series of images to use for animation in game. Advantages: Can get very realistic smoke movements. Disadvantage: High memory overhead as each frame must be an image.
  • Transforming Static Image: Just create the plane and the smoke trailing behind it in one image and move that whole image from point A to point B. Advantages: Simple to do, not hard on memory or frame rate. Disadvantages: Doesn't look realistic, and in most cases looks very very bad and amateurish.
I have had some experience with all these methods and have employed them all with success. Im going for the last option as I am already using particle effects heavily in this game, and I need to preserve the frame rate. I have a few small tricks that I can employ, so it won't look bad. So basically I will transform the whole image of the plane with the smoke across the screen.

So first trick, sine waves. As the image moves across the screen, if the smoke is positioned as a wave, it will animate in a way that you see smoke animated in cartoons. It's not realistic like you might achieve with particle effects, but its alright.

Secondly, fading. As you can see, I made it fade as the smoke gets further away from the ship. When moving this across, it will give the impression the smoke is fading while the wave animates. I added some shape and filtering to the smoke plus transparency and fading.

So I've got the assets to put it in game now. Its basically just the ship with the trailing smoke as one image. Flip it horizontally for the one going the other direction, and program it in game.

Here is a video of the results, although it isn't completely realistic, it doesn't look too bad and it can be used for now while I move onto the next thing.