Glad you like it
I created the background in Photoshop, mainly by stitching together a number of images I found using Google, and then erasing bits of them to give the correct shape.
Explaining the whole process would require a number of tutorials in its own right, but the use Photoshop aside here's what the image is composed of.THE ROCKY PLATEAU
The base is a single rock texture, rotated and copied around at random angles to fill the required area. I then erased the edge with a soft brush to make it blend smoothly.
I then added a couple of hue/saturation adjustment layers and painted on the mask, by hand, to isolate the action to specific patches. This adds the brownish patches seen here:
Next up I grabbed a cracked earth texture, made it very faint and slapped a few copies on top of the rocky plateau. Here they are, rendered against white because they are so transparent as to blend almost completely with the checkerboard:
Here's the same cracked earth texture but with different hue/saturation settings and shaped to be roughly round. In the final version there is an extra hue/sat adjustment layer to make them very dark, the idea being that the emitters "burn" the earth around them:
And the final plateau with all the layers combined:
THE GRASS HOMELAND
Started with a photo of grass, which was replicated a few times to cover enough area and then cut down with soft brushes to give it the correct outline:
Here's a single rock texture behind the grass layer. It's sticking out through the second hole, but the final image will have another rock layer between the two:
Rock barrier is made of a non-texture image; the original was just a photo of someone standing next to a huge pile of rocks. There are perhaps 10 copies of that image here, in different positions. You can also see some remains of the rocks to the left and right of the barrier, where I didn't fully erase the image (I was looking at the whole composite image while erasing to see where to erase, so I didn't see those patches).
THE RIVER BED
Like everything else, this is also made of a whole bunch of replicas of a single photo, but because this is the lowest layer I didn't bother so much with correcting the edges, so the fact that it's made of multiple copies is visible clearly here:
Finally, the river banks - I just created a blank layer, picked a dirty-looking brush and a brown color, and painted over the river banks until they looked about right:
I used a transparent layer with the level's outline as an overlay, so that I could see where to place things. Here's a rendering of that before I finished the rock pools and the river banks:
The final image was of quite a high-resolution, and totally gorge
ous even if I
Even though it was a "quick hack" it still took a few hours - perhaps between 2.5 and 3.5.
However the way it ended up looking in the game was so disappointing that I decided not to bother doing this again, since all this detail was lost to nearest neighbour rescaling from a low-res version of the above...