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Praedium - Creative Highlight 1

Creative highlights

I’ve decided to document any further creative work related to the Praedium project.
As a result, I will provide compiled mock-ups and design decisions in short posts, showcasing the progress and presenting my reasoning and thoughts behind some ideas.

I’ll keep those posts under the #creative-highlight tag so everyone interested could easily skim through the archives and take look on the visual progress on the project.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind everything you see here is just a concept and may most likely be changed before getting into the game.

Let’s get onto it then!

General overview

Firstly, let’s talk about the overall feel I’m going after in Praedium.
Speaking of technical matter, I’ve designed the mock-up using the classic CP-437 font, with a size of 16×16.
It has a nice retro feeling, and the character list is actually quite small. It’s a strict 255 characters font, which I’ve found challenging to work with. Showing anything more complex is quite challenging.

My main goal was to use as little of standard characters (such as numbers or letters) as possible. Of course, it will be impossible to completely avoid them and sooner or later I will have to use those to represent something like animals, which are hard to portray by a single character from such a restrictive set.

Anyhow, below you can see my effort in compiling some basic ideas about the game into some visuals, which we will go through one by one in this post.

First mock-up First mock-up for Praedium

The farm

The place where the player will take most of his time in, is of course the farm itself.
An important part of it will be the player’s house, where he can rest, save the game, look at the calendar and do some other less-meaningful tasks.


The house A cozy little house

The insides of the house have not been on my mind yet, but looking at the outsides we can see an entrance, a little window, a tiled roof and a little shade on the grass, giving a more depth to it instead of the classic top-down view usually used in roguelike games.

Next to the house we can see a few flowers, and a little patch of field surrounded by a simple fence.
Part of the field is watered, hence the darker colour, so the player can easily distinguish the tiles he already watered. Same will apply to other crops to keep a consistent feel.

We can also see a short path leading from the house to the field and standing on it is our player.


The player A small change from the usual portray of heroes in text-based games

The hero was usually represented as the @ character in many text-based games. I found it to be less appealing and quite odd-looking next to other elements which do not really have a heavy text-based visuals.
Changing the character to a simple smiley face, on a dark background (which is important to let our player stand out more) gives a much better look to it.

Crops and plants

The crops Patches of fields for different crops - before and after watering them

When it comes to crops, things get a little harder. The CP-437 font provides a few characters that give a rather intuitive plant-ish feeling.

There are problems with it though, firstly - they do not portray any specific plant or crop, that’s why I’ll need to figure out some UI for providing more information about given tile.

Second problem is the fact that we have a rather limited palette of characters for plants.
We can fight it by applying more colours and creating variations of the plants.

The crops Creating more crop types using colours

That improves the situation a bit, but still will probably bite us in the back sooner or later - The palette for plants is also limited.
And applying 50 shades of green just to get 50 different plants doesn’t sound like a good idea.

Standard character crops Less appealing, but definitely distinctive plants

A solution would be to apply standard characters to have a clear difference between any crop. That unfortunately may not look so good and I’ll try my best to avoid it, but if impossible I’ll be forced to use it for some of the crops.

Speaking about growing crops, it’s important for the player to know how much the plants grew.
For crops such as wheat, it can be achieved using the pattern-ish characters from the CP-437 font.

Wheat growth An example of wheat growth

There is also a problem with it and it’s - also - a result of the font’s limits. It won’t be easy to show growth for other plants.
I can go around and try playing with colour but that won’t get me far.

Still, that’s better than nothing, but again some UI with more information about tiles will be necessary.


Another important aspect of the game will be the process of planting the seeds in order to grow crops.

Seeds An example of two kinds of seeds

The player needs to know which patches of his field are already planted with seeds and quickly distinguish what types of plants are going to grow there.
Thankfully we can visualise it very easily with a simple dot (or two even) of a standing-out colour.


I would like to also provide the ability to plant and grow trees so you could grow apples or plums for example.

Trees and bushes A clever use of characters may result in not-bad looking trees

While hard to portray ideally, this way of visualising the trees that bear fruits is easy to understand and even allows for representing the dropped and ready to harvest fruits on the ground.
Different dot sizes and colours allow us to show different fruits such as apples or plums without much problem.

Another cool feature is the actual tree size - we can see different size of trees growing in different ways.

Also note the little bush with berries.

Strawberries Speaking about berries - here are some strawberries


I really want the game to look nice despite it being text-based, so the environment is very important.

A small pond and a stream A small pond a stream

I feel that different aspects of nature such as ponds and waters, small grass patches and flowers and other details are really important to make the game look a way lot better.

That’s why I have thought a while on how to present the water to the player, the fishes swimming in it, and the depth of the ponds or streams.
I applied some depth by using the colour transition on the edges, which also gives it a more depth.

On the surface of the water you can see some little details (perhaps too many of them) and the shadows of the fishes swimming beneath.

I think the pond turned out quite nice (also notice a nice little pier).

Another example of small details are stones and pebbles.

Rocks and pebbles Some rocks and pebbles of various sizes

While providing an obstacle for moving or expanding your fields, they also give that rough and natural look.


Chickens Look at those… chickens!?

The animals will be one of the things that are hardest to visualise properly. There are no characters that can help me here so I will very likely go with the standard characters, with say, first letters of the animal name and a colour distinctive for the animal kind.

That doesn’t look very nice but I have no idea how to go around it in any other way.
Of course, here some UI will also be necessary to provide more insight into the animal (along with what that animal is).

User Interface

Weather UI Some ASCII art does a fine job to show detailed objects

The User Interface will be useful to show the player the current weather (for the times when he’s not outside). That way, you will be able to tell whether it’s sunny or rainy and you don’t need to water the crops.

Of course there would be more elements to the UI such as tools, money or day time.

Details UI Tell me more, chicken

A quick contextual UI could go a long way to help the player get more information about given tile or what’s in it (in this case a chicken).
Here we see that it is in fact a chicken, a male one, that’s healthy and is 2 years old, also it likes us a little a bit.

The liking part is a rip-off from the harvest moon mechanics and I’m not sure I’ll actually implement it, but it’s a good case of UI example.

Wrapping it up

I think that this creative highlight shown you some ideas I have and maybe got you more interested in the project.

I also presented some challenges and issues I’ll have to address which I have not took into consideration before such as the need for contextual UI.

If you have some ideas or maybe know how to get around some of the problems, feel free to comment below!