Developing Broken Age simultaneously for older and current platforms — both desktop and mobile — was a difficult challenge for the game's development team, according to Double Fine Productions' lead programmer Oliver Franzke.
Getting Broken Age to look the same and run smoothly on its target platforms, from older PCs and the latest mobile devices, is one of Double Fine's most important goals, Franzke said during a presentation at the 2013 Game Developers Conference Europe. But tailoring the game to work on a variety of desktop and mobile GPUs, all well as a number of different screen sizes, is no simple feat.
"We want to make sure the game looks absolutely gorgeous on all platforms." Franzke said.
Broken Age is targeting both desktop and mobile GPUs across varying screen sizes
Franzke said Double Fine's goal for Broken Age's characters was to make them highly expressive while keeping them simple to animate and flexible to place in different environments and lighting. To do so, Franzke and his team have created a "hybrid rig," which includes using "flipbook" animations and mapping out body parts' geometry on a grid. This allows the team to animate, flip and place body parts easily and more accurately for each character.
According to Franzke, sticking to only classic-style flipbook animations used in classic point-and-click games was unrealistic for Broken Age; using this style of animation would make reproducing the characters more time consuming and would require more device memory to run the game. The "hybrid rig" Double Fine uses allows the development team to create characters more efficiently without sacrificing graphical fidelity.
Franzke also noted that Double Fine uses an auto lip-sync generation program, which analyzes voice recordings and assists animators with syncing characters' lip movement. This, Franzke noted, is incredibly helpful — especially considering the amount of screen time for Broken Age's main characters.
"We want to make sure the game looks absolutely gorgeous on all platforms"
Broken Age's environments were created using the same principles — minimize the amount of memory the assets take up while still allowing for intricate details. All environments are being rendered to take to dramatic lighting changes, as well as fit snugly on all screen sizes without any graphical distortions.
Franzke advised aspiring developers to think about the platforms they want to publish to early on development, as decisions regarding graphical constraints — such as those used for Broken Age — need to be made quickly in order to determine how games will be constructed.
Broken Age follows the lives of Vella and Shay, two teenagers stuck in different worlds, who go to great lengths to alter their fates. The first half will launch via Steam Early Access in January. The full game is planned for launch on Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya, Android and iOS.