Interactive Game Design
Sample preparatory work for the ’Four Brothers’ designs:
More about the project
I worked as the visual designer and art director on this project, alongside a sound designer, programmer, animation designer and project manager. The prototype game we built was an interactive digital version of ‘The Four Brothers’, a traditional Spanish folk tale, focusing on the fates of the eponymous four who leave their sleepy rural homestead, head for a nearby crossroads, and then each embark down a different path, leading to individual separate challenges and adventures along the way, until they re-unite at the crossroads a year and a day later, to go away and use their newfound experiences and skills together on a collective adventure.
Because of the built-in non-linear elements of the narrative, featuring four simultaneous divergent pathways, we all felt that this story would provide rich material for the purposes of creating an interactive digital adventure experience.
Visual Ideas Generation and Problem-Solving Process – Creating the Design, Look and Feel
The traditional Spanish background to the tale provided my initial starting point in terms of thinking about how the product’s visual design, look and feel would be developed.
As research to create the final look and feel of the product, I looked at a lot of diverse visual source material, including traditional folk motifs, artefacts, and architectural forms, and also took the opportunity to read widely around the narrative’s setting.
I also did a lot of experimenting with layouts, textures, shapes, etc using a combination of Photoshop and paper sketches.
Main design elements synthesis as a result of initial research process:
- Antique book end-paper scan (echoing my paper textures concept)
- Carved rustic wood effect with embossed folk motif pastiche design (I created the motif from scratch based on some of the recurring Spanish shapes, forms and motifs I’d discovered during my research investigation.
- Deep reds and deep brownish purples (decided to avoid black as contrast colour, as felt it was too cold and stark)
- Elements of the hand-drawn in the form of icons for object that the various brothers could collect on their travels
- Antique objects, to convey a historical setting for the adventure’s context.
Initial preparatory sketches centred around a forest backdrop setting which was originally going to be a playable pathway for one of the four brothers until time constraints forced a major re-evaluation of what it would be possible to produce on within the given timescale.
However, in terms of stylistic development for the project, this stage represented an important milestone, since it was where I started to experiment with the idea of making a major design feature of the map/parchment paper texture, and incorporating as a framing device for the screen interface.
During the sketching stages, disparate elements and ideas gradually combined and cohered to produce a spontaneous ‘handrawn’ slightly naïve crayon-y, scribbly feel with the parchment texture and a loose, watercolour brush effect background. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the results, but used this as a basis for further development.
Summary of Design Ideas Produced for Team Project Evaluation:
Visual style will make extensive use of organic, tactile looking textures and hand-drawn ‘picture book’ graphics incorporating a limited colour palette of faded muted tones accompanied by deep dramatic reds and sepias. Drawing upon the Spanish origin of the folk-story we are using, key shapes will be adopted from traditional Spanish architecture and folk-motifs. The idea of antique parchment map textures will feature strongly – and the entire theme will be underpinned by a historical Spanish exploration mediated via a naïve hand-drawn naïve mid-20thCentury graphic art inspired stylisation.
Storytelling and user interaction will take place mainly in an environment created through the use of digitally ‘hand-drawn’ 2D imagery.
Project Task Overview:
- Visual Research
- Production of sketches to assist design development
- Production of provisional visual theme and interface template
- Production of provisional scene style and forest setting backdrop
- Assisting with team decision-making process regarding exactly what elements are to be depicted visually in the end product, and how much of the storytelling will rely on visual components to relay narrative information
- Finalise colour, shape and texture decisions – tie up research conclusively – justify all design decisions.
- Produce 2D scenic backdrops for all necessary story pathways
- Collaborate with team technical artist on 3D texture work and 2D animation sequences
- Provide programmer with finished 2D assets to use wihin developer environment
- Provide sound designer with ongoing visual material to assist in the production of appropriate music and sound effects, where required
- Oversee ongoing 3D and video work to make sure the project retains cohesive visual style overall
- Provide project manager with regular ongoing progress reports at each remaining key stage