Short and sweet this week. I know I’ve said that before but its got to be true today.

So. Icons. I don’t mean app icons but ways of representing game or unit states in-game. These are really interesting and if I’m honest, I’ve never had to do anything like them before. I’ve created all the more obvious ones at one time or another but some of these are just a little bit tricky. I mean, here’s what I’ve got to have icons for ..

  • Combat Preview
  • Combat Resolution
  • Wooded terrain
  • Forest Terrain
  • Clear Terrain
  • Surprise Attack
  • Artillery Bonus
  • Armour Bonus
  • Out of Supply
  • Out of Fuel
  • Airpower Bonus
  • River Assault
  • City bonus
  • Town Bonus
  • Isolated

None of them appear too problematic. There’s some vague standards/conventions for some but having an icon work at 128×128, 24×24 and 11×11 pixels can be a conundrum. When I started in game graphics professionally I missed out the whole pixel art area and went straight to polygons so the skills required to make something recognisable at very low pixel densities passed me by. Never the less that’s what I found myself needing to do so I had to come up with solutions.

Strangely enough the ones I thought would be trickiest, Clear Terrain and Isolated weren’t too bad. It was actually the most common .. Out of fuel and Out of Supply that caused the most headaches. These two are the only ones that are used at 11×11 pixels, next to the unit icon, on the map. So not only did they have to work at low resolution but against a busy background. They also, to my mind, had to avoid the look of pixel art. Nothing wrong with it in its place but in this game it feels like it needs something else.

Out of Fuel is one you’ll find in a lot of games and even in real life on your car dash board. There’s a range of different symbols used; fuel pumps, jerry can, oil drum, liquid drop. Sometimes flashing, sometimes red. I also got it into my head that it should have a cross across it indicating a negative. I went through all of them and more. The cross came and went, being too busy and obstructive to the image. I’d also used a simple, undetailed style throughout the other icons so as to contrast nicely against the background and be easy on the eye so the oil drum and jerry cans got dropped.

In the end it was a simple drop that had enough negative space to be readable at a small size and maintain the simple, clean style and weight of the rest.

As for Out of Supply, the convention seemed to be a crate with a cross on it suggesting reinforcing cross beams. Again I’d used a cross over it indicate a negative so initially the crate changed to stacked boxes. Because of the space restrictions imposed by the cross the boxes looked more like a stack of palettes. Interesting but it didn’t read well. Once I decided to get rid of the negative cross I went through a number of options. I liked the idea of showing a stack of crates rather than just one and ran with that for a while. The stack I eventually came up with to my eye looked like a stack of ammo crates and, because of its sharp lines was easy to read at small scale.

And before any of you shout out .. yes the Out of Fuel symbol is no longer the fuel drop but the jerry can. The fuel drop just kept registering as a water drop, even to me.

Well no doubt many of you will disagree quite heatedly about what I’ve chosen. Maybe some of you won’t. Either way shout out and let me know.

(Note: Originally Published on the Shenandoah Studio Blog)