Feast for Eyes (4 of 5)

This 5-part-series will highlight some of our development processes while creating our incremental shooter, CosmoTap.

WARNING: Lot's o' pictures! Soothe network cables with loving touch, or gently caress your Wifi signals.

A long time ago in a dark room far far away... an idea was birthed. In this installment of our Dev Blog, we'll be bending the space-time continuum and warping back! Back to where it all started. The big bang, if you will. It all started with a Word Doc, a two-pager on a very simple concept for one of our first stabs at app development.



A simple pitch laid out as if it was live on the App Store, it lets all involved parties know exactly what the game is, including an in-game mockup and other similar products. This is pretty much what started the CosmoTap gig (internally known as Zeno). The project was greenlit! A very preliminary art direction was given to the creative maestros:



These are the two main slides thematically that defined CosmoTap. There were other influences/references in the presentation which were pivotal as well, such as:

No Man's Sky
The art in NMS is pure bliss, its vibrant depiction of a once-dark space is a visual orgy of gradients and hues. It's flamboyant-but-not-childish, loud and reserved. Their artistic take on sci-fi was an inspiration. Some of you might of picked up on the stolen ship screenshot from the Word Doc pitch (right screencap), that's a procedural ship screengrab from NMS at GDC15' if I remember correctly!

The Itano Circus looks AWESOME in Galak-Z, animations and cutscenes are on-point! It's a West X East mashup with a heavy anime influence. The effects like thrusters, explosions, missiles, are brilliant in this little gem.

Armed with these general confines of creative freedom, we sent our artisans off to their respective waterfalls under which they meditated. For this project we let artists pitch their vision under the aforementioned direction, and we hold a roundtable as to which of the concepts was more appropriate. Which means taking into account the aethetics, visual viability, and market viability into consideration. The early concepts the artists produced speak for themselves!



Some of these concepts would have narrowed the scope of the game, some might need the platform of a living universe. We decided on the ocean inspired theme and sent two of our leads to flesh out the concept further. For the Blog, we caught up with a bit of Q&A with these two gurus, BAND Huang and Mars Huang.

Could you please describe the concept phase, is there a trick or approach you take?
BAND: When I first saw the proposal, the theme of Raiden or Macross was always in the forefront. But it's too predictable if we went at this genre from that same angle. I wanted to push the bounds a bit, drawing inspiration from the sea and its creatures, and actually fit this galaxy into our little underwater world. Things like making corals into asteroids would spice things up, and add that extra flare for the game.
Mars: The oceanic reference definitely enabled us to create richer, more diverse visuals. I think we achieved the look we were after.
Was this theme something you were familiar with, and did you encounter any bottle necks?
Mars: As a sci-fi action game, this was a big departure with previous projects we worked on that were medieval fantasy. During this process we had to abandon a fair amount of our previous thinking and take time off to soak in as much sci-fi as we can.
BAND: Yeah it's a first for me as well, but it's a refreshing challenge. In game development there are always these bottlenecks, especially between art and programming, like how it should look in game against the technical restraints. We got there in the end though, a step at a time.
Was there anything interesting or memorable during the development of CosmoTap?
BAND: For me, conceptualizing ships was the best. I normally try to give a creature a attribute, or a sort of personality first. The likable clown fish as the Player, or a spikey sea urchin might be evil and hostile.
Mars: We were mashing all these sea creatures together, using them for Players, Drones, and Bosses. Some of them turned out quite surprising. Off the top of my head, the Player Goldfish-inspired skin, Lobster Bosses were things that I would never have come up with if it wasn't for the nautical theme. It kind of gave life to these ships, you know? Like they were alive and swimming in this world we created, it's pretty cool.
What are your tools of the trade?
Mars: Photoshop CS6 and ZBrush.
BAND: I'm mostly on 2D concepts, so Photoshop and sometimes Painter for different textures and brushes. For 2D textures we use BodyPaint 3D mainly.
Any advice to any artists looking to try this theme?
Mars: Persevere through failure, try a lot of wild things and you'll discover a whole new galaxy ;) .
BAND: If you want to get into game development as an artist, I think you should always think outside of the box during the concept phase to create an unique experience. Like for CosmoTap we made everything seafood and from there onwards the possibilities were endless!
So that about does it for this installment our blog, which is a look back onto our humble (but beautiful) beginnings. If you're still reading, I thank you for your bandwidth and hopefully you'll enjoy our next (undecided) installment as well. Cheerio.