Development Insight #3: Art
The art of Consumer changed over time with the narrative throughout development. Some of the biggest challenges I faced for art are mostly character designs, animations, and art styles. Here are the insights I gained from this experience.
Character design for 2D top-down games
Character design for 2D top-down games are entirely different from 3D games because they are top-down, a human character loses their details and characteristics. So it became clear to me that for the art of the game to have emotions, the characters must be designed in a way that can have details from the top-down view. One of the idea that I liked was insects, they look good from the top-down, and they work regarding narrative and gameplay mechanic. The main concept of the narrative came from this design. The original keyword I wanted for the art style and the story was bio-mechanical. Half mechanics, half flesh. This idea then leads to the first iteration. Which looked like this:
It was a straightforward design, and it fit the style I was going for at the time. However, it lacked the details and personalities. As the development went on, the story became more fleshed out. The design changed again based on the narrative. This time is more detailed and realistic.
This design not only has a functional and mechanical feeling, but also shows the personality of the characters, while at the same time allowed us to have a real-time facial animation to the player actions, and because the game is meta, this worked perfectly.
Design with functionality, authenticity, personality and beauty
When designing, I focused on four main aspects, functionality, authenticity, personality, and beauty. Functionality is the function of the character design regarding narrative and gameplay. Which means that every detail must make sense on both story and gameplay, this is the first thing I consider because it is the most important, without it everything else is meaningless. Authenticity is the style. I want the art of the game to stand apart from other games. The art style must be unique and memorable. I wanted the art to show the character's personality at all time; the faces achieved that. Lastly, I want to make sure that the art looked wholesome and beautiful. I learned how important the color palette play a part in unifying all the elements together. Once I locked down the color palette, everything looked consistent and beautiful.
Gameplay Animation for top-down 2D games
The main problem I had for animations is that they are harder to be clear and functional when top-down. Especially the combat animation, for the longest time the game had no combat animation for the enemies. I tried multiple iterations with the combat shown in different ways, but they are all tough to notice because of the bullet-hell nature of the game. So I ended up putting the bullet animation right in front of the enemy character. Now the player can dodge at the right time because they only have to focus on the one that's about to attack and the bullet charging animation makes it clear when the shot is about to be fired.
The development of art style is all about iterations.
The art style of the game changed many times, and I learned that it takes many many iterations to get right, and most often it is the small details that make the difference. A style is mostly defined by three elements, level of detail, color, and narrative. The level of detail shows how realistic the art is. The color conveys emotions and characters. The narrative determines the content of the art which affects the style directly. However, through many iterations, I was able to find the best style for Consumer.