How to Adjust Settings for Your Background in Gamestar Mechanic

After you’ve added a background to your game, you can further customize the background in Gamestar Mechanic by using two additional options in the Level Settings dialog box: Background Scrolling and Background Style.

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Background Scrolling

The parallax is an important property of the background in games in which the Multiple Screen option is selected. Editable by the slider under the Background Scrolling section of the level settings, parallax determines how far the background is from the sprites. In large levels, the sprites scroll so that the main screen is centered on the player, but the background can scroll at a different rate.

Many classic platformer games such as Super Mario use this trick, and you can see it in action in many Gamestar Mechanic games, such as the Naviron Elevator mission from Episode 2 of the Addison Joins the League quest. The parallax thus determines how quickly the background moves relative to the avatar.

You can set it to None (the background doesn’t move) or Locked (the background scrolls with the sprites) or any spot between them. The three types of parallax are described in this list:

  • None: The background remains where it is, even as the level scrolls — this means that the game’s sprites are displayed over a single stationary image. This type can look mismatched if all the sprites start sliding but the background doesn’t. Thus, if your background has this attribute, make sure that the background feels disconnected from the sprites of the level.

  • Locked: The background scrolls along with the sprites as though it’s connected. Thus, if a sprite is placed over a certain part of the background, it remains there no matter how the player moves around. This is often effectively used in top-down games, since the background then becomes the floor which the sprites walk over.

    This type of background can depict items that are aligned with the sprites of the level, such as walls or floors. You can make this type quite detailed, by drawing paths and features that connect neatly with the sprites. However, don’t depict anything as though it’s off in the distance, because it makes the perspective of the game look odd.

    For example, if you draw a mountain in the background, it might look like the player can cross from one end to the other in a couple of seconds, because the mountain scrolls by too fast.

  • Somewhere in between: As the player scrolls through the level, the background scrolls at a fraction of the speed of the sprites. The Parallax background gives the illusion of being at a distance from the sprites — the slower it moves, the farther away it seems. Try different parallax values to calibrate how far away you want the background to be.

Background Style

Custom backgrounds can be compromised by improper scaling, making them pixelated or mostly hidden. You can scale backgrounds in the Background Style level option in three ways: Tile, Stretch, and Fill. This section tells you how to select and apply a style to your custom background and incorporate parallax setting and level size.

Tile

The tiling background technique is reserved almost entirely for custom backgrounds (because most quest backgrounds aren’t properly enabled for tiling). Making a background repeat without scaling is quite a useful skill — the image you select acts more like a single tile than a full background.

Suppose that you make a tiny background consisting of a light gray square with a dark gray outline. The resulting background would consist of many of these tiles set in a grid pattern. This background can be used in interesting ways — by drawing smaller backgrounds than normal, you can create large tiled patterns easily.

You can also use larger tiles — the size of a screen, for instance — to create large levels with a background for each room. The Tile feature isn’t necessary to get the background you want, but it can be quite a convenient tool for doing so.

Most backgrounds look mismatched when tiled, because of the seams between the tiles. Either place outlines around tiles to separate them from each other, or design the background so that each side connects neatly with the opposite side. The happy-face background has outlines around each tile; the sky background is designed so that each side connects seamlessly.

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Stretch

Though the Stretch background style is not as commonly used, it has some interesting applications. If you apply a background that’s too small for the level, the Stretch feature “pulls out” the background both horizontally and vertically to fit the stage. This effect is different from Fill because the process doesn’t try to maintain the background’s aspect ratio — it can be stretched in one way more than the other.

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The Stretch feature is most commonly applicable in high-resolution quest backgrounds, especially abstract ones that can look interesting when stretched out. However, you rarely want to use this feature with custom backgrounds.

Fill

The default background style is Fill — a useful go-to style for both quest and custom backgrounds. Fill resizes the background until it’s just large enough to fill the room (accounting for parallax). One problem to watch out for is that Fill-type backgrounds are centered on the level; if you put a square background in a wide level, the top and bottom parts of the background are cut off.

Background cutoff can be helpful for quest backgrounds. If you want to make a level in the sky, you can combine a high level width with a plain background to produce a more “airborne” picture.