Look back in horror.
The joys of multiplatform development 20 years ago… or how to do everything more than once.
So imagine you’re doing all the art for a point and click graphic adventure by yourself. You’re doing it on an Amiga in Deluxe Paint 3 (which is actually a good thing for pixel art). Your backgrounds, all 110 of them, can have 16 colors specifically just for them plus the 16 locked colors used for the characters and UI. It’s workable since those colors can be from a palette of 4096. Oh and one of those was for transparency, so 31.
Looking back at it there’s no way in Hell I’d consider doing something so mammoth - Also having to mention that I had to animate all the characters and special animations and UI and items. It’s the sort of thing you do when you’re in your early 20s heading into uncharted territory. Remember we started working on this not long after Monkey Island 2 came out and way before the internet while living in the arse end of the world. There was no way to learn this stuff other that trying to do it ourselves. Which we did. It was actually pretty cool now come to think of it. Trailblazing rocks.
Oh I shouldn’t forget the real horror. Once we signed with a publisher they wanted the whole thing converted to glorious 256 color VGA for the PC. So here’s the fun bit. PC games ran at 320 x 200 rectangular pixels while the original Amiga version was made in PAL which ran 320 x 240 square pixels. I’d allowed for the PC resolution when I did the original screens by just ignoring the extra 40 pixels at the bottom. Problem solved or so I thought. Except that on the PC the characters were the extra bit taller looking. After a bit of searching for a solution I just said “fuck it” they looked OK on PC and Lucas Arts games had the same issues between PC and Amiga too. Good thing I used grabs of Monkey Island to work out the right size for the sprites. :)
Then there was the issue of adding more color to every single graphic in the game.
The first part of the solution to this issue was to keep the first 32 colors of each screen the same as the 32 color version so they would at least work. There was part of the 256 cols set aside for characters and UI which was locked. I think it was 64 colors. So to get some variation in the scenes I’d grab bits of the palette and move them around to another range and then change the colors there. That’s how I got the rocks, ground and jetty to be different colors. Where I could I’d try to smooth out the gradients as much as possible with extra colors. For example the sky. And as a bonus I’d use color cycling to add movement to the edge of the water. I’m amazed I got it done though we did spend 3 years on the project.
Oh there was one more issue I had to keep in mind. See all those bits in boxes at the bottom of the image? They were sprites for animation and depth cues. They had to be exactly the same size in both 32 and 256 color versions otherwise they’d be broken looking. Easy.
In the last half of the project I just did the 256 color versions of new screens first and cut them down with some software that worked like an early Photoshop. Though you’d have to wait for to process an image.