One the the first things that happens when you start a new game is that you form a mental image of what it's going to look like. Obviously, the plan for Grelox was a straight out retro design, but nailing down the details can be a difficult, and ongoing process.
For starters, what kind of retro do you go for? C64? NES? PC Engine? Super Nintendo? Arcades of the late 80s? The choices are many and varied, and you are constantly re-evaluating the details. When you pick a specific look, it's very easy to accidentally make the graphics 'too good' for that look. Use too many colours, too much shading and you end up with something disjointed and uneven.
Yesterday I came across a minor crisis. After quickly mapping out some of the 'organic' area, I went back to draw in some background detail. The vision was to make the backdrops subtle but effective, so I set about making a nice rocky wall with cracks that you can see through to distant caverns. But despite it beginning to take shape, something was making me feel uncomfortable about it, and I think it's all down to emotion.
There are several core concepts to the feel of the game, but one of them is that I want it to stir up the memories of playing those vast, multi-screen arcade adventures on the ZX Spectrum. Comparing the look of the map with and without the background texture, there is something almost pure about the empty blackness that is very evocative of that era (while the art itself remains more advanced in style). So I had a chat with Andrew and we decided, for the moment at least, that this is the way we'll head. For me, that memory of old 8-bit games gives me a strong wash of nostalgia, and I hope that others may find this the case too.
Of course, everything is subject to change.
On the programming front, Andrew is still beavering away at finishing Atlantean for PCE Engine / TG-16. But I can show you the very first little buds of what will eventually become Grelox. It's not pretty and it doesn't work right, but this is what the birth of a game engine looks like. Jumping is extremely wonky at this stage, but Andrew has the idea of reversing gravity to produce a better jumping/falling system. You never know, reverse-gravity rooms may even be workable in the game, don't you just love those?