Defining the Art Direction of a game is a crucial step in the creative process. It lays the groundwork for understanding its gameplay and offers a strong narrative window. Finding the right visual environment can be complex. Here's how we’ve made our next game: Until Daylight.
By designing our second game, we wanted from the start to add something unique to an already famous theme: Zombies! It was imperative to have a layer of pressure and randomness to the wave of hordes attacks. Until Daylight has a gameplay split in two phases.
A phase of a randomness and oppression during which the survivors search the rubble and arm themselves.
Followed by a second battle phase, more strategic during which players face the hordes of zombies and try to survive a night of 10 attack waves.
Art Direction: The art of finding the right artist
To illustrate this universe, I wanted to work with an artist who has an excellent sense of movement and a mastery of humanoid morphologies. That allows us to play with the proportions and create a mixed feeling of discomfort and humor. Ben Bauchau has imposed himself as the most qualified artist for this. To increase the feeling of zoombies random release, no character is static. From an unbridled race to a slight rotation, players must feel the perpetual movement. Heroes must also reflect their strengths and handicaps and allow players to easily choose and understand their roles within the group. The Visual Symbiosis of these should also accentuate the cooperative part of the game, but also leave enough personality to each hero.
Objects are also an important part of the material to be developed and must be develloped in the same line. I wanted to make the players feel that the gun or the sword they're going to find fit perfectly with the survivor they interpret. The choice of the artist also took this into account. I have promoted a strong and centered approach that supports our gameplay.
Art Direction serving narration
On the other hand, it was important for us to offer a strong narrative part to the game. The more popular a theme, the greater its representation and therefore strongly rooted in minds. By treating zombies, we wanted to propose our own vision of this infection and especially our own interpretation of the threat it implies. Our zombies are photosensibles, they're harmless under daylight. The concept is based on the survival of our heroes during one night while they try to cross a city together. I had a visual challenge to fill.
Propose original Zombies to progressive malformations (allowing a marked hierarchy of them) while offering a threatening tone with a layer of humor and derision.
Every detail of until daylight has been considered in all its aspects of consistency and a profound sense of ergonomics. The choice of colours has also been subject to an in-depth work which will be discussed in more detail in a future article.
To summarize, defining the aesthetic fabric of a game is both a creative challenge and a promise of gameplay with players. By offering them a graphic universe, you give players expectations. Imagine at game shop, you want to buy a casual game for your kids. In front of you, a box with a shirtless dehydrated bodybuilder wielding a bloody axe. There's a lot to bet that you won't think of a "Snakes & ladders" game. The expectation is therefore marked and segmented. And even without going into stereotypes, the choice of the right artist is paramount in the development of a game. For us, working with Ben was an opportunity to explore a highly creative style that suited the atmosphere our game is trying to establish. It correspond to my 3C motto (Consistency, Credibility and Creativity) which is for me the substance of a good Art Direction.