I now have templates for most of the graphics in EDCE so I decided to start some preliminary work on a new project. That project is a port of graphics from Advance Wars. The original idea for the port comes from a thread started by Roy Batty on the EDCE forum which you can view here. The screenshot on this post shows the results.
I’ve never played Advance Wars, but I found videos showing how similar it is to Empire. While I am able to work on the artistic recreation of the game, Roy will ultimately need assistance from other modders for the UDB mods since I am unfamiliar with the gameplay. So the rest of this post will focus on my efforts towards making graphics.
As you can see from the screenshot, I was successful at importing the sprites. The terrain sprites are static and were fairly effortless to put into the game. The biggest challenge is the tiles draw different in EDCE than they were in Advance Wars causing some glitches. Plus, EDCE has two versions of each tile, and it is selected randomly, meaning you get some unintended glitches.
The bigger problem, however, is in the Unit sprites. I encountered three artistic challenges that will make a true port impossible without some intervention by the EDCE developer.
- Directional Awareness. Advance Wars changes the sprite based on the direction the unit is heading. There are 4 basic directions, but really there are 8 options and a static one, for a total of 9. EDCE only allows one.
- Animated Sprites. Units are animated in Advance Wars. This is possible in EDCE, but is hard coded / configured for only a few sprites and none of them are units. Examples include explosions. If this is expanded to work for units as well, I have the sprites ready for import.
- No Alpha Channels. I saved the best for last! Unfortunately, units (this includes cities) cannot use the alpha channel. In the screenshot, you can see the black border that generates when the transparent pixels are ported. This is easy to fix by adding a background color, but it means a true replication of the original graphics isn’t possible.
I encountered some other issues, but they are minor in comparison to the ones I mention above. For example, I can’t animate the beaches for similar reasons to #2 above, I can’t re-name the terrain types, and I can’t get varied terrain underneath city tiles (these get re-written to clear spaces no matter what I do). And on the unit side, no ability to increase the stacking beyond 2, provide unique firing animations per unit, or gray out tiles that aren’t in a unit’s moving distance.
If this were an ideal world, I would be requesting the following modifications for fix the 3 big issues:
- Open up a config file for designers to provide unique options. If I had a file where I can specify the png paths and sprite maps, I could theoretically apply animations, directional awareness, specify alpha channels, and create thematic animations while not impacting the default graphics.
- Add alpha channels. Seems like a no brainer, but it creates new challenges. Half of the “minor issues” I just mentioned become major ones once you allow the option. For example, having terrain (in this case roads) visible under the city will be an immediate request once this is opened up.
- Allow stacking limit to be configurable. For the stacking issue, allow the stacking limit to be configured rather than hard coded to 2.
Anyway, that is where I leave this for now. I expect to have another unit graphic update soon.