Find the right idea
You know why our team is called 25games, right? Because we started with the idea to produce 25 games within one year.
But I also remember the time when I told Severin that it won’t be possible to create that much games in only 365 days. I thought that streaking out so many ideas and being creative all the time isn’t very realistic.
Actually, collecting ideas isn’t a really hard job, you just have to open your mind and keep an eye on the world around you, and that’s the easy part of simple game production. After some time of practicing you start to see all the possibilities and ways you can bundle these impressions into a game. The hard part is to select and combine all the good ideas for development.
As a game developer you have to keep in mind some points:
- Do we have the time and the skills we require?
- What’s your personal aim for creating the game?
- Do you really know how much work it will be? (Believe me, it will be more than you think.)
Not every idea that looks pretty good at the beginning of the first draft will still be a good one at the end. You have to think about a nice gameplay and how realistic your game should be. The meaning of gameplay is nothing else than a specific rule in a fictional world. Very important for gameplay is to find rules which are simple but can not be randomly scaled. This building rules which can be reused infinitely. The same applies to our world. Basically it is a construction of atoms which only consist of a few building blocks. However, with those simple components it’s possible building extremely complex constructions. This process is infinite. As a simple game desinger you should be aware of that stuff 😀
On the one hand, a great 3D game could be a breakthrough and almost every game producer is chasing the dream to create one. On the other hand, you have to think about all the work that is often underestimated and the fact, that if you have a team of 2 -10 members, it will need a pretty big amount of time.
Fascination: One Piece
To be honest, since our childhood Severin and me are huge fans of Eiichiro Oda and his lifework called One Piece. (We are pretty sure you know it – if not, go and read it now!)
We watched every single episode about Straw-Hat-Pirate Monkey D. Luffy.
The idea of a well-staged and fantastic world has touched our game developer hearts.
- all the entangled actions
- the perfectly coordinated impacts
- the well-described explanations of the storyline
- obtaining special skills if you eat a Devil Fruit
- marvellous and unique islands
We have a dream – One Piece Fangame
Sometimes it happens that I play a game and struggle through a quest asking myself what the hell the game developer was thinking of while creating this quest.
Usually the next thought is about recreating and improving the unsatisfying quests by your own. The thoughts go on and sometimes the wish to make something new and more special starts to grow inside of you.
Fascinated by the One Piece Saga and chased by the dream of making a new game that will stand out, Severin and me came up with the idea of combining those opponents and creating a One Piece Fangame. Another point for making something special was the fact that the original games that already existed are Beat’em up games which have no storyline in detail.
Our plan was to make a game in which you can play as Luffy and experience the adventures of the crew.
We also thought about establishing a community which would help us to build up the game together, that means that the community members would have the possibility to talk with us and express their opinion.
Actually we already had a concrete plan how the environment should look like – the typical island construction of the manga was our role model. One Piece has a very profound and extensive plot including a giant number of islands on the story map. Even for a huge game studio it is nearly impossible to create that much 3D content. For us as a very tiny indie game production team it is pretty megalomaniac to even think about the development. We decided to limit the content by developing one island after another. Every single island should be published as a seperate chapter.
Well, the idea was great, but there was one problem: the patents.
It’s pretty clear that you can’t simply make a game based on an already existant story. Additionally you’re not allowed earning money with a game you don’t have the patent for.
We realized that we weren’t allowed to create a game like that but the wish to shape an own universe remained. We had to rethink our game production goals and reach a conclusion to design a completely new kind of world concept without any violations of patent law.
But the only question was: Where the heck should we start?
Where to start
So here we are, two game developers with a lot of time, a will to work but without any options to realize our old dream. I was completely at a low point. I liked the idea of individual islands for every chapter. So we finally decided to create a whole new world without pirates and without a sea.
Luckily Severin and me worked out and archive of about 100 ideas for new games some time ago. (You already know that we planned to produce 25 games yearly, right?). We collected all these ideas and rated every single one because if you start brainstorming there is an output of good and bad ideas and you can’t just “find” a perfect game idea. The implementation of a single idea requires a lot of work, has to be planned well and needs a lot of discussion. With some effort you can even improve a bad idea to a good one but it will never be a perfect idea. So the good ideas need to be picked out and extended to make them unique! This is the reason why we collected so many ideas at the beginning: We had a lot of brilliant, gorgeous and godlike ideas, but one of them ruled them all: the concept of a broken world where you have to jump from one moving boulder to another to complete a level.
This sounds like nothing special… Please don’t judge too fast and continue reading!
At the beginning of this blog-post I told you, that your first idea won’t be the same at the end, so as soon as we began to work with the concept that included moving stones we ended up talking about islands that are static and you have to move from one to another. We could image to stage really nice places and islands in a foreign universe. This was the beginning of something really big.
We both liked the idea and decided to work with it. We tried to develop a world that has its own laws of gravity and life, but also a clear and understandable universe structure which is visually traversed by energy. In our story, this was the moment when we first thought of the CORE, which is the central point of our invented world and is surrounded by constellations of islands. The CORE is a huge ball that produce infinite energy which flows through the individual islands and holds everything together like a rope. At this point we named the prototype “Connected”.
Finally we had a damn amazing concept of our world, and now we had to search for special residents who would live on it. But they couldn’t be just normal people with normal lifes. We gave each of the inhabitants an own spiritual animal that would live inside of each body and give them inimitably skills, contrastable with the Devil Fruits in One Piece. But we start do dislike the idea of those animals and instead decided to use energy crystals comparable with little containers that can be filled with different kinds of energy.
You know that game developers are dreamers when they start thinking about game content, right?
We had a closer look at our concept and comprehended that we had to overthink our idea, because the project would be a huge universe with a lot of work that couldn’t be done by only two of us. So we ended up with the decision that every island would stand for 1 chapter and tell the story of itself.
The longer you play and the more islands you visit, the more you will learn about other parts of the general story. We wanted to split the story comparable to the chapters of a book. These chapters could be published as an independent game and the players would be looking forward to the next parts of the main story.
Believe me, you could not imagine how much we had to discuss about. We talked during having a drink at a bar, while we were making sports or drinking our afternoon-coffee. Every phase needed a lot of attention and passion for detail. The ideas for concepts come and go and a few stay. The best ideas were bundled and composed. But after all, we got a well-designed concept that was consistant and fascinated us.
Our team had a well-elaborated idea of the world but we couldn’t imagine it in every last detail. As an concept- and graphic artist it was my turn to visualize those concepts so every team member had the same imaginations about it. These rough sketches are very important to define and shape our idea in detail. In this early stage of planning the whole team had a lot of stuff to discuss. 😀
My framework conditions for the first designs were very crude: Create a concept of a broken world with a big energy core in the middle of the system. The island-bolders are streaked with crystal splinters settled by human civilization using the energy of the core. Summarized we needed a broken world with all bolders connected to each other by core energy. The planet structure should be structured like branches of a tree, but instead of wood, it will be the energy of the core that connect the whole system. The energy of life should be clearly recognizable for every viewer of this artwork.
Each island should get an own atmosphere with a specific weather. First I had to do a bunch of sketches to find a proper composition. With every sketch I drew, I tried to vary in style and create different worlds but also find new ideas for the next island. I had to experiment with the idea and had try different designs by experimenting.
The ambition had seized me and I started to draw. At the beginning I didn’t know which kind of design would fit our imagination of the core. How should I classify it? How can I paint energy without getting analogy to the sun? How can I represent the crystal system with the core energy? What is the actual size limit for crystal splinters? How is the relation between a crystal and a boulder island? All this questions occupied my mind while I was drawing this sketch.
In the second sketch, I changed the design of the core. I decided that the energy connection between the core and every single island had to be more visible. This time I also tried to add scale to this world by drawing a little city on the edge of the island and give it some civilization. What is the technical progress of these people? How much habitable space actually is on such an island? Is there a relation between size and scope to define?
In the third sketch I wanted to show a single island without the core. Form, scale, crystal size and population should define the scope of an island. How much environment and buildings should be on an island? How many quests will be there to entertain the player? Can our team deal with such an amount of work and create a city and island in that size?
We decided that the content scope shown above would be far too much for a random island. This island sketch was a special task for define the approximate size and understand how the universe concept should be built together in detail. Nevertheless it is not an actual concept for the game itself. The concept of the first island in the game will be presented in another post 😉
At this point we still hadn’t found a sufficiently good sketch for the world concept!
Basically, there is an easy step-by-step method for creating artwork:
- find a good composition by creating sketches
- define the sketch in detail considering perspective and anatomy
- shape out basic colors by setting a light source
- add shadow for creating volume
- adjust color considering distance color contrast
- work out details
First you need to define the composition and find a good place for all elements so they fit in nicely into the whole picture. In this early stage it’s very important that the perspective is correct. After this you have to define a proper light source and start to shape the scene with color to get volume for all elements.
However, I wasn’t able to follow that method for this painting. There were too many equivocal factors and I couldn’t imagine a proper composition and how the color palette should look like. It was very hard for me to find a proper part to start with. First I had to clarify some questions, which can only be solved by experimenting with sketches.
Immediately I started with a first rough color sketch. I wanted to show this version to our team so that I could get early feedback whether I move in the right direction with this. It is very difficult and time-consuming for the concept artist to draw a picture without a clear goal. Every single step needs to be discussed with the team and don’t forget the remachining of the design elements. Sometimes I had to redraw a single object many times. Finally it took about 20-25 hours to paint this artwork. 🙂
The goal for this picture wasn’t clear to me. The realization and visualization of design and color was not defined. Like I told you before, I started with a rough color sketch to show the progress to my team. I also added two people at the edge of this flying island to show my interpretation of scale for this world. Every single island-boulder should get an own atmosphere and the core in the middle should be the epicentre of this planet. It should also have the biggest atmosphere radius and the most amount of fresh air in this universe. I wanted to show the viewer that there is only a very thin atmosphere layer. Immediately I noticed that the core design looks like a sun, an aspect I tried to avoid.
In the second draft I wanted to change the core design so that it doesn’t look like a big fireball. It should get the characteristics of a powerful energy source. There was a risk that the core could be seen as a common bright light source. I also reduced the blue atmosphere layer around the center to highlight the energy flow which connects the island boulders.
The composition elements feel quite well-placed, however, I did not like the viewing angle. That was the reason why I mirrored the painting. But we still weren’t happy with the core design and the blue energy at all. I tried different versions (again) with a red color, changed it to orange and black, but I couldn’t achieve good results. At last I colored it in a white shade. It still wasn´t perfect but it was quite acceptable.
The darkness of the universe around the world construct didn´t feel right as well. Somehow the single island-boulders got the character of something isolated and didn´t create the impression that it´s a coherent construct. I thought to see the fractured world as a whole with an own atmosphere was very important. I changed the range of the blue sky and added clouds.
I still was unhappy with the core design. Even though I combined the pure white energy with little pattern elements of other colors, the core didn’t look very powerful. But I reached another goal: there was a connection between the single islands by the flowing energy. The blue sky and the clouds gave the painting an additional, visual bonding.
Well, I found a proper composition and design elements slowly shaped in a nice way. At first I drew two people on the top corner of the painting, but I thought that there still was something missing for a understandable ratio in this painting. This detail was the flying ship. It created another important point of focus and should bring to the viewer´s mind that there is civilization and technology. Sure, the whole world bursted into pieces, but there is still the possibility to travel from island to island and there is a structural order. This painting element tells you one thing: The world is open and full of adventures waiting for you to explore!
Finally we found a nice and well-fitting design for the core. The epicentre was a special combination of light and any kind of other materials. It is hard to explain that idea, however, we defined it as a collapsed pulp of a biological mass which lost his structure due to extremely high compression. The core is not a solid mass. It’s rather a special new-created structure with a compact, liquid and gassy consistence. All elements circulate and pulse around the energy core.
I really love drawing all the little details in this world. It was quite entertaining to deal with light, particles and an imaginative environment. I also edited the sky and atmosphere. The viewer should see that the universe is a very thin border between the universe and every single island.
Even though I created a very detailed concept, these are all still placeholder designs for our game. It was very important that the team exactly undertsands in which kind of fantasy world this game should take place. Everything created in future will be based on this concept. I wanted that everyone in my team knows that in this world everything is possible. There is no limit for creativity. It also was very important that we found a proper scope for scale and world structure.
“By finishing this artwork we set a milestone for all further concepts”
“I want this masterpeace to hang in my room”