Page 1 of 12

Building Icons

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:25 pm
by Josh
Please read the Guidelines to Contributing and the License we are using for graphics, as you must agree to those terms first.

--- edit(pd): ---
Icons should:
  • be on a transparent background
    be recognizable at 48x48
    be distinguishable at 16x16
    have a strong, distinct silhouette
    be provided in 64px*64px and in color
    be representational or symbolic(choose what works best)
I believe the approach of using a base together with a symbolic representation on top could work very well for all kinds of buildings(see Genome Bank and Minature Sun).


This thread is built explicitly for the convenience of submitting, reviewing, approving, finalizing and committing building icon contributions, therefore it's in the best interests of everyone involved if people don't crowd this thread with comments that needlessly clutter the thread as many people will often need to go back and review past submissions as well, especially newcomers. This will make browsing easy for everybody, all that's being asked is that contributors use good judgment when posting here.

To-Do List
Green means done. Red means not.
  • Imperial Palace
  • Observatory
  • Shipyard
  • Bioterror Lab
  • Bioterror Projector
  • Autolab
  • Autofactory
  • Theorem Prover
  • Lighthouse
  • Heavy Mining Processor
  • Industry Center
  • Asteroid Mine
  • Megalith
  • Collective Thought Net
  • Genome Bank
  • Anti-Gravity Well
  • Planet Ring
  • Space Elevator
  • Commercial Union
  • Deep Green
  • Paradise Planet
  • Caducean Institute
  • Living Planet
  • Orbital Gardens
  • Enclave of the Void
  • Looking Glass
  • Monument to Exodus
  • PsiCorp HQ
  • Artificial Blackhole
  • Hyperspatial Dam
  • Miniature Sun
  • Economic Sinkhole
This list will be updated as submissions are approved and committed, so check back on this if you need to see what building icons still needs to be finished, it's a fairly reliable indicator of what is still up for grabs. Also, some buildings might actually be added later on, so it's really more of a tentative list.
If the artistic concerns about the style for icons merits a lengthy brainstorm discussion, please, start another thread and don't hijack this one. This thread is reserved for actual icon submissions, and really only the first half of the thread should have any meaty discussion about style, technique, etc.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:33 pm
by Josh
Not to toot my own horn, but I know Geoff was wondering if any previous work on building icons has been done, and it turns out it has. By me. 8)

So here are some examples to get some discussion started up:



If you were confused before about what representational and abstract meant, then look no further. If you still don't know what the difference is, I don't think I can help you. :)

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:38 pm
by Tortanick
I think the poll is a bit misleading, the way you've phrased the option abstract makes it sound like the tech icons rather than the radar array you've used as an example.

Anyway I'm voting for abstract, I think the radar array is the style to go for.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:00 pm
by Josh
The bottom one is'nt a pure abstraction, parts of it are representational, and the vote by no means covers every possible avenue either, what I was interested in was where do you lean most.

I avoided mentioning specific styles so it would be open-ended, not misleading, but yes the tech icons are a good example of abstraction.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:36 pm
by eleazar
First off, thanks for putting in the work to get this thread (and art) started.

I think you've presented the question as somewhat of a false dichotomy. Obviously the icons are not going to be ~300x300px pencil sketches. You need more sharpness and clarity for functional icons. You know that, but still...

:arrow: I think the important thing to consider is weather they should be
1) symbolic and iconic vs.
2) natural and "photographic."
Both your examples are very #2.

I think Geoff's interest is probably that the building icons are stylistically distinct from the tech icons to help make everything easy to sort and identify. Weather or not this is a worth goal, but there's more to consider.

* We don't have a lot of room. point for #1

* Many or most of these building types don't have intuitive structural distinctive. A person could easily guess what a "planetary ring" looks like, but not a "hyperspatial dam" or "collective thought network", or "theorem prover" etc. Recognizable images for the less obvious class of buildings would naturally tend towards iconic.

* The more we style the building icons art to look like an actual view of the buildings, the more obvious it will be that this building is not appropriate to each alien species and/or each planet type. Architecture would obviously going to be very different on a lava, terran, and ocean worlds, let alone as built by different beings. The more the more each icon looks like a picture of a building built by a particular species on a particular planet type, the sense of "wrongness". And don't even suggest that we make alternate icons for each planet type and/or species. That would make the UI absurd.

So in summation, i think we should use an SMAC-like icon style for the buildings, probably ultimately color-coded like the tech icons to reflect the category. Making them distinct from the tech icons in some way would be good, but that's a secondary concern. I don't have any ideas on how to do that at the moment.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 2:38 am
by Josh
The autofactory up there is just concept art, not an actual icon. What you would do is either paint over it, or make a 3D model based off of it. Or at least I'm hoping nobody thought I was suggesting we use pencil sketches. That sketch has cousins btw.

I remember showing it to Zach, and he said something like "Buildings in sci-fi games never live up to expectations, foo" or something. I forgot exactly what Geoff said, and I think pd was the only one who showed remote interest in the autofactory style up there. But I'm assuming even the observatory is too... for your tastes, despite it's simplicity?

In which case you wouldn't be interested in this imperial palace or this artificial blackhole either.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 3:18 am
by Geoff the Medio
Since buildings are meant to be actual physical objects in the game universe, much like ships are, I'd rather have a graphical representation for them that is more object-like than concept-like. FreeOrion tech icons are generally conceptual, but for buildings, I suggest something more like what GalCiv2 uses: ... ance_3.jpg

Those don't obviously depict what the building does from just the icon, but they're generally distinctive and the player could get used to what they look like and tell apart the more common ones. I think of this a bit like buildings in StarCraft. I remember when I first played it, I couldn't tell apart any of the buildings until I'd played through the campaign for each race.

I don't have a preference between the moderately complicated (for their size) 3D models like those in the GalCiv screen, or a more hand-drawn style like Josh's autofactory (although that specific example icon would need to be painted over, as he noted above). I imagine that the GalCiv-like 3D models (or images that look like a 3D model) would be easier to keep consistent in style betwen artists, and make distinctive between different races while maintainig the same rendering style.

Regarding eleazar's concern about buildings not looking consistent with different planet evironment on which they're placed, I think as long as we don't attempt to show the buildings on a background that resembles each environment, it won't matter much. Also, long-term, different races could be given their own custom icons for each building.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:34 pm
by Tortanick
IMO on a purely astetic level GalCiv style buildings look pretty bad in comparison to more stylised icons like Josh's radar array. I think they fall into a nice happy balance between looking good and looking solid,

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:59 pm
by pd
I'd like to have them representative and in color to clearly differentiate from techs and also to brighten up the UI a little - probably very similar to ship parts.

The only problem I see is showing them at the sidepanel in the collapsed state. The current placeholder icons are really tiny.
It will most likely be hard to recognize the building icons at such a small scale. Using color in a clever way will at least allow us to distinguish them.

p.s. Polls are bad.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 3:20 pm
by Josh
Oh my, I didn't realize the icons were THAT small, that looks like 32x32. What would be the point of 128x128 images? I can see what eleazar meant by not having a lot of room.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 3:33 pm
by pd
It's 16x16 actually. As said, it's probably enough to make the icons distinguishable. There simply are limitations we can't work around when using such a scale. In the expanded state the icons are shown at 48x48, on the production screen at 64x64.


Re: Building Icons

Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 1:53 am
by MikkoM
First of all sorry if I am a bit late for this conversation. At the moment I support representational building icons, since if we could have different kinds of buildings for different races, these images could hopefully tell the player something about the culture in question and also support the idea that there are unique species living in the galaxy. Now I am not suggesting that there would also be different kinds of buildings for different kinds of environments, since making the buildings appear durable and environment resistant would probably allow them to be believable enough in most of the planet types. And what comes to the races themselves, if there isn`t enough time/interest in the artistic department to give each race their unique buildings, maybe we could group the races so that those races that resemble each other the most could share building icons. At the moment I don`t really understand the problem that eleazar sees with these icons making the UI absurd, as we could probably have tooltips to give the player the information of what a certain building does.

And what comes to the more abstract looking building icons, the major problem that I currently have with them is that they seem to be heavily influenced by real world buildings/objects and so immediately bring our human culture to mind. This isn`t something that I would like to see when dealing with species that are supposed to be quite different from us humans. So considering the "problem" stated above I had this, perhaps a crazy, idea. Would it be possible to make these abstract icons so that they would be unique enough to tell something about the race/races that use certain types of icons, but at the same time informational enough to tell the player something about the purpose of the building? So there would be different sets of these abstract icons for different races, but each icon representing Bioterror Lab for example would have some clear hints that would make it easier for the player to link the icon in question to the Bioterror Lab.
pd wrote: The only problem I see is showing them at the sidepanel in the collapsed state. The current placeholder icons are really tiny.
It will most likely be hard to recognize the building icons at such a small scale. Using color in a clever way will at least allow us to distinguish them.
Would it be possible to use larger icons for buildings in the collapsed state to make them easier to recognize, or would this make the UI look strange?

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:40 pm
by Josh
We'll, we have a lot of limitations. I don't wanna say "no" to buildings for every species but, frankly, no. We've got some 7-13 playable species planned in the final? Never mind the minor and elder races. We're already doing unique stuff for the ships, plus buildings here are really tiny, 64x64 at maximum size, and then people will want the ship parts to look unique, and on, and on...
It's just too little a pay off for all that extra work. Players will probably say "yay!" once they've researched it the first time around, build a couple of them, admire their own handicraft, and never give the picture a second thought again except to remember what it stands for.

No, I'm convinced we need to use something on the simple side, and preferably something contributors can easily create. I believe representational buildings will be easier to create, seeing is buildings are tangible things, not abstract ideas. (not usually anyways)

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:18 am
by utilae
I support abstract.

I think that buildings are going to be used by many different races and it is alot of work to create different buildings for each race.
In the end, you have to not go into enough detail. Those who want that information can imagine it in their heads.
An abstract looking building would be representational of the function of the building more than the detail of the culture that owns it.

Perhaps we could have a cross between culture and function, where you have certain themes (shared by races), but only like 5 or 6,
eg plain and boring, haunting & industrial, commercial and trade, green and holidayish, philosophical and artsy, buzzy and vibrant.

Re: Building Icons

Posted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:53 pm
by lazor
Just for kicks, and because I was bored (again), I tried to model the autofactory from the little concept art Josh posted:

here is a render

and here is the .blend too if anyone is interested.

It is already UV-unwrapped, and I tried texturing it, but it seems I suck at texturing. So, this is a start at best, but I just thought I post it anyways. Mainly because I thought Josh might be interested in my 'interpretation' of his concept art.

A bit more on-topic, I have to admit that I voted for representional buildings for the sole reason that I think it would be more fun to make actual buildings then abstract icons.

But I have to agree with pd when he points out that it is going to be hard to make the icons representional with such tiny sizes.

Still I think it might be worth the effort. I wouldn't even attempt to make different buildings for different races, but a small good looking library of different building types as 3D models, which could then be rendered in different sizes and possibly different lightning settings. Those renders could then be used in various places to represent those buildings.

PS: How do i agree to the license terms you are using? Is it implicit by just posting stuff?
Anyways, I specifically release those two pieces of artwork linked in this post under the license terms of Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported