About time to post some concept art, that’s still waiting to see the light of the internet. Some time ago we decided on the chapters we will have in the final version. These have to look consistent with each other, but also distinguished as different themes. Add to that that the gameplay itself uses colors too (the common red explosives for example), and you have quite a complex setup to plan.
Since the gameplay also evolved organically, it dawned on me pretty late that each part should have a clear color code. Here is the setup I sketched out:
The bumpers are blue, and the borders, that the player can’t destroy are yellow for example… this might not need to be explained to the player – but tell him subconsciously what he can do in the game.
Here you can see how it works in the game so far:
The strong colors of these elements make it hard to get all the rest work well with the subtle colors I wanted. But gameplay goes first. I’m actually thinking to try black for the “indestructible” border – might be more consistent with the black outlines in the artworks, and allow yellow to be used for other parts, like highlighting important structures.
After that then I approachd an overview of the level art – with more muted colors. And specific shapes for the different chapters. For now we’re going only for the factory and the commercial area. … and now comes the hard part to get all this nearly like it into the game.
After we picked the red style from the last post, it was time to come up the paddle design. Here are some possible versions.
We currently have a dummy of version K in the game. Some research also went into how paddles look and behave in other breakout games. I was really surprised to learn that most paddles nowadays don’t use proper reflection. But that makes them way more controllable. The worst problem is really when the player hits the ball and it still goes out – that feels unfair.
So in our push to get a new demo together we’re also adjusting some gameplay. For one we want to give the player a clear goal what to aim for in a level.
Our idea is to add an alien artifact, that crashed in each level. The player is basically the alien rescue team. Here are some ideas for how the design could look.
It has a clear contrast to the world, to be easily spottable. It also gives us an excuse to make the goodies easily spottable. Red looks nice – so we’ll run witht hat, but we might have to use more colors for different goodies.
Even if one has a clear image in his head – it is really tough to fully realize what it is about, and get it on paper. As I pointed out in the last posting about conceptart, the design was not quite there.
When creating the webpage I decided to make a background image – and that was a good chance to freely explore the style a bit more. Here is the line-art done on a A2 paper.
Helped a lot to get my head around this – it also made me collect a lot of shapes and ideas, that I can pretty directly take into the game later. Basically 50 little concepts in one. Here is the final colored version for the website-background. It tiles in all directions.
I might make a full standalone artwork with the original layout later if I find the time.
On a team meeting we decided that we should set a proper goal. One level that we aim to finish as a prototype. Taking gameplay and style into account, I’ve made a sketch of a bigger level. It should show the size-progression well, and also use for example some custom physics shapes – in this case it is a twisted ramp (the road in the picture).
We decided to go for this. Also Pascal found this photo you see below, and suggested to use it for the style. This really nailed it – somehow totally what I imagined too. So from now on I took this as my main reference.
Later just by chance I came across the picture again – it’s the Chicago industrial area, from the flickr-account of the library of congress.
Also somehow in my head the style had a much more desperate and kafkaesk look to it – and this image fits so nice to that. But the first version of the level concept fell short of it. So I redid the design – and made the following two color versions, so the team can decide which way to go.
I love the white look – and one day I wanna make a game with that. But for now we all agreed to go for the colored one.
The idea is that that you would start in the little corner where the farm is. And first clear out food-boxes and helpless chickens. In the next step you break out of the wall, then progress to the next wall. After you destroyed the city below, you can unblock the ramp, and finally attack the skyscrapers on the very top.
…which at the very end leads to some nice special effect. I sketched out how flowers overgrow the whole rotten city. We will have to see if we can actually pull this off in the final version.
I’m not 100% satisfied with the look. It should get more of a Metropolis or Gotham City feel. So I will work on this in later concepts.
The basics of the game design were born out of the first versions. Especially the physics aspect of it, since this is what most of the programming effort went into. But to have some more special features, we collected ideas of what else to bring in. Things that you don’t see in other Breakouts.
One idea that came a bit out of the style we went for was that certain objects should be more the goal to hit. In the picture here it is the nuclear power plant (colored red).
Now the question is how to stop the player from hitting it in the first go. And thats where the idea of the growing ball comes in. A bit like in Katamari Damacy: First you start up small, an can only hit smaller objects. Once you gathered enough points, you grow bigger and can hit objects of a higher level.
This last image is an example of a level idea using the size-progression. Each roman number shows another step – where you can first only affect little objects in the hall, you can later break the walls and go out to finally hit the ship.
We also decided that we want to have lots of variation: Playing with the camera, having sub-levels, level-specific goals and features. We definitely want to bring in all the ideas we have – and play with the physics to really use the aspect. So for example switching the gravity around, turning the level. And lots of goodies – multiball has to be in there, its just too much fun.
Here are some more sketches of what we could possibly do.
I want to write a bit about how I started with the art. I was invited to help out with this project, when it was already a bit on the way. The idea is really cool in my opinion – and already fun to see, even in the early still buggy versions. I was happy to join, and my first task was to come up with some style ideas for the art.
I took some time and made the following sketches. One picture that came fist to mind: A more techy look, nice colors and effects. Maybe a spacey background.
Then again – you know, what first comes to mind is often the boring thing that everyone comes up with. So time for the next one. This is a variation of more symbolic objects. A pencilled cargo set – you could use all these boxes as stacks with the physics. Surely the TNT would be fun.
I liked the pencil style, so I made another one. This time the setting is a city. Instead of the TNT crate a nuclear plant could blow up.
To offer one more very different option, I went for a sci-fi style. Different boxes with sleek futuristic designs.
We met up together and I presented the ideas. At the end we went with the city design. And at that point I also thought about actually using the graphite-pencil style for the actual game graphics. More about that later.