So, if all goes to plan I have a week – or well – 4 days ish – to get through a holiday project this year. I’ve tried this in the past and it’s been fun – but not necessarily the most productive of endeavours.
This year I plan on blogging it as I go, right here where it’s recorded in all its probably very messy glory. So much of what I do is secret and almost every post I make here is like ‘ lol im not dead just busy laters cya xx’,and that sucks a bit because I love talking through what im doing!
So lets break this down, what am I dealing with here?
I’ve always wanted to work on a nature game, something about an animal living its life, dealing with hardships and dangers along the way. One of my favourite games is Ecco the Dolphin, the way you navigate what is actually a kinda weird sci fi story using nothing but your dolphin skillz and some techno magic along the way is such a great way of exploring experiences you can have with games that you’d never be able to have in real life.
I’ve had an idea floating in my head like, all year, about this ‘game’ where you’re a little flying dinosaur clinging to the side of a bigger dinosaur. The bigger dinosaur is travelling with the herd to the mating lands/ green lands/etc, general migration stuff, and along the way you eat bugs off her back and she tells stories about the previous migrations. Perhaps at some point a predator appears and the herd is split, and your ride is put in this horrifying situation, but tries to console herself with these stories.
She walks through a variety of environments which tell out the journey, a sunny beach, a gusty dry dirtbowl kinda area where it’s hard to see much ahead, a swamp, an area with torrential rain, an area where a volcano has just erupted etc.
The key to it for me, that has had this idea stuck in my head for way too long, is that you experience this in quite a tiny role, your job is just to clear bugs from the migrants back. Now and then you can climb up to the top of her back and jump and glide through the air a bit, grabbing onto the end of her long tail just before she walks too far ahead.Camera perhaps zooming out so you can see this prehistoric landscape as you glide along – but of course, depending on the weather, gliding may not be possible, may not be a good idea at all.
Shadow of the Colossus meets Journey via the Land before Time, I guess. I’m not going to make the ‘game’ – my aim here is to just propose an art style for it and explore the visual possibilities – a lot of the time when I have ideas like this I get caught on the thing having to have a gameplay hook even if the plan is never to make it into a game – I like to have a solid base to hang a concept art project on, which isn’t always the fastest way of doing things, but is a good way of adding base depth I guess?
The questions I want to answer are –
What is the art style?
What is the cast of characters?
What locations/moments happen along the way?
The Art style:
The Top 3 approaches which have been swooshing round my head are –
‘Realism’ – Based on paleoart, so, no making up frills etc just to look ‘cool’ – more respect towards actual anatomical structures etc – These are animals not monsters
‘Vintage/Toy’ – Outrageously outta date ,resembling cheap old toys that look like weird lizards, super dumpy and awkward, but with their own charm. Environment more like a diorama than an actual place. – Odd and strange – naiive?
‘Abstract’ ‘Story Book’ – Something a bit more experimental and arty – Im not sure how to approach this one, but its likely to be more gestural, perhaps a little fairytale? That’s not really what ‘abstract’ means at all, but I actually like the idea of fairytale, so lets try that angle instead. Idealised, perhaps. Slice of life-y? Like the cover of an old magazine? Folksy? There’s something here about the idea of travel and stories that I can tie into this, but I don’t want to go the route of something like, say, the 1930s travel posters because that’s a little overdone. – Idealised and dreamy? Epic? Historical epic?
It seems there’s direction forming here – Animals not monsters, but still a little odd and strange, portrayed in a way which is idealised and dreamy.
I do wonder how much of this is me leading myself down my own paths without realising my own internal bias, hah. I guess the point is to push this, I’m returning to my comfort zone of creatures and nature because I’ve been away from it for a long time, but I want to try and make sure that even if I am inside my comfort zone I do push things and make them super awesome.
The Cast of Characters:
Finding which dinosaurs actually lived in the same time and place is something I can do, but for such a short project may be a time sink. Right now I’m thinking of the main cast as ‘ small pteranadon’ ‘ diplodocus (long neck) ‘ and ‘ T rex’. This is what would work as a nice base – a little ‘obvious’ I guess, but everybody knows those three dinos. At some point I want to get into more detail and check out skull shapes etc so I can mix up the variations.
The Moments and Places:
Where do they go on this journey, and what happens? I’d like to do at least one background environment example, but some faster key scene storyboard type sketches would also be fun.
The Key Art
All of this should combine into a key piece. I could just draw an illustration right now of a dino in a swamp or whatever, but exploring the ideas is half of the fun, and I’m not able to not overthink everything. Process process process!…But with an end goal.
If nothing unexpected pops up, I’ll have 3 days to explore this, 4 at a push. Xmas day is the hard deadline. At the moment the way I’m seeing my time is –
Day 1 – I will want to be gathering refs and getting familiar with my ‘cast’. From here I will also be wanting to experiment with the art style to see where it takes me.
Day2 – Focus shifts to the environment and ‘moments’, exploring where this could go with quick thumbnails. Further research/study into prehistoric earth etc. Further refining of art style
Day3 – Picking out the right moment/cast and making the key piece to sell the idea.
I’ll update this tomorrow with a new post discussing where I’m at, where things go wrong, where they go right. Should be smooth?