Q&A: Designing the photogenic vignettes and digital camera play in snap-happy journey TOEM


They are saying an image is value a thousand phrases. If there’s any fact to that previous adage, then we think about there’s a whole library of stirring novellas hidden contained in the charming monochrome vignettes that make up TOEM

The fruits of years of refinement and generally drastic iteration, TOEM is an upcoming healthful hand-drawn journey sport from Swedish studio One thing We Made about taking images and serving to others.

Every of the title’s black-and-white landscapes are chock filled with quirky characters and creative thrives that make it straightforward to see why the world of TOEM could be a photographer’s dream. In a bid to study extra concerning the design selections and artistic processes that went into bringing every fizzing vignette to life, we went and picked the brains of One thing We Made artist Lucas Gullbo.

Gamasutra: How did TOEM spark into being? What had been a few of the design inspirations and ideas that spurred you on early in growth?

Lucas Gullbo: TOEM started as a small experiment between myself and (One thing We Made CEO) Niklas Mikkelsen again in 2018. We had lately had a somewhat “darkish” speak session about whether or not or not sport growth is a factor to try for or not, and through this speak I began doodling. I drew a few characters, some islands and a beak wanting fellow. We each appreciated the doodles and thought: “Perhaps there’s something right here?”.

After a few weeks we had the primary model (there are three extra to come back) of TOEM. We made an idea trailer for it, despatched it in to a neighborhood Recreation Problem and ended up successful 50,000 SEK. We began our firm shortly after, joined an incubator and iterated on the sport that we rushed out to satisfy the deadline of the problem. We appreciated what we had going however it was at all times exhausting determining WHAT to do in it.

That is the place we began our second model of the sport, the one with puzzles in it. Neither one among us are puzzle makers, so making a puzzle sport was a somewhat dangerous choice. This model had the participant rotate bridges to make paths and rotate partitions to dam off different paths.

We received questions on how the sport was going to progress because the puzzles are somewhat straightforward to resolve, we did not know how one can reply the query and this made us rethink but once more.

The third model was the one we experimented with extra puzzle fixing stuff. This model had the participant draw “electrical energy” traces between two factors to activate sure issues. Clicking on the world surroundings now had an impact on it, which means that the participant wanted to work together with numerous issues so as to progress. We added in additional characters to the sport as properly and a few “puzzles” required you to present recommendation or phrases of encouragement to NPC’s.

We began to really feel somewhat comfy with what we had, there was now extra content material and puzzles to resolve and it simply so occurred that GDC (2019) was simply across the nook. This occurred to be one of the vital factors in TOEM’s growth as we shortly realized that we do not have sufficient “core” for the sport. We could not actually brazenly clarify what the sport was or the place we needed to take it. Neither one among us needed to make puzzles, they’re exhausting to make, we simply needed to make a world to discover. We went on meet-ups, we met cool folks and each speak simply made us notice that we do not know what we’re doing.

We had now made three variations of TOEM and determined to surrender.

Faculty and jobs took over our time, we did another issues in-between as properly, however TOEM was nonetheless lurking within the background. We appreciated the artwork and the island based mostly scenes, at any time when we confirmed the sport we at all times received optimistic feedback concerning the look of the sport. We took a weekend and simply talked concerning the sport, what we had executed and what was there.

Within the third model there was a telescope and while you interacted with it the participant might take a look at the world from a primary individual perspective. This was each very fascinating and likewise benefited the artwork of TOEM.

We each thought this was fascinating, going from a extra high down view of the world to a extra intimate view from the participant characters eyes. What might we do with this? Concepts about wanting on the surroundings and perhaps giving NPC’s instructions to locations to go to. A brand new sketch was made. One about touring round with a bus going to locations impressed by Scandinavia, speaking to some cute and charming characters and saving the journey you made with a digital camera.

We had new vitality once more for TOEM. We felt extra comfy than earlier than and since “puzzles” now acted as a extra open time period for us to mess around with, it did not really feel as intimidating as earlier than! We started engaged on this new concept, making a primary individual photograph mode that the participant might take and save photos in an album. Handing in images to NPC’s and getting their response based mostly on what was within the photograph.

This was it, the core for TOEM.

Gamasutra: The vignette type ranges in TOEM are like miniature puzzle containers in themselves. How did you design each to spark intrigue and hook gamers?

Gullbo: Every stage has an meant placement, whether or not that’s to introduce one thing or create a extra significant opening it will depend on the state of affairs. Since a lot of the sport is about wanting together with your digital camera, we needed to make it possible for every stage is no less than considerably fascinating to take a look at. Or in different phrases: There’ll at all times be no less than one factor within the stage that has significance to it.

Aside from that, it is extra about discovering the area that you simply discover and attempting to determine the place you will discover the issues you might be searching for!

Gamasutra: From a design perspective, why go for bite-sized puzzle containers somewhat than extra expansive ranges?

Gullbo: Having separate environments comes with a few advantages. We will as an example change the surroundings between two ranges fairly drastically with out it feeling too bizarre. We will even have gamers search for one thing particular or trace about one thing to be discovered within the stage they’re at present in.

We needed to maintain issues comparatively open from the start so most ranges are reachable proper from the beginning. Having extra exhausting on cuts between the degrees additionally helped when making sure areas inaccessible for the participant.

Gamasutra: Gamers should use their photographic eye to uncover mysteries and magic in TOEM, however how did you tweak and hone that core images mechanic to make sure it might be utilized in a significant and impactful method?

Gullbo: The very first thing we applied for the digital camera was to register sure objects within the digital camera viewfinder. Because of this when the participant takes a photograph of one thing the photograph will now comprise a tag. ex: Tree, Rock. After which we will have an NPC take a look at that photograph and react based mostly on what tags it has.

We performed round lots with this implementation, tweaking detections and so on. to make it possible for images are tagged appropriately. From playtesting we seen that peoples images at all times got here out incorrectly so we would have liked so as to add in additional checks for what object is definitely being targeted on.

Every time the participant opens the digital camera they’re locked in place. We needed to cut back the controls a bit, and because the sport is feasible to finish solely utilizing a mouse it was exhausting to implement a good resolution for transferring when in first individual. However this led to extra issues we might mess around with and take a look at!

We began to take a look at issues extra from a concentrate on how you are taking images with an actual digital camera. Placement, as an example, is essential when taking a photograph. So how can we make it essential in TOEM? Since we now have shifts in views we will have issues solely seen within the digital camera. Perhaps one thing is seen within the distance or perhaps one thing is hidden behind a nook? These had been the concepts that went into the sport and led to us having extra enjoyable with our puzzles then beforehand. We additionally gave the participant a a lot wanted selfie mode which resulted in a cause to decorate up and look humorous! An added bonus that I am undecided could be in except we checked out it extra technically.

Gamasutra: Why did you select to make a sport that leans closely on images? How do you assume the mechanic helps gamers relate to the expertise?

Gullbo: It was an fascinating take to take a look at the artwork in TOEM!

We additionally needed to keep away from the definition of puzzles as a lot as doable, since in our head it is extra associated to brain-teasers somewhat than humorous eventualities that may be solved somewhat simply. Making a photograph journey felt pure and was useful for us within the group to discover and share our concepts.

We actually do hope that gamers will cease and take within the second from our little photograph journey. To take a look at the journey they’re making and to mirror on the progress they’ve made. Photographs are a pleasant illustration of progress, they act as a time-machine of some types, all of it ties in fairly properly with the “cease and scent the flowers” strategy.

Gamasutra: I am additionally to listen to why you settled on a hand-drawn black and white aesthetic, and what challenges you confronted attempting to comprehend that artwork type?

Gullbo: The artwork type of TOEM at all times adopted alongside the event, it went backwards and forwards in detail-level however apart from that it largely stayed the identical. All of it originated from the early sketch which was additionally in black and white. Through the early variations of the sport, there have been extra particulars contained in the textures, I believe this made it look extra noisy and transferring ahead the element ranges had been stored to a minimal.

So the in-game artwork has at all times had its personal contact to it, however once we began transferring into the UI for the sport, issues received a bit extra difficult. Since every thing within the sport is black and white, utilizing a coloured UI felt misplaced. However not utilizing colours for essential info prompts difficult issues. We ended up dividing the UI extra closely, nonetheless maintaining it black and white however including in a fade behind something associated to the UI.

The hand-drawn aesthetics can also be simply an impact from me making the artwork. That’s how I draw and that’s how I might present my half to the group. Not utilizing colours additionally made it so I might get my textures executed faster + all of the artwork makes use of the identical saturation which means that I do not actually have to fret an excessive amount of about colour matching!

Gamasutra: TOEM accommodates a mixture of 2D and 3D characters and objects. Why did you embrace each, and the way do you assume it impacts how gamers understand the world itself?

Gullbo: I believe it advantages the artwork type of the sport! It makes it really feel a bit like a pop-up ebook in case you could, the place extra advanced/natural shapes are flat whereas buildings with extra outlined angles are in 3D. It was each an artwork selection because it advantages the digital camera angle (2D issues at all times have their finest aspect going through the digital camera) and a piece selection since I am not nice at 3D modeling and needed to keep away from it as a lot as doable.

Hopefully gamers will discover the type playful!

Gamasutra: Lastly, is there a very helpful design lesson you’ve got picked up engaged on TOEM that you simply’d prefer to share with different builders? One thing that’ll assist them on their very own artistic journey.

Gullbo: Feeling like giving up on a ardour undertaking is not essentially a nasty factor and in our case was an important step within the growth. We thought the sport was over, that it will by no means get completed. However we are actually closing in on launch and it is so surreal.

So, take a break every now and then and step again to take a look at the issues you’ve gotten executed somewhat than the stuff you wish to get executed.

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