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Remaking a Monster

When we started designing our monsters, we aimed to create interesting, distinct creatures, each with some defining characteristic. The Bollgrr has large horns reminiscent of a bull; the Globberpoo has a trumpet-like snout it uses to shoot projectiles. We would generally start with a sketch, either in our minds or on paper, and once we had the basic concept down, we’d refine it until it felt just right. This worked well initially, and the images looked great blown up on our screens. Once we got them all into the game, however, we realized the design process was far from over.

We had overlooked how the monsters would appear in context and assumed our initial designs would look just as good in-game. This was not the case. The outlines were fuzzy and broken, the finer details indistinguishable.

Thus began the multi-day process of revisiting the designs of our entire cast of monsters. My first inclination was to simply remove the borders, but after some experimentation, I found they didn’t stand out enough against the background. Instead I opted for a more assertive, almost sticker-like, style with thick black borders and simpler, more exaggerated features.

After we were done with the monsters, we were left with a new problem. None of our other assets matched the new look.  So commenced the second half of our journey as we combed through the rest of our images, converting too-small-to-read text into easy-to-understand icons and adding a black border along the edges of our walls. In the end, we replaced almost every image in the game. The result is a clearer, more visually consistent experience with a better defined style.

We’re still trying to figure out a way to incorporate the larger, more detailed images into the game. One idea would be to include a bestiary, complete with monster profiles and behaviors, accessible from the menu. Ideally, though, we’d like to work them into the flow of the actual game, either via an NPC or in some element of the HUD.

Although we were unable to use our original designs in the game, each step of the process was important in getting to our current look. Starting with our bigger images gave us room to explore each monster and define and develop its role in the game. Revisiting our designs and boiling down each monster to its key aspects allowed us to define a clear and consistent visual stye.

As we design and implement new monsters, I imagine we’ll continue to use a similar two-step process. Having a specific style already in place, however, will both expedite and inspire new designs.

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