I’ve been wondering how to handle tilesets and thinking a lot about Middens, a surreal exploratory game by myformerselves that uses a blend of collage and pixel art. I have mixed feelings about tilesets. It’s an art form that I enjoy but don’t like working with. I previously developed visual novels, so I haven’t had any need to play with tilesets until this year when I started experimenting with platformers.
Middens has a visually interesting style I wouldn’t want try to replicate or even necessarily assimilate, but it takes a thing that is traditionally not part of the video game experience and owns it, so to speak. Part of my problem is I think my brain is sometimes stuck in the 80’s and 90’s when it comes to game aesthetic, I have a very traditional idea of what these sorts of 2D games should look like, but that look isn’t really my style and it isn’t something I enjoy creating. I find tilemaps tedious, and game development is challenging enough without trying to shoehorn in an element you hate working with.
I made a few placeholder tilesets for the Godot game, with the intention of hiring an artist to replace them if it came to that, but now I think I should really reconsider my entire visual strategy. One issue I was having is level design. It’s hard, man! So my levels were pretty linear. One of the challenges of designing a sidescroller versus an overheadview is interesting layouts require so much vertical design. A reason the overhead view works so well in Yume Nikki and Yume Nikki fangames is you can have wide, empty spaces, and since the player has free upward and downward movement the maps don’t necessarily feel flat the way a straight-level platformer would. The extra vertical dimension doesn’t have to be explicitly created. If that makes sense.
I’d like to play Middens spiritual sequel, Gingiva, to experience the style more firsthand. I’m going to look for other titles that blend pixel art or do something unique visually beyond having unconventionally-styled tiles, like Space Funeral.