I feel, as many do I suppose, that I'm trying to juggle too many balls. Every so often I drop one, which was the case with this blog last week. Sorry.
So, last time I was talking about the paper prototype of the game. In the week following we put together a prototype with gray boxes for the walls and floor, and gray capsules for the soldiers.
It wasn't pretty, but quickly allowed us to develop how the user would interact with the game. A few crudely drawn icons later and we had a working UI as well.
As with the paper prototype, this has allowed us to quickly test solutions for problems and discard the less satisfactory ones. One example of this is the problem of seeing through walls.
A perennial problem of isometric(ish) games is that of characters and monsters being hidden from the players view. The Diablo series solved this by making the offending walls transparent. Torchlight takes a different approach, presenting an outline of the hidden unit in a kind of x-ray vision. Alien Swarm fixes the camera angle and slopes the walls in such a way that the player is never completely hidden at all.
We tried a variation on the Diablo approach, but rather than switching the geometry or its material on and off, we tried a custom shader that would simply not render the pixels of the wall if they were closer to the camera than the unit, and within a radius of the center of the screen.
If it had worked, it would have had the advantage of being automatic, and an efficient solution for mobile devices. Unfortunately, the results proved difficult to interpret. The walls being completely invisible meant it was impossible to tell where they were, and being able to see the inside surface of objects just made it worse.
In the meantime however, the prototype and game concept was enough to get some concept artists interested in helping us out. In house, we have no appreciable ability to draw, so this will be a great help in developing the look of the game.