The user interface for Arcade Spirits has gone through a few changes since I started hacking together images in Photoshop a few weeks ago. I can’t do character art worth a damn, but GUI? That’s a matter of pixel tweaking and hand coding in scripts, to make it juuuust right. I can do that right now, ahead of the story, ahead of other assets. Get the feeling I want for the game up front so I’m feeling the vibe of it.
My first idea was to make the framework around dialogue boxes, name plates, and the menu feel more like an 8-bit video game. Like the frames around Megaman’s text boxes, or classic Sierra games. I drew from the 16 color EGA palette of my youth, the staple hues of PC gaming, to make a pixel based frame. Within that frame, the scanlines of a CRT monitor.
For arcade wackiness I had two player health bars, with the idea being that people you talk to would have their picture appear on the left, and your picture appears on the right. Sweet!
Buuut… Renpy doesn’t allow two simultaneous character pictures. Bummer. So I did some revamping to make room to put the menu on the right, instead. Whoever was talking at the moment would appear on the left.
Good, but… a few things changed my mind about this entire approach. One, pixel-based art tended to smack of being “low effort” in the eyes of many gamers, with the term “pixel indie trash” being bandied about. Two, nothing else in the game would be pixel based, so it’d look very out of place. Three, well, it WAS kinda lazy looking. I knew I could do better.
I drew inspiration from vaporwave and retro 80s artwork, and alongside the new logo I showed you before… redesigned the UI with a neon tube motif.
Shrinking down the right box gave it balance again, and the tubes framed everything in a cool electric vibe. Very nice. Very PINK but this is a romantic comedy game so that’s fitting, I felt.
The end result? Well, compare and contrast. (The character and background are temporary art yoinked off google image searches, note, and WILL be replaced.)
Delicious. Text box, name plate, and menu all properly restyled. I even rejiggered the font and spacing to allow for better readability of the text.
Of course, with this shift from “pixel” to “neon” for the motif, I had to change a few other things… including the Identity Identifier System.
But, more on that little game feature next week.