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!