Friday Facts #73: Visit Pacific City
I had a lot of fun making the trailer for the Tourist Update, and I’m a little proud of it. I wanted to do an imagined VHS-rip of a 90s tourism ad for a fictional city. First, I started a twitch stream and generated a few maps. (We’re going to be doing more regular livestreams, btw. We’ll post a schedule once we establish it.)
I found a map with a large, heart shaped island and soon that became Pacific City. I spent a couple weekends filling in the island and surroundings, fixing some visual bugs, and recording some footage. Then it was a matter of making the ad look retro.
I did some research via the most logical route, hour long vaporwave music mixes with VHS rips of 90s TV commercials as visuals. The game is definitely influenced by vaporwave, but we try not to hit you over the head with it (outside of the Vapor mod).
I noticed that this era of TV used a lot more editing and composition. I was surprised at how sophisticated the title animations were. Many of these animations were probably made on an optical, analog machine, or hand drawn – no computers! Of course, I used Blender to make the titles. (Thanks to Gainos for some blender tips.)
My open source video editor is pretty limited, and I’m not even going to namedrop it because I’m embarrassed to be using it. There was no “make this look like it was recorded on a VCR and then degraded for 20 years” button, but I found a combination of effects that altered the color, image quality and edges of video, together with a 4:3 aspect ratio, to make it look more 480i.
I also added video glitches and modified the soundtrack to add distortion. In retrospect, I wish I had used more lofi effects and less screen-tearing glitches, but I still think I did a good job overall. The video isn’t actually NTSC 480i quality – we experiemented with that, and it’s actually worse than you remember. So the video is not 100% era-accurate. But if you were lucky enough to have lived through the VHS era, it should be a fun throwback for you.
After premiering the trailer, I realized how much longing there is to go back to a simpler time when you could just take a trip to some warm sunny place. The top two comments are “I’d like to go there immediately” and “fam im goin there asap.” Unfortunately, trains to Pacific City only operate in 1993. But this crazy year of 2021 will be over eventually. You’ll be seeing sunny beaches again soon. And until then, you can virtually visit the city of your dreams on your PC.
(Assuming you can find a graphics card.)
A few eons ago (about two weeks I guess?) I made a blog post in which I mentioned I was experimenting a little with Virtual Reality. With experimenting I mean playing games on my new VR headset. But VR does bring interesting opportunities that relate to making game art for me.
A bit over a year ago I participated on a small VR project with a guy from Germany. It was a maze horror experience filled with weird creatures and memes. I know, pretty dope. I don’t like the horror game aspect, and I didn’t have a VR headset at the time, so I couldn’t do much. But running the game on my computer itself gave me a faint idea of what a player would actually experience on the main game.
Another team member, supersoup, has written quite a few reviews for games on a gaming website. In his Half-Life: Alyx review, he talks about how we still have a lack of games that have managed to use the genre to create something that feels truly new and that feels like a finished game. That has been my experience so far with VR. Most developers still seem to be struggling to find the right balance of new game mechanics and things people enjoyed on other platforms. This new platform has its limitations, but oh boy does it have it’s advantages.
Before getting a VR headset myself I was a bit skeptical of it. That and extremely excited. It was a mixed feeling, since I had no idea how the hardware planned to achieve what it promised. I’ve read plenty of reviews on games and VR headsets themselves to see what I truly wanted. Where I live in Brazil, the market for electronics and media is much smaller and prices are beyond unreasonable, but I managed to find a good deal on a VR headset, and I’ve been playing with it for the last two weeks.
I did research a bit specifically on creating art for games entirely on VR. With that, I mean sculpting a character, making a retopology, UV mapping, texturing, rigging and animation all while immersed in Virtual Reality software. I didn’t find much. Essentially, it seems that the medium is still too new and foreign that not alot of applications that use it have been developed, mostly as it relates to digital art workflow. That and your eyes can start to hurt even after only a few minutes if you haven’t adjusted the strap correctly.
Drawing in VR is very interesting. But as with everything else, I feel like that is something that I could do for a few minutes, not for hours. Drawing takes time, and usually at the start you are mostly warming up. So it may take you way too much time if you have to make very frequent pauses. The same applies to a regular monitor, but VR has a few additional concerns that can be a bit strong on the eye.
As an artist that mostly creates characters with a stylized feel, many would think that the opportunities for me in VR are limited, but I would disagree! I think games that would immerse you in a fantasy setting with graphics that are not trying to simulate realism are for sure to become a thing at some point. I have seen some examples, in fact, but most games at this point do seem to focus on photorealistic themes.
I myself, on the other hand, am more excited for the day that I’ll walk into a virtual reality fantasy tavern and order an alcoholic drink which my character loves (and I personally don’t), before leaving to do my quests in the dungeon near the local town.
Questions? Comments? Feedback on the game? Sound off on our Discord.
As always, we’re incredibly thankful for our great community across the web. We love seeing the hard work and attention to detail you pour into your cities, and it inspires us every day to keep building. Thank you again for your support.
If you want to play the game and haven’t got it yet, head over to our Steam page. We’re also on Reddit and Twitter. Give us a follow if you haven’t, and we’ll keep you up to date on what’s new with NewCity!