It’s time to take a stab at a more precise statement of the artwork needs of this project.
I have already prepared the logograms for SympolTalk, but my renditions are amateurish and could certainly benefit from the hand of somebody who really knows graphic design. This task would involve redesigning many of those logograms. Some are pretty good already, but many will need work.
We’ll need backgrounds for some of the displays, most likely for the face displays. See the first cut screen layout. We could go “semi-realistic” in creating backgrounds that look like the locations on Kira, but I also need to show characters in some sort of aura setting that reflects their moods and personalities. These could be superimposed over a static background, or the aura-imagery could constitute the entire display.
Obviously, we’ll need to have images of all the character faces; at an absolute minimum I need faces for the seven primary characters, one from each species. I assume that these will be rendered as 3D models to permit the full use of emotional expressions. If we get ambitious, we might want some additional faces to illustrate the interstitial stories.
We’ll need to be able to put emotional expressions on our characters’ faces. There are two ways to do this. The dumb way is to hand-draw each combination of character and emotion. Inasmuch as we may have as many as 50 emotional expressions, this could entail a LOT of drawing, and there will always be discrepancies leading to player confusion. The smart way is to treat each emotional expression as a transform that can be applied to any face. I much prefer this approach.
This game is designed for operation inside any standard browser. Any animation schemes must comport with this specification.
This can take two forms. The cheap and easy way to go is to simply morph the character’s expression from one to another as the character participates in the conversation. This has the benefit of giving the player lots of time to take in the emotional expression. The expensive and difficult way is to create “full conversational animation”, in which the character’s face is constantly active. This is more realistic, but it creates a design discontinuity: on the one hand, the animation is suggesting that things are proceeding in real time, and on the other hand, the player needs time to think and compose his response. I’m not sure what to do here.
Dream World Entry and Exit
These animations provide the transition from the standard display shown in the screen layout to the dream world travel animation. They should be short. Perhaps the dream world imagery appears as a black spot in the center of the screen that grows to engulf the entire screen.
Dream Combat Travel
After the player enters the Dream World, he travels through dream space to meet his opponent for combat. This is non-interactive animation. The animation should give a clear sense of moving through a weird universe of dreams. In the ideal, this would be a journey with twisting and turning, but if necessary, we could keep it cheap and simple by making the journey linear. There’s plenty of creative elbow room here: we want something evocative of dreaming, which could be almost anything weird. During the journey, the player should see the other characters flashing by, but they are seen only as pairs of eyes, suitably distorted.
This is the actual fight. Again, it is non-interactive; the player has already committed to the aura that he will play. The Dream Combat Travel ends with the player approaching his opponent and slowing to a stop with the opponent (again, presented only as eyes) directly in front of him. At this point, the combat animation begins. It must present the two aura-colors (red, green, or blue) emanating from the combatants, show them engaging in a kind of visual color-combat, with the assigned winning aura overcoming and capturing the losing aura. Perhaps we should have something like dream-world lightning bolts flitting through the animation. Again, we have lots of room for creativity here.