East vs. West Developer Diary 3 - The Art Of The Cold War

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GFK

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Welcome to the third developer diary for East vs. West: A Hearts of Iron game! We get a lot of questions from curious people. Gamers, naturally, but also aspiring artists in general. We've even had a mother asking if it was worthwhile to have her son studying game graphics in college. Today we wanted to bring you some insights on the subject of graphical game art.

The Graphics user interface and new units
The most obvious part for our game, and the place where the player spends most time looking, is the graphics user interface (GUI). The purpose of graphical design is to increase interaction with the functionality and theme/content of the game. So you should be following project guidelines throughout this process. We co-ordinate with the coding department and the production team to make sure that our first drafts and sketches of the GUI are in line with their goals. When designing the GUI we all stick to the same Cold War theme. We’ve gotten ideas from films, books, old printed ads, architecture, art and even military and industrial equipment – there’s a small story hidden behind almost every pixel. As an artist drawing from history, there are lots of places to find inspiration and harvest for mental resources.
Bare polished metal plates with folders, old paper documents and secret files piled up, dusty glowing buttons, Commodore like keyboard keys, old factory toggle knobs and scratched TV screens – just another day in your imaginary rusty Cold War bunker that comes to life every time you start up the EvW game. Want to put in an order for some attack helicopters Comrade General? With a brand new arsenal, hard work and dedication, we've aimed to dazzle you with some splendid eye candy!

View attachment Helicopter showcase.jpg

Using art as guidance
But it's not just the graphical 'spit and polish' we have to focus on. The actual content we put in is equally important as well. An excellent case in point is the policies that, by-and-large, have replaced the ministers most of you will recognize from the original Hearts of Iron 3 games. The player can choose to pursue different policies during the game depending on his government's stance. And while the effect of some of the policies are blatantly obvious, others certainly are not. The challenge was to find the right imagery that helps you to easily understand the policy mechanics.

View attachment Economy.jpg View attachment Finance.jpg

Bringing images to life
Though most of the 'old' ministers have been replaced with the more generic policies, not all of them have been scratched from the roster. The Head of State (HoS) and Head of Government (HoG) for the individual countries are kept but the graphics format has changed, from the small 36x50 pixels format to the larger 68x68 pixel format, which will show details a lot more clearly than the old one did. Equally important though, is the switch from black and white to color, at least in concept. Though color imagery is more present for the Cold War era than it was for WWII, there's still a lot of footage only available in black and white. Given enough time and patience, it's possible to apply some magical powder, a blueprint for good measure and big chunks of artistry for recoloring. Here are two examples, Georgiy Malenkov and Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan. Mikoyan didn't actually make it into the game, but it does show what can be achieved by using color and some tweaking to bring images to life.

View attachment DevDiaryIII - recoloring1.jpg

View attachment DevDiaryIII - recoloring2.jpg

In East vs. West we also bring to life the battlefield with time appropriate 3D models. What is more evocative of global tensions then a column of tanks and men facing down your enemies, or some seeing some of your wonderful ships roaming the seven seas? I guess sneaking submarines around would be the only thing rivaling that, but you be the judge of that. So here are images of a Soviet Kuznetsov class Aircraft Carrier and an American Lafayette class submarine.

View attachment battlefield.jpg

View attachment Kuznetsov_class_aircraft_carrier_texture.JPG

View attachment Lafayette class sub_textue.JPG

In conclusion
While you spend your time panning around the map and picking the right policy for your government, remember that the pixels you see have been crafted for you with care and precision. Each stroke of our digital pencil, each layer of our digital paint or sculpting of our models, our main aim has been your enjoyment. Thank you for your attention!

Grega Trobec, Maarten van Tintelen, Ajay Choudhary, Martin Danevang & our partners at Paradox South
 

apg

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thanks,

can we use NATO counters aswell? as i dont really like sprites. Even though that sub does look good...

EDIT: Also another question, are all motorised vehicles, ships & planes going to have there own images for each country (in the unit construction.production screen) or will there be generic ones?
 
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SonGoku

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The Kuznetsov does really look sexy. :wub:
 

warsmith17

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I really like those naval sprites, makes me hope I can choose to use counters for land forces, and sprites for naval forces. The images of the GUI that I've seen so far promise to make this GUI my favorite among the Paradox games, just for having some nice period flavor.

I's also nice to know that for each of our 10 policies we'll have 5 choices, which promises some nice variety and customization for our nation, since I believe that would equate to something close to 10 million combinations.
 

Garek Maxwell

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Just a few suggestions for otherwise very lovely graphics that I enjoy.

1. The icons for policies sometimes have almost no vignette shadow on the edges, with curtailed government spending as the worst offender. The mostly white images pop out and feel like they don't belong with the whole set compared to other icons. A darker vignette for light images would help fix this, and then just apply it when necessary.

2. If your artists have access to Photoshop, you can add more color diversity and realism with the Gradient Map adjustment layer. This way, darker areas on the man's blue jacket could be a dark desaturated blue while highlights could be a cyan tint. That's probably too extreme of an example, but it may help skin tones look better. I know how hard those are. :(

I do love the graphics though, and the UI with the helicopter (and past screenshots) looks amazing and very well done! I like the mentioning of your inspirations too, to get an idea of where certain elements may have come from. *Is a slight UI nerd.* :p

Edit: Cleaned up some text.
 
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Hagar

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1. The icons for policies sometimes have almost no vignette shadow on the edges, with curtailed government spending as the worst offender. The mostly white images pop out and feel like they don't belong with the whole set compared to other icons. A darker vignette for light images would help fix this, and then just apply it when necessary.

2. If your artists have access to Photoshop, you can add more color diversity and realism with the Gradient Map adjustment layer. This way, darker areas on the man's blue jacket could be a dark desaturated blue while highlights could be a cyan tint. That's probably too extreme of an example, but it may help skin tones look better. I know how hard those are. :(
Well the policy graphics was one of the first few areas we tried to include in-game, and did... Then someone decided it was a great idea to change the graphics size and template... a few times in a row... :rolleyes: So that's probably why they ended up in their current form. Adding some gradient to those should be a piece of cake, especially as we have Photoshop and actually having been doing stuff like that in other areas as well.

I do hope the overall images do work though, in terms of making clear what the policy in question represents. We decided to use an all-out Dollar theme, both for consistency and it basically was the main hard currency of the era, both for the West and for the East. :)
 

kunadam

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I think that on some of the other screens you can see the new counters. To be honest I like them more than sprites. And they are also the masterful work of our gfx team.
 

Veneke

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Always an enjoyable read, thanks!

I'm a bit wary of the recolouring process (I simply prefer black and white) but the two examples shown look very well indeed.
 

unmerged(382860)

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I found counters always more practical. But having the arms mostly as deterrent in CW, we can stare most of the time on these beautiful models. And the unit card of the helicopter is awesome, hope to see more with this quality. Definitely an improvement over plain b/w images.
 

Tankist/45

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I really like the sprites:blush: Good to know you taking game graphics seriously.
Are unit model pictures colour (real) photos?

Only bad thing we have to wait month for next DD.
 
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