Alex Pelayre is a digital artist at Massively Fun and has worked on such titles as Flying Lab Software’s “Pirates of the Burning Sea,” and Gas Powered Games’ “Age of Empires Online.”
Production on our forthcoming game Catan World began early this year. Leading up to it, there were many discussions around the art style we wanted to go with. We felt we should keep the appearance similar to previous versions of the game, while still giving it an updated, modern look. During the process, we jumped around from very simple design, to more complex. Despite all the necessary experimenting, we needed to come to a conclusion that fit our limitations.
Since Catan World runs in HTML5, we had to be cautious about file size and resolution. We knew the hexagon tiles that make up the islands of Catan would be pretty small, but we also didn’t want that to hold us back. Having worked in the game industry for the past 3 years, I’m no stranger to making in-game art but working with size and area limitations was new to me. I was faced with the challenge of packing in details to flesh out the world, while not making it appear too busy or over the top when the hex tiles were grouped together.
How to blend tiles was another concern. Although it is a board game built of tiles, we didn’t want to feel that way. We tried to find ways to blend the edges so the tile aspect would be much more subtle. To achieve this, we decided on connecting the tiles with a grass border. The end result being the player is able to distinguish the tiles from each other. Visually this helped give more continuity throughout the island, as if it was a single entity rather than built from multiple pieces.
The art of Catan World was changing constantly, even to the days before the game was revealed. This included the game pieces, which were an entire separate beast. Initially, we liked detailed hex tiles and wanted the game pieces to reflect that. It just made sense to have everything fit together realistically in this world and to try to keep everything to scale. Although things were going well, we were again faced with the problem of limited size and space. If the game pieces were to be to scale of the hex tiles, then they risked getting lost within the density of everything else. It easily became a visual mess. This especially became apparent when we realized certain game pieces would have to overlap others. Again with the visual mess.
After much discussion and experimenting, we decided to drop the idea of keeping everything to scale. Instead, we decided to represent the game pieces for what they were- game pieces! So we sized them up, simplified them, dropped them into the game, and they read fantastically.
Another element to the art of Catan World is character illustrations. Below you’ll see Marianne, a cheerful resident of Catan who will help guide new players through the game tutorial. Her mood appearance changes depending on the news and information she relays to the player. Throughout Catan World, you may encounter tutorials or story elements, which introduce a variety of these characters.
When designing the look of the characters, we tried to keep the appearance relatively similar to the board game, but with less of an exaggerated style, leaning more towards realism; a look fitting with the style already established in the game’s hex tiles.
Overall, creating the art for Catan World has been a great learning experience for me. Having never worked on mobile games before, this was my first opportunity to work on as small a scale. Keeping in mind the limitations we may have encountered with HTML5 game development, everything came together well and we were all happy with the results.blog comments powered by Disqus