Official development blog

Tileset Concepts, an Open Poll

The response to last week’s advertisement for a pixel artist was overwhelming. I did expect a fair number of random artists from art forums just forwarding their portfolio, and certainly got that, but there were also a good number of applicants genuinely interested in the project itself.

In total the ad had nearly 1,000 unique views, attracting 34 applicants. Of those, 17 provided concepts for a Cogmind tileset, which I’m sharing with you today (anonymously!). Of those who didn’t provide concepts, 5 are qualified candidates to consider for hiring if we don’t find any initial concepts that are already on their way to being a good fit for the game.

But first, let’s look at the concepts. Naturally these grayscale samples will feel somewhat different once colored in game, but the results will still be monochrome, painted with a fully-saturated color of varying brightness to reflect the tile’s shading (if any).

The list--order is random, click to open the image and make sure to zoom it to 100% size for details:


Cogmind tileset concept submissions. (Click to open full size for details.)

I’m not making my own criteria or critiques public yet, hoping to instead hear what you all have to say. Some of you (those not using ASCII) will be the ones to actually use these, so I want your input. Have opinions? Favorites? Suggestions or preferences regarding style? Which of the above samples would you like to see expanded to become the game’s tileset and, more importantly, why? Leave a comment here or at any of the many other locations this post is mirrored.

Next Steps

If enough of you concur that some of these concepts are something you’d like to see in the game, the selection process will continue as I contact those artists to work out the details, as well as compare candidates based on other criteria, like experience and, um… cost ;)

Bonus Art

While we were only interested in concepts for tilesets, some applicants provided samples of other kinds of art, some of it pretty cool… This wasn’t required, but let’s not let those efforts go to waste :D.

These are all different takes on my ASCII art for Cogmind:


Chainsword and Quantum Rifle partially pixelized by Linus Chan.


Anti-matter Cannon illustrated by Gustavo Santos.


Mini-pixelized weapons and components by Gurkan Te (ShroomArts).


Update 2/12/2015: We’ve chosen two artists. See some initial revised versions of these tileset concepts in game, and a discussion of the selection process and ASCII vs. Tiles aesthetics here.

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  1. Posted January 27, 2015 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    A, F and L all stand out to me. More than any of the others these have clear definition to their shapes, making them distinguishable at low and high res. L stands out the most for the variety of content provided.

    • Kyzrati
      Posted January 28, 2015 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the feedback, Darren. I’m partial to A and L myself, but after hearing so much reasonable feedback from others, the decision is becoming increasingly difficult…

      We’re definitely going to need a second-round “what do some of these look like in game”-type comparison.

  2. Posted January 27, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    in response to Darren Grey, I think L actually didn’t show much form, and was mostly made of lines. I also found the sideways perspective of F and some of the models in L to be problematic given the top-down perspective. They confuse me rather than being illuminating.

    I haven’t played many games with ascii graphics but honestly am more excited about the ascii than those sprites.

    I think I would find something closer to B much more comfortable. Now I understand that many of the assets from B are large, but the perspective and volume are important to me. I also appreciated A and O

    • Kyzrati
      Posted January 28, 2015 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      I agree about wanting to avoid a sideways or otherwise oblique perspective. Frontal view makes the most sense. Though with L in particular I think the occasional side-view could work if it’s used to convey another kind of information, such as “non-combat units” as it seems to have been used here. In fact, several of the artists who provided non-combat units in their concepts ended up showing them sideways.

      As for L’s style, it would look much better with one shade of gray.

      I, too, like A and O, and possibly B, though I’d have to see more of the smaller concepts for that one.

      Ascii will always be an option, and I’ve no doubt many will still use that :D

  3. screeg
    Posted January 30, 2015 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    A is very clean and readable. I’d like to see more of what B can do, aside from giant ants. L shows great range and style. I wonder if his stuff would be improved with shading or if it would overcome his style.

    Use of side perspective doesn’t bother me, honestly forcing people to stick to top/down is very restrictive. What’s most important is that the units are easily distinguishable.

    • Kyzrati
      Posted January 30, 2015 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      “What’s most important is that the units are easily distinguishable.”

      I agree. A few people have even come out and said that none of these sets fit the style of Cogmind, and I’m starting to realize that, too. I think we need something more symbolic, kind of like an “alternative ASCII.” That would be more in line with what I originally envisioned for the game, but I seem to have forgotten that vision when calling for artists, perhaps because I mistakenly believed that the idea of including a tileset is to make the game more approachable for those who can’t/won’t use ASCII, and should therefore resemble pixel art from other games. Taking that idea too literally has kind of led the art direction away from the game’s unique style itself.

      ASCII works well, but the main problem with it is that some players find the letters/glyphs too familiar to successfully represent other unfamiliar objects from a different world. We need something akin to ASCII in its symbolic simplicity, but that thematically fits the idea that “this is a robot’s interface to the world, not a game screen.”

      About the sets that were provided, L with a bit of shading does look better (I’ve tested it). Though at this point I may be looking to hire one of the artists who is also capable of providing something a little more abstract and truly unique.

      • screeg
        Posted February 4, 2015 at 2:24 am | Permalink

        I had planned on playing Cogmind in ASCII, which would make it the first game ever for me since I usually can’t stand it, but your design ideas won me over. I think a simpler set of symbols as you mentioned elsewhere would work great. Personally, I would prefer if they weren’t all “cute” though. A mix of less threatening and obviously threatening/weird enemy units would be ideal.

  4. Posted January 30, 2015 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Wow its a bit difficult to judge as some have tiles and others don’t.

    Of the tiles one, I like M and P very much. They keep a varied robot look even with random stuff.

    Some have to few tiles to comment: N, O, G, C; B is great but if you take out the multicell ones there’s not pretty much to see there.

    A has a nice mix. I would like to see it mixed with tiles to see a proof of concept. Those pipes and all could make the levels very fancy.

    As for small tiles the F packs a great puch with so small icons, that look pretty good even when upscaled.

    H also has few tiles 3 in different sizes, but its the one that looks best in both reduced and upscaled modes.

    K gets a bit too crowded with the tiles used almost in their entire pixel range, getting a bit too much square ant its difficult to see the robot in the middle of the environment.

    In J, F, E I would wanto to see a bit more and a tile concept, as they seem pretty solid also. Though simple, even when upscaled they look good.

    Finally L and I. Since they have no grays they don’t look as good as the other ones, but with colors and shades they could make the difference. In particular L as that retro ZX Spectrum look, specially the small robots when upscaled (though I dislike the big more detailed ones).

    Anyway, given all the good entries… there will surely be the ability to mod and add tilesets later I hope?! ;D

    • Kyzrati
      Posted January 30, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Thank you for the detailed analysis. It is difficult to compare them and make a final decision from these samples alone, for sure. I just wanted to make an initial pass to gather opinions on different potential styles, then do a more direct comparison.

      But now I’m not so sure because it may be that none of these quite look like they “belong in Cogmind.” See my reply to screeg. I wonder if F (or perhaps P with less shading?) comes closest to the symbolic approach described in that comment (which is interesting, because F is somewhat based on my own initial concepts). (M is also based on my concepts, but I think uses too much shading as is.)

      It is definitely very easy to mod in new tilesets, so easy (and not a huge workload since you can choose to make one for a specific/single size) that I’m sure we’ll eventually have player-provided alternatives!

  5. Posted January 30, 2015 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Oh… and about the artists take on the ascii weapons… WOW!!!

    • Kyzrati
      Posted January 30, 2015 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      It was nice to see something different in there, even if it’s not something we need. I liked them so much I had to show them to you guys :D. Hopefully we’ll see some more fan art once the game is released and players start interacting with the content!

  6. icelizarrd
    Posted January 30, 2015 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I’ll likely be playing CogMind in ASCII mode, so my opinion should probably be weighted less, but here are my thoughts:

    A has a certain charm to it, I’d rate it maybe a 7.5 out of 10.

    B is decent: it’s maybe not my favorite in the world, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the finished game with those kinds of tiles. (I do like the spider bot a lot.) Call that an 8 out of 10.

    I do not like C-K much at all.

    I’d give L about 5 out of 10. I appreciate the imagination but it ends up looking too harsh for my tastes. (I know, they’re pixel graphics, but even so.)

    I like certain elements from M, but dislike the wall and floor tiles. 6/10

    I’d like to see more in the style of N, but it’s hard to judge off of just one image.
    Ditto for O.

    P has a few neat robot tiles, but again I’m put off by the wall and floor tiles. 5.5/10

    So, my top ratings seem to be A and B, with M being a runner-up if the wall and floor were a little different.

    • Kyzrati
      Posted January 30, 2015 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the detailed response!

      “I’ll likely be playing CogMind in ASCII mode”

      Yeah, I’m realizing we may want/need a tileset that’s closer to ASCII in terms of style/readability, something almost abstract and icon-like, in order to better fit the theme of the game. See my reply to screeg.

      The wall and floors in M (and a few other elements) are actually based on my own concepts, and the floors in particular aren’t what the game would normally look like, because the artist modded the 7DRL and that’s the starting room, which is full of debris instead of actual floor…

      Ack, so much reasonable analysis from so many readers on all the different places this was posted… It’s going to be extremely difficult to make a decision at this point. Definitely going to have to narrow down the possibilities by looking at them in this new light--seeking something that truly fits the unique “Cogmind style,” and not just “this would be good in a monochrome roguelike.”

      • Posted February 1, 2015 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        “the artist modded the 7DRL and that’s the starting room, which is full of debris instead of actual floor…”

        Ahhh. That explains a lot!

  7. Reiver
    Posted February 4, 2015 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Symbolic-yet-suggestive icons may be the way to go, so long as ‘it’s a fighting robot’ is still readable by a suitably suggestive icon, if not an outright sprite.

    That said, the mini-pixelised weapons and equipment is fantastic. If you could get that idea to fit into the budget and icon sizes, being able to visually identify equipment scattered around after a fight at a glance… that’d be huge.

    • Kyzrati
      Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      “Symbolic-yet-suggestive icons may be the way to go, so long as ‘it’s a fighting robot’ is still readable by a suitably suggestive icon, if not an outright sprite.”

      This is probably the way we’ll be going. I haven’t put any more updates on the blog yet, but the discussion of art direction for the tileset is ongoing in the TIGS thread. Some additional samples have appeared there as well, with more to come.

      The only way to make items individually recognizable via pixel art would be to enable multicolored sprites, which isn’t happening. There are also more than 600 items in the game, with more to come, so that is a *lot* of little icons, even more so when considering that each would need to be drawn in at least 5 sizes, which is 3,000 icons!

      I think the recognizability issue is mostly taken care of by the many manual and automatic on-map labeling systems. This is something that (surprisingly) no other ASCII roguelike has done before, so once you experience it you’ll definitely feel the difference in accessibility.

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