Posted by Kim on May 19, 2021, 9:00amI said I would have more to say about maps and avatars after Epic Week, and here we go! I tried several times to record a video about this, but I looked so exhausted in all of them that eventually I just gave up and decided to just start writing stuff down.
Back on April Fool's, I joked that we were going to "close down all our forums" in favor of becoming an MMORPG. But the truth is, my current vision for maps & avatars is as an optional augment to our forums and inboxes - much the same way you can "launch as chat" from these locations if you like, you could open a map that the OP had designed and linked to their topic. Unlike the "farming game" test that I did during Epic Week, the map would have the chat built right right into it, rather than you needing to flip back and forth between them.
Another key difference from what we've seen from tests so far is that avatars could be designed for every character profile you have, rather than just one for a user account. I can think of lots of scenarios where this would be as useful as it would be fun - imagine a group RP where the party is fighting a half dozen goblins, where you could see where in camp you and your friends were positioned, and the GM could move the goblin sock puppets around as appropriate with each post!
Since it'd be an augment - if maps were too much of a hassle for you to get started with, or you didn't find they added anything to your style of RP, you'd be perfectly free to just go on with purely text-based RP instead, as you liked.
Of course, there's quite a lot of distance between where we are now and where I want to take us. I don't have an exact timeline for avatars and maps yet, and many of the details of these visions may end up changing as they bump up against reality. But I want to talk through what I'm thinking about and the problems I'm tackling. This post is the first in what I suspect will be a long series of meditations on the subject.
The first question I'd like to talk about in detail is: What will it look like?
After many years of pondering what RPR maps and avatars might look like if I were to find a way to make them reality, I think the answer is "like the Liberated Pixel Cup."
The original Liberated Pixel Cup was an event held back in 2012, where pixel artists both collaborated and competed to create as much high-quality free culture licensed artwork as they possibly could. The idea was that they'd create sets of pixel-art assets that would work in a wide variety of games and gaming genre, and send it off into the world, free to use for whatever programmer wanted to make something fun and cool with it.
And then it just... kept going. In the nine years since, not only have many great indie games and apps been generated with the Liberated Pixel Cup content, artists have continued to add and add to the collection of art assets available for game designers to work with. All those different ore rocks that were featured in the farming game this April? Those were added to the LPC library in January of this year!
You've already had a taste of what maps & avatars in the Liberated Pixel Cup style might look like; I exclusively used LPC assets in our avatar builder and in our farming game!
There are a lot of ways in which the Liberated Pixel Cup feels like a great match for the RPR, one of the most prominent being that the LPC project is all about trying to support creativity across a wide variety of genres and systems. Every genre, any system used to be the RPR's tagline!
But there were some significant stumbling blocks to my considering adopting LPC as our starting place back in the day - the first was a lack of diversity among its basic avatars - for a long time just male and female adult humans, and usually light skinned.
The second was a lack of a cohesive palette. Artists just created things with whatever colors they felt kinda worked, which... kinda worked. But it left me in some doubt.
Over the years, the diversity of avatar bases has grown slowly, and I think by putting our attention and resources toward it the RPR can help to even further expand the LPC library in that area.
One of the artists in the LPC community, Eliza Wyatt, has been making forays since about 2017 toward expanding the LPC world's diversity in terms of body shapes, sizes, and skin tones. She's the one who created the androgynous avatar base that we enjoyed this year in our April Fool's Avatar Builder, for example. Her recent work caught my eye as I re-examined LPC assets as a possible direction we could go for the RPR, and I started talking with her almost daily in the run up to Epic Week. While I was getting ready for Epic Week, she was working to create a definitive color palette for the Liberated Pixel Cup to coalesce around after all these years -- I was lucky enough to be in a then-private Discord with her in those months, and got to watch and give feedback from an RPR-needs perspective as she worked on creating what is being called the "Liberated palette." (I even gave the palette this (pretty obvious) name!)
Of course, we'll have full color support, so you can design and patch in whatever you want; but having a palette that we can use as our "home base" will help us to have a cohesive look. Eliza Wyatt may have helped us cross that hurdle.
Check out the range of avatar colors Eliza's palette can easily support!
I wish that I'd been able to offer this full range of colors to you all back in April, but the Liberated Palette wasn't finalized until after Epic Week had kicked off.
All of this makes me feel much more confident in deciding that LPC is a good starting place for us.
Starting with LPC as a basis for our expansions means that we wouldn't launch our maps with just the bare-bones I and a handful of commissioned artists would be able to scrape together; we'd launch with nearly a decade's worth of great visual content put together by a community dedicated to the cause.
I also feel that this could benefit the LPC community as well -- all of the love, creativity, and resources a community like the RPR could bring to expanding the types of avatars, items, and genres could explode the number and types of games that could be created using the LPC library!
Why pixel art at all?
Just on a personal level: I really like it. It can be beautiful, cute, silly, spooky, whatever you need it to be. It's relatively accessible for people to learn to create. It's light-weight and can run on a variety of devices, including phones.
Even with all this rambling, we've barely scratched the surface on my thoughts about RPR maps and avatars. But I'll pause here and continue on next week!