Even though the background was early, I wasn't entirely satisfied with the direction. It looked too cartoony and literal, with clear outlines.
All along I'd wanted to do something abstract or different, not to make it look like a literal, clear depiction of a place. It can be hard, though, not to get in a very literal mindset, when the things you're producing are discrete and defined. Especially in games, where you are generating discrete objects with explicit functions. But I wanted things to flow together more.
I was thinking about the foreground/background issue, and how to differentiate them more. Maybe the foreground would be rendered in higher detail than the background?
And background objects would be roughly-defined, with ambiguous edges. In other words, the more gameplay relevance something had, the more detail it would have.
Objects with no gameplay relevance would dissolve into the atmosphere, contributing aesthetically but not intruding into the player's perception of his physical surroundings.
This painting convinced me it could work. The blue from the sky merges into the leaves of the tree, as the green of the leaves merge back into the sky. Just above the door, a tree is shrouded by a blue haze, which also drifts right...
But how was I going to take this painting and break it down into components without destroying its improvisational, case-specific nature? It wouldn't suffice to bring in the whole painting as a flat background and just wallpaper the level with it. I wanted the backgrounds to have depth, with a prominent parallax effect, so far away objects would drift by slower than nearby objects.
With edges irregular and often undefined, how was I going to decide where objects started and stopped? Creating a cohesive, intermingling impressionist background with discrete cut-out shapes was a challenge I continued to grapple with all the way through the project.
Here are some pieces of the sky getting edited in Photoshop. I feathered the edges with the eraser tool so they'd appear contiguous when overlapped.
All the background elements for World 2 were ready to go...