Since the release of the game it’s been a real encouragement to hear people say they like the art of the game. This is Eric writing today, the artist on the team. I hope this entry will be enjoyable and maybe insightful!
From the start we wanted Woolson to look unassuming so when he fired a laser blast from his mouth it would be more amusing. The above drawing is the first Woolson I made so we could visualize the game and have temporary assets in a quickly formed prototype.
After we felt more confident with the rough prototype, I set to making a real Woolson to replace my doodles. Along with exploring different body shapes for him, I experimented with how shaggy, fluffy, or smooth his wool could be. I made exclusive use of the standard charcoal like brushes in Photoshop.
From there I just went silly adding hats to all the sheep in the line up except #7. The purpose of #7’s design was to try a sheep with an awesome hairdo, so I didn’t want to cover it with a hat. In the end the team and I liked his square frame, wool style, and funny expression.
I also jotted down his name at this point. “The Third” never stuck but I’m glad people like “Woolson”.
Once I had Woolson’s basic shape down I worked on roughing out the expressions he would need and other important moments like him exploding!
Mostly everything stayed aligned to the early concepts except the rainbow beam changed in the end. Due to size limitations, I wouldn’t have a clear conscious adding the giant atlas that would be needed to pull off a giant hand animated rainbow beam. In the end we used smaller assets and pieced them together to get what is in the game now.
When we were happy with the way the game looked with roughed in color and single frame animations, I then began making full animations, and also further polishing Woolson’s design. Although initially I envisioned a much rougher, chalkier art style, I made a whim decision to allow the characters to be clean in their silhouette but keep the roughness for shading the characters and the background paintings. I felt that this style would work in my favor when trying to make smoother animations in terms of maintaining character silhouettes, and I was also concerned that all the subtle stray marks that charcoal style has wouldn’t be as visible on a small screen. To really get the most out of that, I’d have to really go for a scratchier style, but I hoped this would look more clean.
The wolves had their concept phases parallel with Woolson, but I explored more shapes because I wasn’t sure if they should be a wolf-like monster or just a wolf. I also was trying to make sure they looked like wolves and not just any dog. The end result for them is really weird when you stare at them too long and realize how large their heads are in comparison to their triangular legs, but I also had to battle with their overall size. If they were too large, there wouldn’t be enough room on the screen to see each wolf clearly. I also wanted them to fit closer to Woolson and the beam he’d shoot. It’d be better for their bodies to come in line with that beam than make it look like he was shooting at their legs if they were taller. As shown, I briefly attempted making pixel art but I quickly moved away from it since I am too inexperienced with it and I needed to make art fast with what I know to make our deadlines.
Above is the chart I made to figure out how many colors we’d end up with in the game using the additive color system. RGB was the natural fit with how digital screens display color, and it also worked great thematically since Woolson shot lasers (light), not streams of paint (pigment).
We are often asked why we didn’t chose to go with red, yellow, and blue pigment, instead of red, green, and blue light (subtractive vs. additive color systems). In order to achieve the vibrant colors you see in the game with a subtractive system, the mixing mechanic would need to be way more complicated and also include white to achieve brighter colors. For secondary colors like orange, purple, and green, the combination is easy. An even portion of two primary colors will give you that result. The game wouldn’t be very challenging if all you had to make was primary and secondary colors. That’s where mixing all three primaries would then come in. However, most of the colors you end up with by mixing all three primaries end up as shades of brown, and that is not as vibrant or as distinctive as we’d like. To avoid just making dark brownish colors but still have variation, the options for color mixes would have to be larger, complicating gameplay. You know those paint swatches you stare at for hours as you try to pick the right color for a room? Sometimes it’s just variations of one color like 50 types of blue… yeah, we didn’t want to make a game like that.
In the end, we have a challenging amount of colors but avoid trying to have colors that are too similar as shown in the chart. We actually have more than 20 colors because we unlocked some of the ones I originally put an “X” over. You can always make those X colors with Woolson but we don’t have wolves appear in them. It really would make the game too hard. Furthermore, we adjusted some colors to make them more distinguishable even though they are not literally hitting 0, 50, and 100 percent values.
The game went through quite a few iterations on the layout, background, and control schemes. The control scheme ultimately informed the layout, while the background more or less was more tied to how the characters looked and as they got more polished, so did the background. We started with the idea of sliders but that ultimately felt too clumsy. Having all those choices was also too complicated and the color variations weren’t different enough. Above in the very fist mockup I made, it was then that I knew RYB wasn’t a good idea. In the example showing 50 units of yellow and blue, it would come out with a perfect green, but the same would be true if you only used 10 units of each. As long as you have equal parts, you will form perfect green. But deviate from that by one degree or another, then you get your variations, which are too many to remember and distinguish while being attacked! In the end, using RGB, and laying the buttons out the way they are allowed for really fun swiping and simplified controls for a lovely amount of vibrant colors.
Well, that’s all for this entry! Thanks for reading and feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment below if you have any further questions about the art! Overall, Color Sheep was a fun first game to work on, over a very short amount of time. The characters, backgrounds, and FX didn’t have much time to evolve but there was still plenty to decide on and still a good amount of iteration. In the end, I am very happy with how colorful the game really is, and I hope you are too!