D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

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D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Xfing » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:35 am

Playing quite a bit of D1 and D2 on a daily basis, I have made some observations regarding the textures that appear in both these games, and what relationships they have with each other. This will be mostly a dry essay, so it might bore you if you're not into analyzing such stuff.

To start off, I have devised four criteria for categorizing textures.

1) Availability
2) Usage
3) Mood
4) Thematic Compatibility and Universality


The first category is the simplest, as we have:

a) Common textures
b) D1 exclusives
c) D2 exclusives

Usage of these textures in official missions mixes things up a bit:

a) Common textures - ones that have appeared both in D1 and D2, and in many cases it would be hard for both games to go without them. These textures are ones such as:

Image

b) D1 soft-exclusives - ones that are present in both D1 and D2 .PIG files, but have seen no usage in Counterstrike despite frequent usage in First Strike. Vertigo has made use of many of these textures to great effect. Examples of such textures are:

Image

c) D1 hard-exclusives - textures that are present only in D1.PIG and didn't make it to D2. Were used in the First Strike mission. Several of these textures are either redundant with newer D2 textures or subpar in quality, but many of them are perfectly fine and appealing in their own right. Examples are:

Image

d) D2 exclusives - textures that were brought to the table by D2. Mostly completely new ones, but some expanded on previous D1 textures (mostly hidden doors).

Image

e) Unused textures - present in both the D1 and D2 .PIG files, but used neither in First Strike nor Counterstrike. Rather theme-neutral ones. I might have overlooked one of these example textures being used somewhere, if so then shame on me :P

Image

This classification (especially categories a-d) will help in the next point of analysis: mood.

The mood that each texture carries obviously has decided what textures to put next to each other numerous times. The Parallax designers have come up with some really interesting configurations in their levels, in both games. But the mood factor goes much further and is much more subtle than just the theme of the texture (fire, ice etc). The mood is the thing that sets apart the D1 soft-exclusives and D2 exclusives the most.

It all boils down to four moods: inhospitable, hospitable, realistic and retro.

The difference is somewhat clear when you look upon the levels of D1 and D2. In D1, you don't feel like you're sightseeing, admiring the beautiful landmarks of the mines. You're surrounded by bleak, morose, matter-of-fact locales that constantly remind you of the danger you're in. All of D1 is like this, while D2 only has a few parts in a handful of select levels that feel like this.

It has been proven that looking at colors evokes certain feelings in people. But just as important as the colors themselves is the contrast and saturation of these colors. While popular and staple D1 textures are distinct enough coloristically, they are rather bland, toned and devoid of excessive, unnecessary detail. Textures of similar color themes introduced in D2 are the very opposite of this, wich can be seen quite well on the picture below.

Image

The row above contains textures frequently seen throughout D1, while the bottom row shows textures more often seen in Counterstrike. The differences are obvious: the D2 textures look "friendlier" and nicer to look at. They draw more attention than their D1 equivalents because of the mostly intricate patterns they sport - so much so that one could argue they draw too much attention. What's more - warm colors are emphasized, while cold colors are somewhat toned down, while at the same time each color is much more saturated. Finally, the D1 textures do look more naturalistic, while the D2 ones simply look more cartoonish.

Let's now take a look at Parallax's approach to white and green textures in D1 and D2.

Image

D2's textures, once again, are more colorfully vivid, more detailed, but also more over the top in every aspect, too attention-drawing and not hostile-looking enough. And let's not even drag the Baloris Prime textures into this, the most unnecessarily flamboyant textures D2 has brought to the table.

However, there are some D2 textures that due to several factors wouldn't be out of place in D1. These textures have one or more of the following properties that let them qualify as "hostile looking" enough for D1.

- naturalistic
- toned colors
- lack of an overly elaborate pattern or design
- don't look like canvas
- you look at it and you think it's hard as a rock, not soft as snow.

The examples of such textures I can think of are:

Image

I believe that the particular textures above, if placed in a D1 level, wouldn't feel out of place. On the contrary - they would serve to enhance the D1 "inhospitable" feel. I think the differences from the more popular D2 textures are well visible. The textures are simple - unremarkable even, and don't look overly cartoonish, weird or attention-drawing. They're similar to the D1 soft exclusives in that respect.

However, there are several textures that have seen extensive use throughout D2, yet somehow feel too, shall we say "benign" or "calming" to fit into a D1 aesthetic, while at the same time being too elaborate and vivid to help the mood. Still, they're great textures in their own right and certainly do help the D2 levels they're found in. I'd call them "borderline hospitable":

Image

As for the textures that contribute to the retro feel... in my opinion it's those "lab" textures that were quite often used in D1. They are the ones that remind us the most that we're in space, and have that scientific feel that reminds me of the early 90s the most. While Descent is an old game, it doesn't feel or play like a really old, retro game. It ages surprisingly well. So the little quirky textures that remind us of the platformers of late 80s and early 90s are the ones that qualify, I guess. I'll try for some examples:

Image

While the "realistic" textures are pretty obvious.

Image

I would estimate that Descent 1: First Strike contains about, say, 50% of "inhospitable" textures, 30% of the "realistic" ones, and 20% of the "retro" ones. D1 hard-exclusives are mostly retro, but several are also inhospitable. D2, on the other hand, contains like 75% "hospitable" textures, 20% "inhospitable" ones, and 5% "retro", while the "realistic" ones are all but absent, only to make a return in Vertigo.

Ok, so now let's move on to texture compatibility.

Deciding what textures go well with each other as well as which textures to put in and on which to pass, decides about the whole feel of the level. D1's texturing has been pretty uniform and in the First Strike levels practically no texture ever ground against its neighbor textures or stood out as freakish. In D1, the textures just were there, you never paid that much attention to them as you were too busy fighting robots. Well, in D2 it's almost impossible not to pay attention, due to all those invasive, "hospitable" textures glaring at you. So, how did D2 fare in that regard? Let's analyze the systems one by one:

1) Zeta Aquilae - probably the best and most aesthetically rewarding system to play through, as while attempting to showcase as many themes as it could (being the demo episode), it actually pulled off some very nice ideas and the levels actually felt quite similarly to D1 due to the diversity they contained. Linking together elements from Fire, Ice and Alien 1 quite tastefully, while not entirely crossing over into any of these realms, these levels showed to a good extent how creative use of varying textures can make an interesting, memorable level. Each of the levels showcases this: Turnabout Bore sports all three themes, while Wenl Mine makes great use of the bright violet texture seen again only in the ice levels (where it didn't make such an impact). Seeing as this was the most thematically neutral set of levels, the designers didn't shy away from using many inhospitable textures too. Robby Station, for example, is the most thematically indeterminate level of the whole mission, and it still manages to carve itself a niche, "slightly alien" feel, bringing back warm memories of parts of D1 Secret Level 1.

2) Quartzon - As this level set's main selling point is water, the textures themselves are not that flamboyant. Many inhospitable textures are used in this level set, and thank goodness. However, some blues and greens are too invasive, and unnecessarily so, as the best-looking parts of this level set are the dark and bleak deep greens. This is also the most naturalistic looking level set of them all.

3) Brimspark actually looks good quite often, many fire textures used are inhospitable, and nice throwbacks to the Martian levels of D1. However not all's daisies with this set, as several unnecessarily flashy and cartoonish red textures have made it to the levels. They would have looked much, much better with the plain old Martian red, or the red cobblestone textures. Also, the new "staple gray" of D2 is overused painfully in this set, and it isn't the prettiest texture to look at. Why come up with this texture in the first place when you had the older, better looking gray wall from D1? Instead that texture got very little use in D2, thank goodness that any.

4) Limefrost Spiral could have been executed better. While I do enjoy its icy locales quite a bit, several textures are an eyesore, mostly the dark blues. The lime ice texture is great, but sadly underused. The white snow-like texture is good to look at, but also could have been used more in place of several other, much more inappropriate textures. Luckily, the biggest eyesores are restricted to reasonable amounts, and the levels themselves feel cohesive enough to be fun.

5) Baloris Prime. Oh gosh, you could call this level set an acquired taste, and you could call it a mish mash clusterf**k. Not only are its textures some of the most coarsely self-imposing ones ever, the transitions and connections are also often weird. The first of the "borderline hospitable" textures is also thrown in frequently, although most people feel it doesn't really fit. The dark green stone surprisingly fits quite well, although one can't shake the feeling that there could have been a better choice. Overall, I think Parallax should have simply gone for the "sandy" feel, instead of trying to mix sandy with alien. The levels might have turned out a bit more cohesive that way. Zeta Aquilae was the right way to mix several themes, this was not.

6) Omega System was quite a nice idea, while the execution was adequate but could have been better. It shares with Baloris Prime that it looks like ice-cream, only this time it's mint and pistachio rather than cream and peaches. All those whites and greens can't make me feel any other than that. However, that universal "borderline" greenish/gray texture that felt weird in Baloris Prime, actually enhances this system. I'm not too fond of the wickedly green alien texture, but the green-stained whites have potential, and it's mostly been realized in the levels. Still, much of the came could have been achieved by using more toned textures.

So, to summarize this point:

One could divide the textures into three categories again:

1) Universal
2) Adaptable Themed
3) Hardcore Themed

The points are rather self-explanatory, so I won't be elaborating. Universal textures are used throughout all systems, and often also in D1. Zeta Aquilae provides excellent examples of "adaptable themed" textures - but it also doesn't go overboard by including "hardcore themed" ones that should remain exclusive to the system they're in. D2 Vertigo, while very adventurous and creative in its design, has set the black obsidian texture as universal, placing it successfully in levels of every theme. Even Vertigo, however, didn't cross over the boundary of good taste by including too blatantly "hardcore themed" textures into levels which weren't supposed to fully embrace the theme in question. The mission was also a large and mostly successful attempt at putting textures of similar mood next to each other, while at the same time minimizing the use of the ultra-invasive "hospitable" textures and putting them in more to mix things up then to texture whole locales.

Ok, that concludes my analysis. Of course, everything in this essay is arbitrary and by no means law to go by. Thanks :)
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Alter-Fox » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:12 am

I would actually be interested in reading this but the texture pics are enourmous and I'm not going to scroll left-right, left-right for every single line of text.
If you made the pics smaller so that the text wraps properly I would read it though. It sounds a lot like the analyses I've made of game soundtracks and how different modes, moods, chords, to name a few things, are used by the composers... which ultimately helped a lot in getting me a job in the industry. And it's the kind of analysis I do on other things (like textures, even!) when I'm trying to emulate someone else's design style.
Although mine were never actually written down :P.

Also, your #3 "unused" texture was seen briefly in level 25 of first strike. You know I couldn't resist.
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Xfing » Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:08 pm

Alter-Fox wrote:I would actually be interested in reading this but the texture pics are enourmous and I'm not going to scroll left-right, left-right for every single line of text.
If you made the pics smaller so that the text wraps properly I would read it though. It sounds a lot like the analyses I've made of game soundtracks and how different modes, moods, chords, to name a few things, are used by the composers... which ultimately helped a lot in getting me a job in the industry. And it's the kind of analysis I do on other things (like textures, even!) when I'm trying to emulate someone else's design style.
Although mine were never actually written down :P.

Also, your #3 "unused" texture was seen briefly in level 25 of first strike. You know I couldn't resist.
Yeah, I thought this would happen. And one of the supposedly D1 soft exclusives was used in D2 level 2, I just found out :D

There isn't that much scrolling though, and you need to scroll only once to the right by a slight amount to be able to read everything with no subsequent sideways scrolling. At least it's so on my monitor :P
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Duper » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:23 pm

looked fine for me. Full screen my browser and no scrolling needed.

*shrug*
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Alter-Fox » Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:50 pm

My monitor must be smaller than both of yours then. I can't scroll to the end of a line without cutting off the beginning of that line.

Maybe I can copy it into a word document and read it that way...
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BEWARE RAZZADOON'S SNOUT!!
...

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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Duper » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:10 pm

Couple of comments.

I tend to thinks that the textures were designed for the mine's theme. .. some were ice, some were water, some below heavy jungle on the planet surface, metal lined walls...
I don't think that they went that heavily into design dynamics then.
So while an interesting thing, I believe you're reading a bit too much into what's there and "original intent".

These days, you definitely look at sequential color and lighting flow.

Also, you drew these conclusions with a very VERY small data set. Many of us have been building for years. there are hundreds, which I'm sure you know.
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Xfing » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:49 am

Yeah, community-made levels are a whole different story, naturally. I was only analyzing D1 and D2 here.
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Avder » Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:23 am

I have to say I agree with a lot of the assessment. The D2 textures are far too colorful and cartoonish to feel at all real, and I think that diminished D2's single player experience quite a bit compared to D1.
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Naphtha » Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:12 pm

For the most part, I'm grateful for how D2 expanded certain parts of the spectrum. If nothing else, I'm sure we can all agree that there weren't enough icy-looking textures in D1. My opinion on the vibrant colors of D2 textures is a bit more relaxed, partly because of my own tastes as an artist and partly because I feel they set the mood better than you might expect if you mix and match very well. There's quite a few fire textures I really liked, while I feel like D1's red textures are a little too alike and therefore not as exciting.

But even as a little kid, I did pay close attention to the texturing to the point of recognizing certain areas or levels not just by color, but also by exact texture. It was such that I knew the first "soft-exclusive" texture you sampled only appeared in small parts of Level 6 and Level 14, for example. :lol: I agree with more of general point about setting the mood, but there's some textures from both games that I feel are too hard to place in a level, and while some are overly-vibrant and more alien in nature, it's mostly the "realistic" ones. For me, those realistic textures are the ones that are too busy, and generally they feature drastic changes in color that make it very hard for me to decide where to use them or what to put them next to. But I find it easier to place an overly-vibrant texture in an isolated cube behind a fan, as if it's some sort of radioactive chemical or whatnot.

And I'm just going to have to agree to disagree on the gray rock/facility texture, Xfing. The D2 one is clearly superior. :P
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Re: D1/D2 Texture Analysis - Essay

Post by Xfing » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:34 am

NaphthaTurisas wrote: But I find it easier to place an overly-vibrant texture in an isolated cube behind a fan, as if it's some sort of radioactive chemical or whatnot.

Yeah, like D1 level 1! Come to think of it, I first played Descent on a monochrome monitor, and I thought that was space behind the fan. Space! How cool is that?
And I'm just going to have to agree to disagree on the gray rock/facility texture, Xfing. The D2 one is clearly superior. :P
Nawwww it isn't! The D2 one looks like it has disease spots :lol:
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