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When basic prototype and polishing of control system were finished, we turned to nailing down visual identity of the game. At first I thought that this is going to be more relaxing part of game development. Boy was I wrong.
We had a tricky task ahead. All we had at the time being was a floating rectangle in a not-so-happy pink world (as can be seen in the previous video) and we needed to create game world that is fun and that people can easily attach to. The job was to translate abstract idea (floating rectangle, and unique control scheme) into something that is logical, meaningful and acceptable by players (i.e. a character on some kind of a quest) and both preserves and adds the best from both worlds. What we knew is that we would need a cave-like world, inhabited by hostile creatures, with a lot of free space where player can move, and tight narrowing where player needs to show some skill. One thing that needed to be obeyed is that edges of caves must be as simple as possible, but of interesting shape at the same time. The request for simplicity arose form the fact that player can collide with edges of caves and we needed as simple collision calculation as possible.
A little piece of advice: when designing a game that needs to be small and quickly created - avoid collisions as much as possible. We always had problems with them. Real problems. And we still do. Speaking of collision, one issue that we had to deal with was explaining why exactly player must avoid touching everything. We came up with an idea of circus and a fallen acrobat who had an accident, and who is now trapped inside his head (coma perhaps), where he faces every acrobat's worst nightmare - losing balance (and getting hit as a consequence). Can you come up with something even better? If you do, I'll be happy to read it in the comment.
So, with all these demands (and hot girls) in mind Uros provided some of the first concepts:
We agreed that the last (cyan) concept was the thing we liked the most, and decided to develop it further enriching it with Russian fairy-tale style elements. So arose the series of concepts:
Visually, I really liked it, and we all did, but the problem was that it looked nice only as a picture, and didn't look like game at all. Since we decided to limit the game resolution to 1024x768 for the sake of benefits that fixed resolution brings (assembly of user interface, level design, etc), only a small portion of this picture could be visible at the time, and it was all about details with this one. The other, more important problem was that it looked too alternative, and one has to be really careful with introducing new things in game industry. As much players are fond of innovations, they also tend to accept them pretty hard and only if those innovations are either really pleasing, or have recognition from some influential force in game industry (such as eminent magazines). Add on top of that our experience with Pyroblazer, where we introduced complete freedom of movement in 3D space (never seen before in a racing game) that made ordinary audience quite confused with it. In FoF, we already introduced innovative and a bit difficult to embrace control system, and the conjunction with a brand new visual style didn't seem like a wise thing to do at the time being. Thatís when we decided to become a bit more commercial.
These concepts turned out too commercial and ordinary, and we were afraid that they wont stand out in the crowd of games out there. But, since we invested a lot of time into developing a concept up to that moment and had virtually nothing, we decided to cut down our demands a bit and go with something similar to the last one, with some improvements being made as we go along. Here are some shots from the actual game with this artwork:
But the closure was not there. As we went along, we stumbled upon something that fit our demands much better than everything before it, and its silhouette style had a bit more indie feel rather than casual feel of the "green style". We entangled it tightly with the story (dreamy/nightmarish circus-like world ) and got satisfying result, that was good looking, quick to create, clean and easy to animate. Which one do you like the most? Do you think we made a wrong choice?
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Learn more about the game on official site.