This morning I’ve been entranced by Pixelscape: Oceans [official site]. It’s kind of an oceanscape creation toolset where you can come up with little screensaver-esque scenes and then populate them with fish. You can also turn them into actual screensavers using a companion app which is a cute idea.
The editor takes a bit of getting used to, particularly if you’re like me and accustomed to something like Photoshop for image editing. Initially I was so confused about how the layers were organised and some of the basic tools – especially since not all of them apply to every placeable object. There’s also no undo button that I can see so erasing things you no longer want or which you placed in error can be a real faff, toggling layers and accidentally deleting other objects.
After a while I got the hang of it and bashed out what turned out to be a pretty rubbish scene. Comparing it with the example the game gives you in the first save file I started to get an idea of how it all fit together and re-reading the tool tips imparted a lot more information (I’m not one of those people who can read a text explanation and have the information lodge in my brain – I need to pick at it and play around with it before I feel like I understand what’s happening).
But then, what to do? What scene to create?
At this point I started thinking about the landscape painters and how they indicate different layers, creating the illusion of depth, and how they use props to move your eye around the scene. The toolset actually associates particular darknesses with particular layers so the things that are the furthest away in terms of layer are paler. It’s a way of trying to help users create a sense of depth even if they don’t quite know that that’s what they’re doing, I assume. Anyway, that felt like a thing I wanted to experiment with but I still didn’t have a scene in mind so I turned to those aforementioned painters, specifically Nicolas Poussin.
I’d studied Poussin’s work at university so I went digging through some of his work in order to find a scene whose basic arrangement I could appropriate/bastardise to form my little pixelly oceanscape. Paysage Du Temps Calme seemed like a good candidate, with layers starting from a dark tree in the foreground on the left, a lake in the middle (to which your eye meanders along a goat-speckled pathway) and onward to a distant settlement and even more distant mountains.
Here’s how it ended up – you can see the changes and reworks I was doing as I went as well as getting an idea for the bits you can change and the tools available to you:
Here’s Poussin again so you can see the comparison:
Pixelscape: Oceans is currently £2.37/3,39€/$3.39 on Steam.