Building Blocks

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Back in late 2012, I had the pleasure of working with McGraw-Hill Education to help develop a series of iOS. Ultimately, the development team took the games in a different direction, meaning most (if not all) of my art was left on the editing floor. Sadface. However, I received the greenlight to share my work, so the post below walks you though some of my process behind the project.

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The interface was supplied by the client. I supplied that realistic tiger.

The majority of my responsibilities were to design a series of sprites/characters for each game, as well as background scenes that would fit around an existing interface. The image above shows an example of a finished scene, with the character and controls in place. A scene, like the one our tiger friend is in, can take weeks (even months) of concepts and redesigns. Patience (and coffee) is key.

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Workflow from Illustrator. How did people research before the internets?

Whenever I started with a new scene, I always worked on the easiest, or most comfortable portion first, then worked my way out of that. I also pull a lot of reference images, especially when drawing animals. The shot above shows an example of what my Illustrator screen looks like while constructing a scene. I’ll usually have tons of reference photos and color swatches and whatever construction lines are needed. In this case, I had a template of what the final interface would look like (see the pink lines) which helped me design the scene around where the buttons would go.

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A sample of some final animal designs.

Originally, I wanted the characters to have a lot of detail and roundness (as shown in the chickens above), but due to the volume of animals/props needed throughout the entire series of games, coupled with the production schedule, a simpler execution was needed, so the final designs took on more blocky shapes.

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Some key frames for the animals’ movements.

I am NO animator. I don’t have any animation background and it’s a service I don’t offer, but sometimes I still have to give the real animators some sort of concept to go on. For each animal, I did a few key frames that gave my idea on how I thought each animal should move.

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What’s that Van Halen song?

The chicken and the mouse above show my ideas on how I thought they should jump. This is pretty much the extent of my animation ability. So… if you know of someone who’s looking to make a major motion picture starring a jumping chicken and a jumping mouse, send them my way.

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I’m faxing these designs to NASA as we speak.

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That might be the worst-looking robot ever.

Designing animals can be time consuming, so it’s nice when a project also has in-organic objects that need to be illustrated. Part of the assignment was to draw space ships, trees, cactuses, robots, musical instruments, and so on and on and on. The images above give an example of some of the objects I produced to exist within the games.

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Several final scene designs. Leaving room for various interfaces was tough.

The last part of my responsibilities was to stage my animals/objects in a way that would match the style and also give room for the game buttons/controls. Most of the games needed space above and below, so scenes were designed accordingly (which explains why most of these have big spaces on the top and bottom). It’s always a challenge to design a stage that has the same amount of personality as the characters, but also lets those characters stand out.

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A couple of examples of scenes with final characters in place.

Designing games is always rewarding, but there’s always a tremendous amount of editing, re-working and changing concepts to match the production methods. Even then, there’s always the chance that final art won’t get produced. But that’s the biz, yo!

You can see more examples (and larger images) of my work on this project by visiting my portfolio site. Thanks for reading!


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