The graphics of a game rarely age like fine wine. Players get used very fast to new technologies turning something looking great in 2015 into something they find ugly in 2023.
Upgrading the graphics is very expensive and/or time-consuming for a studio and the game needs to be successful years after the release, or still have a good potential, for the visual upgrade to be worth it.
But it’s not all just about visual quality. When you work like me on an 8 year old mobile game and still want to work on it, to keep its beauty and cohesion, add more depth to it, a refresh is not an option.
In this article, I’ll explain why the “refresh & harmonize” step I introduced in my roadmap article is so important.
Hardware prison break
Some models in Seashine (e.g. the Makonui) were created a very long time ago, in 2014 or a bit later. At that time, the technical requirements to make a 3D game run on mobile devices were not the same. There were very annoying limits for the details of my 3D models.
Almost 8 years after the initial release of the game, mobile devices are MUCH more powerful and can handle MUCH more detail.
The original Seashine was made to run at 60 fps on the first iPad. A modern iPad or smartphone is orders of magnitude more powerful than the original iPad with its single core 1Ghz processor, 256MB of RAM, and limited graphics.
A lot of the new 3D models for Seashine have 2 to 5 times more vertices (the points making the mesh of a 3D model). They are still way below what modern devices can handle but I don’t need more and this is better for your device’s battery, and therefore also for the environment.
So there is a huge contrast between the old, low poly, 3D models and the new ones. I think the Makonui and Ikakina are good examples of low-detail models that need a refresh.
Evolving style and knowledge
Would you take characters of your first drawings and put them in your artwork today after 9 years of working on improving your style and drawing techniques? I wouldn’t.
There is a big difference in style between old and new models in Seashine and I need to address this issue.
In 9 years I improved my knowledge and my style as a 3D artist. For years I painfully looked at some of the older models, hoping to have time to update them at some point. I think now is the time.
I also improved my technical knowledge. I’ve been working on very useful shaders since 2018. Most of these shaders allow me to create new animals faster with better animations.
The “refresh & harmonize” step will allow me to introduce these shaders in my Seashine version 1.x.x Unity Project (more information about version 1.x.x and 2.x.x in an upcoming post).
As some of you already know, I’m working hard to add reliable educational content to Seashine.
Some fans of the game are real marine biologists or other types of researchers (that’s so cool). Other fans have found in Seashine the motivation to become marine biologists (that’s also very cool). Some just enjoy learning things but don’t realize most of the species actually in-game are not real or accurate (not so cool).
I think I have a responsibility to bring more scientific accuracy to Seashine. To achieve this, the real animals in the game must be closer to what they actually look like.
Once again, the Makonui will be the best example of a transformation from inaccurate to accurate representation.
As I’m only talking about the visuals in this article, I won’t talk about the other things I will implement in favor of better accuracy.
Right now, I’m studying a lot of slow motion videos of different fish species as they open their mouth to eat a prey. This is one of the many invisible parts of the work I was talking about in my previous post.
Better accuracy means spending time to properly understand the biology of everything I work on in Seashine.
In conclusion, upgrading and harmonizing old 3D models is a necessary step before I introduce more important parts to the game, especially the new UI and encyclopedia.
Some players will complain because they got used to the old models or prefer the old design but this will most likely be a minority. I truly hope most will appreciate the added details, cohesion and accuracy.
If you’re intersted in seeing what I’m working on, please consider becoming a subscriber on my Ko-fi page. You’ll be able to access exclusive work-in-progress images and sneak peak for the upcoming updates. Thank you!