Today I will talk about some of the steps we took to reach the current art style of Backworlds. While we still have a long way to go with the art and may decide to make further changes to the style, I will go over some of the reasoning behind what the game looks like right now.
This is how the prototype looked – as mentioned in the character art post, we created the prototype for the Assemblee competition and the rules stated that we were not allowed to create any art of our own so we mostly used the art of Bastian, Kenneth and Pernille. What we did do was to adjust the brightness of the objects, background objects were either 25% or 75% gray while solid objects that only appeared in one world were 50% gray and objects that appeared in both worlds were black or white.
When we decided to keep working on the project, we started experimenting with colors. The first tests, like the one above, were mostly large flat areas with little detail – while this was very easy to read, it was a bit sterile and we felt that we wanted to keep some of the artistic beauty that came with the hand-drawn images.
These two pictures were experiments we created shortly before presenting the game at No More Sweden. The first one was an attempt to keep going with the sketch theme – while this had the advantage of letting us keep some of the effects and visual language we had used, we were concerned with the quality of the sketch. Additionally, we did not feel that we wanted to go back to the black and white presentation after having worked with colors.
We did opt to pursue the second style since it was focused on large, flat shapes with some texture – it gave us a better chance of creating decent-looking content ourselves while still not being very noisy.
For our first attempts to create something with this style, we opted to paint individual masks for the level outlines. We also used random patterns and really light colors for frontworld versus really dark for backworld, to create contrast. It quickly became apparent that this made the levels really hard to read.
This is a screenshot from the first seconds of the demo – we had many iterations before we reached this style and I’m not going to go over all of them now (Juha did most of it so he may write about it at some point in the future) but perhaps the most important changes were that we opted to create contrast with saturation – frontworld is colorful whereas backworld is grayscale. We also opted to have strong edges in order to show clearly where the platforms were, and make these edges black in frontworld and white in backworld to make the worlds more distinct.
In other news, we keep working on the puzzle design to make sure the game feels worthwhile to play. Recent playtests showed some big problems with parts of the game so we have cut those areas and started working on new concepts to replace them in order to make sure that the levels stay true to the core concepts in the game. While never creating those levels in the first place would have been a time-saver, since they were only using debug art we have not wasted a lot of time on them and seeing how they failed has been a great learning experience that we will write about sometime in the future.