Rest assured, this installment of The Art of Braid contains much less Bloopi-ness.

Each of Braid’s six worlds ends with a castle. They’re backdrops, visual treats to acknowledge the player’s progress. They’re also throwbacks to the famous/iconic/beloved castles of Super Mario Bros. (To my shock and dismay, five minutes of Google image searching did not yield a clean, straightforward screen capture of a SMB castle. So tap your collective consciousness for that one.)

You guys have said you like seeing rough drafts leading up to a finished version, so let’s take a look at how the World 2 castle developed.

A far away castle with a big wall.

Maybe it should look like a house?

We also needed something to demarcate the finish line, the “arrival point” for the castle. The programmer art version of the game used a small arch, but this solution wasn’t a given. We considered alternatives:

A bell would make a nice, punctuating sound to help identify that moment of accomplishment.

Maybe the player should jump down onto a platform to make the bell sound? After all, jumping could be an exuberant and victorious way to make this final step.

I’m not sure this makes much sense.

Less punctuating, but perhaps more lyrical.

Gates are certainly symbolic of transition.

So are bridges. That’s a nice way to underscore a moment of crossing over.

Here’s a new version of the castle being drawn over a screen capture of the place where it belongs. The gate here is based on the Central Park gates from 2005. One problem with this gate, though, is its perspective isn’t consistent with the game’s 2-D-ness. (The same goes for the bridge.) It’s also inferior as a functional demarcator, as it doesn’t indicate clearly where the finish line is. For that reason, most future drafts moved to a flag pole, which clearly indicates the finish line. (Click this thumbnail for three more versions in the full image.)

Hmm, things are coming along. I was trying to make the castle look really big, so I put it far away and made a long staircase curving up to a tiny door. There’s a problem with that, though. There’s loads of parallax in Braid, meaning that distant objects scroll by a lot more slowly than nearby objects. That staircase would have to scroll at different speeds along its length. It could be broken into pieces, but if there was much discrepancy between adjacent/overlapping pieces, gaps would show between them as they moved relative to each other. So, it would have to be lots and lots of pieces. That would not only be pretty time consuming to set up, but also somewhat flamboyantly 3-dimensional in context.

The house in the foreground is for the Greeter, a character who appears from the doorway to deliver a message.

Some more flag ideas. Wait, is that a beer stein?

The staircase is gone, just as you predicted. But the castle looks so far away…

The staircase is back! But it’s part of this larger foreground unit, which is close enough to look fine as a single parallax layer. The distant towers are still there, but overall the castle feels like it starts very close and extends far back because it’s big.

More progress. Those pieces floating in the air are some of the discrete parallax layers the castle is built from. That wall with the ivy is actually duplicated from the back courtyard wall to the right of the bench.

More “flag” ideas: a flag, some festive tassels, a paddle thing that could spin around like a weather vane when the player passes. We ended up using this flag pole, but only recently decided on a solution for the flags themselves. There’s actually a different one for each level. See if you can figure out why!

Here’s how it looks in the game now. The gulch has been corrected to fit the 2-D perspective, which also makes it look more gulch-like. Hmm, the flag is blowing the other way. Did we make a huge mistake?

5 Responses to “The Art of Braid, Part VI: Castles and Flags”

  1. Braid » Blog Archive » The Art of Braid, Part VI. Says:

    [...] David Hellman has posted a new Art of Braid, where he shows the process of revision we went through for the first castle in the game. [...]

  2. Paul Flores Says:

    Hey David,
    I’m Paul, Brittany Aubert’s teammember and designer of Oneiro. I just wanted to say that I REALLY like your work and the thought processes you’ve gone through to make the things you want come to life. Truly remarkable stuff; I can’t wait to see whatever new projects you work on, including the one you’re doing with Steve and Zach.

  3. Myoiden Says:

    The castle looks fantastic, is there any possibility of getting a video file showing the parallax effect? It sounds awesome but I can only imagine what you\’re talking about.

    Each screen shot is an artwork by itself, the game will surely be a treat to play.

  4. David Hellman Says:

    You can see some parallax stuff going on in the videos posted here:

    http://www.davidhellman.net/blog/braid-gameplay-videos/

  5. Kareem Says:

    The flag blowing turned just right ;)

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