Monday, April 15, 2013

Gridiron Solitaire #51: Stadium Evolution

If you don't remember the original stadium, here's what it looks like when it's empty:

That image doesn't scale down very well, but you can click on it to see it at full resolution--it's very precise.

It's big, designed to be like the Rose Bowl or Estadio Azteca, and the crowd basically fills the entire screen.

Fredrik told me months ago that he thought more stadiums were needed, but I resisted. Creating the crowd was quite complex (for me), and I wasn't creating any more individual crowd "panels".

I finally realized, though, that he was right. Multiple stadiums would add so much flavor to the game.

Two weeks later, we have three new stadiums. What I want to show you today is the process by which a stadium goes from a very rough idea to a finished product. I'm going to show you the process that went into completing the "neighborhood" stadium.

This also is going to involve quite a few images, so apologies in advance if it shows down the loading of the page.

Here was the very first version of the neighborhood stadium:

It wasn't much, really, because I hadn't given Fredrik anything to work with, just a request to remove part of the stands and put some trees outside the stadium.

It was different, certainly, but in this form, it was "not the big stadium", and that was all. It had no personality of its own.

I asked Fredrik to add trees, and make them symmetrical, and this was the next version:

Well, that's a little progress. Then I mentioned that he might add some cars:

I thought the cards would be a nice addition, but something didn't look right to me. It's hard to explain, but quite a bit of this process is just feel.

I asked for walking paths:

The color of the paths didn't seem right, but I liked them.

Understand that all this prototyping is happening in a very compressed period of time. I would look at an image Fredrik had sent me, request a few changes/additions, he'd give me a sanity check on what I was requesting, and he would have a new image back to me within the hour.

Now, balloons:

At this point, I'm starting to understand that good stuff is happening. The balloons aren't quite right yet--they need to be bigger--but there's something about them that I love, because balloons are deeply evocative and symbolic of fun.

I didn't like the left/right symmetry, and finally realized that there was an opportunity to increase the size of the crowd, which led to this:

There's this odd moment when you're trying to create something. You go through all these iterations, whether it's writing or music or art or whatever, and if you're fortunate, there's a moment where you see everything at one time, where you go from something incomplete to something very complete in one moment. I looked at this stadium for a few minutes, and suddenly I saw everything else. It was like a little gear turning in my head that suddenly clicked into place.

That gear clicking into place was this:

No cars. Trees lined up precisely. Double balloon arches. Lighter image overall. It's a stadium I'd look forward to walking into in real life.

All in all, Fredrik created eleven versions of the stadium before we agreed it was complete. It was tremendously fun, too, rapidly going through these versions and working through it together.

Here are the other two stadiums, in finished form. First, the "mosaic" stadium:

If you click to see the larger image, you'll see that those mosaics are images from the drive meter on defense, and Fredrik made them look amazing. The theme behind this stadium is that each of those mosaics is central to a plaza where fans can gather.

The last stadium has a coastal theme:

It's possible that we might revisit this stadium later, because the other stadiums have this extreme sharpness in the graphics that this stadium doesn't have (blending of water/sand/vegetation is a little smudgy on purpose). I'm the one who wanted it this way, but I wonder if it's somehow dissonant compared to the other stadiums, so it might get modified.

So now there are four stadiums, not one. Teams are assigned a stadium, but the user can change the stadium assignment for all teams if he/she wishes.

I couldn't be happier with how these look when they're filled with fans. They're so much more dynamic and personal than the original stadium. And since you're probably already wondering: yes, it's possible that we might add more stadiums. If I can just come up with appropriate themes that are distinct from the other stadiums, I'd like to add four more.

Right now, though, the priority is getting all this put together so that the long-delayed second beta can start by Thursday. I had a wheel come off last night (headline text clipping--argghhh), so I've got to get that 100% working, then fix a few small things, and we should be ready to go.

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