Beneath a steel sky cover art

Beneath a Steel Sky (part 2)

First part

Not only were there controversies around the story, but also about the graphic design. As I have mentioned several times, the graphic design for Beneath and Steel Sky was made by Dave Gibbons. However, he did not go to the development studio, but faxed his sketches. Dave lived in London and Hull, where Revolution Software was based at the time, about 300 kilometers. It took about an hour to set the fax parameters correctly, but it was still more convenient than traveling across the UK. So Dave drew sketches of individual locations as well as exact portraits of individual characters, then faxed them to Revolution Software. They told him how satisfied they were and what they would have imagined differently. Dave drew the environment straight with puzzles to fit the overall look of the screen. The sketches they received in Revolution Software were colored and scanned with a scanner at a resolution of 1000 by 1000 and with a 24-bit color palette (16,777,216 colors). Such large images were then software edited to a resolution of 320 by 200 pixels and to a color palette of 256 colors (8-bit palette).

Left: Sketch made by Dave Gibons of one screen | Middle: Painted picture | Right: Edited picture that appeared in the game

And at this point in development, Steve Ince and Dave Gibbons had disputes. Steve Ince was involved in the game's animations and wanted detailed characters with a wide variety of animations. while Dave Gibbons only wanted the silhouettes of the characters he wanted to complete with his detailed portraits. In the end, there was a compromise, where in the game the faces of the characters are made in detail, even though they number only a few pixels, and the game package also included portraits of individual characters with their descriptions. When I talk about very detailed graphics, I mean the version of the game on MS-DOS. The game was also released on the Amiga, but its graphics were greatly reduced there.

The comparison of MS-DOS and Amiga version
Left: MS-DOS | Right: Amiga

The technical aspects of the game were very progressive for its time. The game ran on the Virtual Theater 2.0 engine, which was an improved engine from Lure of the Temptress. The characters in this game move between locations and react to you as well. If you stand in someone's way and they bump into you, they will apologize to you, go around you and continue on their way. This makes the whole world much more interesting when you see a city that lives its own life. At that time, it was customary for all the characters to be practically in place and you are the only one in the game to move. As in Lure of the Temptress, you get a helper who accompanies you through the game. This time it's a Joey robot, whose circuit board you have in your inventory since the beginning of the game and you can plug it into various shells. Unlike their previous game, however, assigning a helper is much easier, because you don't have to figure out the exact way of formulating where to go and what exactly to use it, just click on the offered option. The game also has incredibly simple controls for its time. You don't have to select individual actions from the whole list, the game came with a contextual cursor that can be applied to anything and the necessary action is automatically selected. Use the left mouse button to talk and explore the surroundings, the right mouse button to collect and use items.

Continued in the next part.