The technology of "Bone" - room for improvements?

edited May 2006 in Bone
I was wondering if there are any of the artists and programmers of the games on this forum, because I would like to share my thoughts on the tech side of the games...

Working as 3D-artist myself (but only in the render-corner) I've always had some "dreams" about in-game graphics, and while the Bone-games actually look pretty "acceptable" and "in tone" with the looks of the comics, I still have some issues with it.

PLEASE, don't take this as bashing, I just would like to address a few things, and maybe get some insight into the production here.

First of all, are you using an original 3D-engine? This probably would allow for changes or updates to be made. Having played only the demos of the games, I surely haven't seen all of the glory that was created for the games, but I liked what I've seen. Especially texturing-wise I think you've really nailed it... not too many details, keeping it cartoony (I guess cell-shading isn't necessary at all), yet a rich color palette to have beautiful contrasts on-screen... even the (baked? hand painted?) shadowing in the environments (taking the fair huts as an example) gives depth and volume, while maintaining a cartoon look.

What bugs me a little is the low poly count on the characters. As I said, I'm more of a "10 minutes per frame is fine" guy, but I guess just putting a (excuse the 3dsmax-term) mesh-smooth on the figures, and refining the low-poly version to make the smoothed version keep its detail, would do the trick here. I'm not sure how this would have an impact on the workload, but modeling, texturing and animating a low-poly version (just as you're doing now) PLUS smoothing the characters after all that, doesn't appear to be that much of extra work (and having 4 times as many polygons per character shouldn't have that much impact on performance)... mesh-smoothing could be an option to be turned on and off in the menu.

Furthermore I would just LOVE to see some DX9-effects in there (for video-cards that support it), like volumetric smoke/fog (again, adding depth), maybe some depth-of-field on close foreground objects (and maybe the backgrounds when characters are shown close-up) and possibly pixel-shader reflections on wet surfaces or water. Or how about (baked) sub-surface scattering on skin? (OK, these might contradict to a cartoony look, but still, they could merge well, and make it look sweeeet).

How about shadows? Of course, real-time shadows would be nice (but not always be working with "faked detail", as in textures), but at least having some contact-shadows on the ground would give the image a little more depths, I guess. (Two shadow planes, one for each foot, changing opacity and size with the foot's distance from the ground ;))

What I really LIKE is the way the camera works... how it slowly eases in and out of movement (thanks for not having it just pan or dolly around, but having it appear as a crane shot on most scenes).

Character animation on the Bones is just fantastic, whereas the secondary characters appear a little stiff... but I guess this is just a result from budget and/or time constraints, in which case the resources were distributed perfectly.

All right... now I appear just like a wise-ass, throwing out tons of tech-terms. Sorry for that.


  • EmilyEmily Telltale Alumni
    edited May 2006
    I'll leave the detailed questions to the experts, but I can tell you Telltale's using a proprietary engine. It was discussed a bit in this thread at the Adventure Gamers developer's chat a few weeks ago.
  • edited May 2006
    That's an interesting read... I hope some of the guys might come in here too.
  • KevinKevin Telltale Alumni
    edited May 2006
    Hello! I love to talk tech!

    We're still growing our rendering tech, and there's more good stuff on the way!

    Ultimately the tech doesn't make the game good or bad, the designers and artists hold that responsibility. But the tech can certainly get in the way and hold a good game back. So I tend to focus on technology that allows the designers and artists to really express themselves. Most of this effort goes into the tools we use to build the games. That's how we're able to put out so many games so quickly!

    One big difference between pre-rendered and games is that in games we need to worry about a wide range of hardware. Your machine may be capable of lots more polygons and shaders than we currently use, but we want to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy our games, even the ones with older hardware. But we are constantly improving our rendering. We currently have HDR lightmaps, specular and diffuse dynamic lighting and bump mapping. Bone doesn't use every one of those features, but CSI does.

    We're also a very small company, so we "choose our battles" as far as rendering on a PC is concerned. Every new feature not only needs implementation, but the art teams need the tools and training to get the feature into their production path, and a full suite of compatibility/scalability testing needs to be done to ensure everything looks right on all the different video card/OS/CPU combinations. The problem is the fancier the feature is, the fewer people will actually get to see it (how many people reading this have PS3.0 support?) So you'll continue to see steady progress from us on rendering, but perhaps not quite as fast as everyone would like. I'm just happy we've got a great art staff that can make most anything look good!
  • edited May 2006
    Well my main request for upcoming versions is to allow for higher resolutions. Correct me if im wrong but if the game is rendered, and you have the hardware to support it what is stopping something like bone from running at 1920x1200 ;) (yeah yeah me and my 24" monitor) but seriously 1280x1024 would be nice :p
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