Whew! Step away for a few days and miss a lot.
Okay, I've skimmed a lot of this thread, and have a few things to add/say. If there are any pressing questions that folks have that I miss here, please feel free to repeat them as I simply didn't see them:
1. In general, there are two approaches we are considering: "articulated sprites" which are basically procedurally animated. And in that case they would be packed in a dictionary much more like what Bluddy is suggesting. The alternative is full-frame pixelart sprites but at a lower resolution, in which case we'd keep to the general approach we have now.
2. The question of graphics formats is irrelevant, as unity 3D only supports runtime loading of PNGs.
3. At this time we have contracted three separate studios to do prototypes of what the game would look like with a re-skin. We'll select one of these to go to the kickstarter with, and that will be "the style going forward" for the game if the kickstarter succeeds.
4. Keeping the old art available is something that we will of course do, but we will not be including it within the game anymore. And it's possible that it may very well become incompatible with the game if we massively change the resolution, or move to articulated sprites, or even just change the number of frames being used. In fact there's quite a good chance that most of that art wouldn't even be able to function with the game in its revised state, the more I think of it.
5. A lot of that comes back to the fact that this is not a skin-deep cosmetic change. One way or another, this is also going to have a number of technical consequences on our render pipeline, and I strongly suspect that this will also impact our gameplay and enemy design going forward, as well. We've trended toward having (by game standards) really enormous foes, and I feel like that has a lot of drawbacks from a gameplay standpoint as well as from an artistic standpoint (many times you can't even see but a tiny part of the foe you are fighting). That's not to say there would be no massive enemies, but that they would be used more sparingly -- hello overlords, etc. I think a lot of inspiration from the older Metroid and Megaman and even Mario games is in order here. Heck, actually most any game I can think of that is a platformer, come to that, tends to have enemies that are mostly the size of the player or 2x that size at most.
6. Most likely we will make some changes to viewport functionality despite my previously having said that would never happen; scaling everything so people get a more consistent viewport regardless of their screen resolution would solve a number of issues (again more of a gameplay nature rather than an artistic one, although also an artistic one).
7. Currently two of the studios we have contracted are working on what is primarily pixel art (with some bitmap-style art for the backgrounds) at a lower resolution. The third studio is working on articulated painterly sprites at something a lot closer to the current resolution. I have no idea which will win out, it all depends on the final results; I have high hopes for them all.
8. If we go through an overhaul of this nature, it's going to invalidate all existing tilesets most likely, but it won't prevent anyone from making new tilesets just like they can now. What we're talking about here is really a v2 of the entire concept of the visuals of AVWW. The scope of this is enormous -- well over 4,000 pieces of existing art to convert (though not really quite all of those, since many of the particle effects will be left alone I think), and not only do we have to think about the time and cost of this initial conversion, we also have to think of the ongoing costs of supporting the new content as we add more stuff to the game. Thus only if the kickstarter succeeds in being funded or we fall into a LOT of money will this go ahead. But I am confident we should be able to make a pretty darn compelling kickstarter.
7. In the short term this does take away some of my capacity for work on AVWW and otherwise, because I have to see to the art as it is progressing and discuss with now three studios for the art. However, within a month or two this should actually be a time savings instead, because they'll be used to me and I'll be used to them (whichever studio we continue on with, if the kickstarter succeeds), and I'll no longer have to spend any of my personal time on making art for the game. That's variably between 10% and 30% of my personal time on this project, depending on what exactly we're working on at a given time, and all of that time of mine will suddenly be freed up if we're able to move to this sort of process. So we'll be able to do a lot more
, not less.
8. This will in no way impact the coming of another AI War expansion, either. We'll have more news on that front in early August, when we expect to start development on that one; that one is going to be pretty much Keith's show, which should be happy news to everyone since his have been the most popular features of the game since I laid down the core game itself. I will be acting in more of a support role on that particular expansion, so that I can continue to have my core focus be on AVWW.
I hope that helps to clear some things up!