A New Direction

It’s been far too long since our last post, and we’re sorry for that. But we have some cool stuff to share that’ll hopefully make up for it, and explain our silence.

Since we started this project, we’ve been putting a lot of energy into choosing the art style for Rustclad. We’ve considered just about everything, and gone back and forth more than a few times. Rustclad is going to be a story-driven game, so the art style will be critical in helping to set the mood. Now that the story is really starting to come together (we’ll be sharing some of it soon!), we’re getting a clear sense of the atmosphere that we want to create.

But there are other factors that can impact a choice of art style. Realism is incredibly hard to achieve, and visuals that attempt to closely mimic reality can take an immense amount of time and effort to put together. And in the end, after all of that work, realistic art tends to age much faster than stylized art. This is because the bar for realism is rising each year, as large game studios release games that look ever more true to life.

From the beginning, we knew that we wanted a stylized look, both as an artistic preference and as a way to make the development process more manageable for our smaller team. But realism is hard to avoid, especially when working on a game as graphically adept as Rustclad. While realistic art is very hard to produce, a realistic art style is a tempting goal. A stylized look can be quite subjective, but realism is simple to evaluate. Does the art look more realistic now than it did before? If yes, then you’re on the right track. Over time, we found our art direction, despite our best intentions, drifting back towards realism.

So we forced ourselves to back up a bit and review what we wanted out of the art in our game. We wanted our art style to bring out the best qualities of our unique art process. We wanted it to help make our world and story feel unique. We wanted something playful and stylized, but not abstract. In short, our game doesn’t need to look realistic, but it does need to look fantastic.

We spent hours poring over our rather copious collection of reference art, and found our eyes drawn to the bold color palettes of the masters of anime. And it was easy to draw parallels between the sweeping fields and fantastic woodlands of films like Nausicaa and Tales From Earthsea, and our own raw imaginings. So we livened up our colors, overcharged our lighting model, cooled down the background, and brought in a nice bold outline around everything to unify the scene. We still have a lot of adjustments to make, but we’re pretty excited about the new direction and wanted to share a few shots of our world. We hope you like it as much as we do!

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About skulltheatre

Video Game Professional
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3 Responses to A New Direction

  1. Ploute says:

    this is just a matter of personal taste, but I don’t really like those new shaders that give objects outlines. I loved the realistic aspect the earlier version of your engine had. It gave a whole lot of immersion combined with those high quality models you get from scanning, and that immersion is kind of inhibited by those outlines.

    • skulltheatre says:

      We spent a lot of time seriously considering both directions. Immersion was actually one of the reasons for the change. One of the challenges of using found and hand-built objects together in a game is consistency. It’s important for everything to ‘feel’ like it exists in the same world. Furthermore, our art is very modular and we wanted an art style that would bring everything together into a cohesive scene, which the outline effects do nicely. The realistic rendering made for some pretty screenshots, but the stylized rendering gives us a much greater potential for building an immersive world, especially when it’s animated. When we release some videos (which will hopefully be soon), I think you’ll appreciate what I mean.

      Most importantly though, we wanted a style that not only looked good, but fit with our story. We’ve been leaning in this direction for awhile and it was a hard transition, but after making the change we honestly haven’t looked back.

  2. Matthew Hoesterey says:

    I love it.

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