#5 Designing absurd materials

Science for all, fun above all

#5 Designing absurd materials

In Exographer, your enemies are four materials with strange properties. One of our challenges was to represent these so-called « absurd » materials. Inherent to the gameplay, they block progress, and some are even deadly! Progressive mastery of the powers (see Devlog #3) enables you to overcome them. To ensure that they conveyed the right visual message, our graphic designer Thomas Vaulbert had to go through several iterations, striking a balance between « beware, I’m potentially lethal » and « don’t hesitate to use me if you want to continue exploring the level ».

Graphic research to represent absurd materials

The first constraint was that they had to stand out against the backgrounds, whatever zone the player was in. To ensure a strong contrast with the backgrounds, Thomas opted for materials containing a lot of dark gray or black. The second constraint was to use a light, bright color to emphasize the interactive nature of our absurd materials. Initially, we opted for red, fuchsia or violet tones, but these turned out to have too « dangerous » a connotation, whereas we wanted the players to be encouraged to use them. To ensure maximum strangeness across all levels, and following feedback from players during playtests, we decided to go for yellow and gold tones…
Déclinaison des 4 matières absurdes en rouge et en jaune. 

The most complex was the action of the photon sphere on the rock, a kind of brick amalgam. The gameplay called for the sphere to repel this material. In other words, the same amount of matter, but it would contract and recombine. The primary inspiration was the scene where Hagrid reveals the passageway to Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter film. The shader coded by our technical artist Léonard Allain-Launay creates a disc which, thanks to UV manipulation (2D projection of a 3D element) and posterization, produces a higher density of bricks around the player.

For the tar, we chose to make the material liquid and organic by having it move slowly and vertically by one pixel. Then we added bubbles, and snapping effects as the player moves in and out of the material. It sticks! So much so that when the photosphere is activated, the sludge sticks to the character like magnetic iron filings!