Well when you have them, try the non-black outlines again. See if it makes a difference.Rahsennor wrote: I want to add more background elements - many more background elements - but I'm having a hard time learning to draw them all. Hopefully the bushes won't be so out-of-place when I have trees, mountains and buildings all over the place.
It is easy to infer that the bushes cannot be stood on when there is little more than just bushes. The problem becomes when you have a lot going on in the scene. It is just generally easier to set your standards early and build within them, than to take a complex scene and try to find ways to convey things properly. When your game grows and you have more going on in the background, identifying something by context becomes harder.
I personally am a fan of what Mega Man games do; they keep the palettes separate between solid objects and background. But that would not work in the scene you drew because you have one-way platforms; the hills that are both background and solid. Unless you had more colors to work with, it is hard to use palettes to separate things when you have that kind of level design. Four sets of three colors is a harsh master.
For my opinion, I think you ought to make the bushes look more organic and rough if you are going to adhere to a rule of using shape to indicate what is solid and what is not. That straight sides rub against the rule a bit. Not a lot, but it might look better with rough sides anyway.Rahsennor wrote: So visually I was on the right track: simple blocky shapes are interactive, complex curvy shapes are in the background. That's still not quite perfect though; look at the airships. It's a lot more complex than "black outline means solid". I think the player can be trusted to infer that my two bushes are purely decorative, provided they're introduced in the right way.
The airships (1) never appear until far in the game when the player already has a strong grasp on things, (2) still retain solid tops and only have curved surfaces in the areas where the player isn't *really* supposed to go, and (3) are used in levels completely devoid of background.
I heard someone once say "You can only break the rules when you understand them completely." He was referring to writing (or maybe it was art; it was at a panel at some convention) but it applies to a lot of things. And understanding the rules also means understanding why they are there. You need to take that into context when you try to bend around an established standard.
For example, the palette rule I mentioned Mega Man uses. In Mega Man 6's Tomahawk Man stage, they break it; they have a fence that uses the same palette as the ground. BUT the portions of those colors are so vastly different than how they are used in the ground that at first glance it almost looks like a different palette.
That's the same principal with how Mario 3 broke their own rules. It was done in such a manner that they still covered their butts and adhered to the founding principles of their rules.
Establish your rules, but don't break them until you have them completely covered.