Masters of creativity: Game Artstyle done right

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The modern age of gaming is starting to bring more than entertainment into our lives. New forms of Game artwork are gracing our screens and blessing our lives with colour and imagination.

Of course, I’m referring to our golden age of Indie Games that aren’t £50 a game; the ones that don’t worry about following the common trend of their competitors today.

They don’t need to involve guns or wars into their main stories but can face real life issues as well as completely imaginary ones.

And they represent these unique kinds of games with the best of artwork

A common tendency in popular games is to create characters that resemble humans in the most lifelike way. For example: FIFA17 is using head tracking technology on actors so that games can look even more realistic.

But I say, why worry?

Gaming is the most perfect way of escapism so lets use this to our advantage.

There are developers out there who think like me: they extend their imagination to the outer edges of their minds. They truly test how far the human brain can go.

The drawings that they’d go onto create would bring our favourite characters to life, fill our bedroom walls, become our desktop wallpapers, and be our inspiration for new kind of art.

Night In The Woods

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When discovering more details about this game, it wasn’t the trailer that first impressed me, it was their website!

Displaying excellent examples of the creative characters as well as the popular colour scheme that is involved with the game, I immediately wanted to find out more.

You are faced with quirky characters that you would assume were part of a children’s cartoon but will be surprised to hear how the story unfolds:

“College dropout Mae Borowski returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren’t the same.

Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades…”

Even with an unusual looking set of characters, this game is facing real life problems for that of an adult!

While allowing players to relate to problems they may be experiencing at the moment, the game artwork also allows the seriousness of the game to be toned down.

People aren’t reminded of their problems but rather find a subtle way to approach the matter.

Having the main character as a cat in an animated world rather than a realistic human in recognisable surroundings allows the idea of escapism.

Night In The Woods is due a release soon but if you want to see an example of their work, you can download a separate mini game they have developed including the same characters.

Longest Night is a tester game built in a week as a starter project that lets you match up constellations as the gang sit around a camp fire.

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It shows a brilliant insight into what to expect in the final piece: the fantastic characters, the entertaining sense of humour and the impressive animations.

It was the smaller things that really drew me to the game; the way the text would have their own tiny animations when being spoken just adds to the game artwork.

Especially with this mini game, despite not having a whole expansive story included (what do you expect? It’s a mini game!) it still had a whole load of cute things to discover.

When you hover over a star, each one makes a unique sound and when you discover a new constellation, you would receive a funny explanation along with it aswell.

Showing such unique designs in their games, I asked Scott Benson, co-creator of the game, on his thoughts on game artstyle and he gave a compelling argument:

“Photorealism, even if it’s somewhat stylized, is just considered a goal. No one asks why The Witcher has really nice grass and horses. But that kind of thing I think can, in aggregate over game after game after game, create an environment where games that don’t go for that are suspect in some fashion.

‘Why isn’t this game chasing that same thing? This isn’t why I bought this expensive hardware! What are you trying to pull?’

Once you get away from how something is ‘supposed’ to look is where things get interesting, and interesting is memorable. I want to know what an artist’s trees look like when they can’t make them look like photographs of trees.

That choice alone puts such a fingerprint down, and tells you so much about the artist and the game itself.”

There’s a lot I will be looking out for in the future from these guys.

Fortunately for some developers with great ideas, they have the backings of big companies.

Tearaway: Unfolded

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Run by Media Molecule, the great minds behind Little Big Planet, TearAway is one of the many fantastic examples of imagination being let free in game developing.

The game artwork presented in this game is so good, it has won a BAFTA for Artistic Achievement

And this wasn’t the only award it has received…

Playing as a paper folded courier, your mission is to journey across a paper world to deliver a message.

In order to do so, you, the player, can:

  • Create vast winds to move threatening obstructions
  • Shine the way when the path is dark
  • Draw on the TouchPad to create items in the game
  • Receive items from the game, through the TV and into your controller .

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This game is the ultimate 4th wall breaker as you, not just your character, are the hero defeating the darkness. Without you and your dualshock controller, the paper world would perish due to the scraps taking over.

If that’s not good enough, you can unlock a variety of protagonists to print out and fold yourself; our collection at the DUG office is growing quickly!

The diverse imagination released into this game is one of the best examples of developers releasing their full creativity and imagination on a game that has evidently had alot of love and care put into it.

With a game as detailed and coloured as Tearaway: Unfolded, where would you start in creating it?

We asked Rex Crowle, Lead Creator of Tearaway: Unfolded for his thoughts:

He explained “a lot of inspiration comes from childhood.  That might be the things we liked to play with, or the TV shows we watched.

But, we’re not kids anymore, we’ve all grown up with influences from university, art-college or from travelling and living life. We’ve expanded the team with new friends from around the world that have brought their influences.

So while all the Mm games are built from materials we all played with at any early age, they’re filled with the ideas and influences we’ve absorbed ever since.

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When it came to actually designing the characters, Rex praised having a small team on the job as everyone’s opinion could be heard; the most unusual of ideas could flower and be experimented on.

But don’t think that Media Molecule got the characters they dreamed of instantly, “characters may be created and recreated dozens of times until they fulfil that need to combine the right personality with the set of abilities and skills they need to have in the game.”

To hear more from Rex and how they successfully designed their games, you can read the whole interview between DoubleUpGaming and Media Molecule here.

Limbo

Not all of these games follow a colourful world with a variety of interesting characters to meet. There’s another game we need to consider:

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This particular is available across PC, Console & Mobile’s and is one of the creepiest games I have ever played.

Whilst being a 2D Platformer, it is nothing like the typical retro games that are usually made for that format.

Playing as a young boy running through the depths of a dark forest, the world around you is displayed as silhouettes. You have to figure your way to the end before succumbing to gruesome deaths including being impaled by giant spiders and crushed by bear traps.

You could have guessed by now that this game isn’t for the faint hearted. I too struggled with some of these deaths; once I knew I was to be decapitated by giant, hidden spikes, I’d have to cower away from the screen.

The game artwork differs greatly from the others but that doesn’t make it any less imaginative.

This game has no colour and in fact, barely any light.

It isn’t necessarily the colourful artworks that designers use but the originality of what they have designed.

The drawings behind this game perfectly portray just how scared someone should be when in that situation.

I never thought that the subtle artwork, film grain and complete darkness would be able to create such an atmosphere that could get completely under my skin.

Grow Up

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This game takes a sharp turn from their more popular titles including Tom Clancy’s: The Division and For Honour. However, that doesn’t make the game any less amazing!

You are a cute robot, Bud, who has crashed his ship on an unknown planet and are trying to piece your ship back together. On the way, you gain new functions including jet packs and growing indigenous plants to help you cross this unknown world.

Parts of this game remind me of OctoDad thanks to the mis-balance of your character as well as some controls. (If you don’t know what octodad is, you’ve got to check it out!)

The art of this game opens you to a 3D alien planet that truly makes you want to discover the world you’ve landed in; I felt no rush to fix my ship when playing this game.

And the excellent physics complements the brilliant design of the character, it makes you feel like you’re a robot who has never had the need to step out of his ship before.

I think what made me want to include this game in the article is just how cute this little robot is! Just by looking at the poster, you can immediately understand how vulnerable this little guy must be!

Not to mention, the quirky, retro music in the background and the cute beeping sounds that Bud makes; it truly remind of you of a sci-fi robot.

Lumino City

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This particular example is more than a game; it’s more than a piece of art; it’s the first of it’s kind and also a winner of a BAFTA for artistic achievement.

In this particular city, you are Lumi, a small girl you has taken on the journey to find her recently kidnapped Grandpa. She must cross the city by completing puzzles in order to find him. Along the way, you might discover more about him that you never would have guessed…

But here’s the bit that makes this game so captivating:

The city you live in is filmed entirely with a motion control camera.

This means that using paper, miniature lights and a lot of patience, the developers decided to create the world in which your characters explore. It’s the one game that required architects to build it!

The 10 ft tall city took 3 years to create and it was totally worth it.

The model is full of mini motors to move some of the various puzzles and decorations you’ll see spotted around when playing the game.

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Now, you may feel that this is an awful amount of effort but Luke Whittaker, Co-founder and Lead Editor at State Of Play Games, explained that this was the easiest way for them to create the game.

They wanted to create the most realistic feel to the city and the only way to truly achieve this would be to use real materials. Using digital technology would involve a lot more precision to create the look they wanted:

You’d be having to throw shaders and all sorts at it and even then it wouldn’t look quite the same

In terms of actually creating parts of the game and filming the shots they wanted, they wouldn’t always know how they were going to do it:

We enjoyed that process of working on the edges of our ability and having to hack things.

You get a massive reward when you turn up in the morning you don’t know how you’re gonna finish a scene and you crack it by mid afternoon, and you’re like ‘this is amazing!’. It’s kinda what you do it all for.

Yum Yum London

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This particular companies strong points is its graphic designs and animations.

Not only have they looked into designing games but they have also created short films and even toys!

Despite not having released the game yet, I still feel they are the perfect example of what designers should be looking for in regards to make quirky game characters.

They display an excellent way of creating human beings without actually creating human beings.

The dimensions don’t have to be perfect. They can have thick necks and no shoulders and yet, we would still know exactly who they are supposed to be.

That is your main way of drawing characters that you want to stand out from other games: you need to adapt some of their unique features so that they can be easily related to a  certain game.

This is exactly what Yum Yum London have achieved.

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So, what did all these games have in common?

The key thing that has lead all these the games to be successful is not because they are the most colourful or most well drawn. It’s the sheer uniqueness that defines the game.

You’ll realise that not one of these games has the same story. In fact, they have a story that has never been touched in this light before.

And the characters?

They are something easily recognized to be a part of a certain game. A lot of the time, if I showed you an image of a character made to look as life like as possible, you wouldn’t be able to pinpoint a specific game that it was related to.

However,

If I showed you an image of one of these characters, you could tell me exactly what game it was from.

Or,

You would want to find out more about them.

The best thing about these games in my opinion?

Do you notice any similarities in the trailers?

The developers didn’t need to animate cut scenes for their advert; none of them said at the bottom “Not real gameplay” because all of it is included in the game!

They don’t need to worry about attracting people to the game because the game artwork already is attracting! So all they have to show is real shots from the game.

Do you have any other game art on your wall right now? Tell us which game has your favourite designs.



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