A delightful set of ruses.

For a game on iPad, Fates Forever sure looks lush. It manages that by using as many tricks as possible to use the fixed-angle camera view to reduce the geometry complexity of the foliage.

The neatest trick they manage is the ground plane. All those plants on open ground right next to the path are actually just baked into the texture and are part of the ground plane.

Most of the other plants are just a texture on a card angled towards camera, but some clever texture work gives them perspective and depth. With some aggressive asset reuse I imagine they can fit a lot of plants into just a few texture sheets.

These tricks operate on the same principal as those sidewalk chalk pictures: they look 3D from the designated angle, but the illusion breaks if you were to just rotate the camera a bit. Thankfully this is video games, and you can control what angle the camera is set to.

Fates Forever (2014)

A single level of detail.

Usually in a game where you can find your camera pulled very far away or put right down into the grass you find some kind of level of detail system, which replaces lower-polygon versions of art assets which are acceptable at a distance with higher-polygon versions for close up. It works, in general, because a close-up shot is going to have fewer objects on screen at a time.

Elven Legacy takes the middle-ground approach: a mid-level polygon count at all distances - I’m not sure if it replaces far-far-away trees with 2D impostors - but enough small details like the reeds to sell the close-up views. It’s an approach that really optimizes the art production and placement process.

Elven Legacy (2009)

A field of orange flowers.

There’s a bunch places in Dark Souls that are pretty, but few that are almost uplifting. The bright flowers scattered throughout the Royal Wood are a nice, different touch for an area that - despite the presence of some strong opponents - almost feels serene compared to most of the rest of the game.

Dark Souls (2011)