Dev Blog: Concept Art Part 1
Designing the world and the characters which inhabit it has been a difficult task for myself and Jessica. There have been countless ideas and styles which we have discussed and built upon, all of which has helped up move towards the final idea and design which we have settled on.
During the initial stages of design, I was tasked with creating concept art of landscapes and characters. Within the first few weeks both myself and Jessica were excited at the possibility of making the game styled around 1960s America. This decision grew out of research into segregation, and the timing of the civil rights movement. We knew the narrative of the game would focus around segregation, and therefore thought it was fitting to set the game in a time period which experienced this hardship. My initial concept art tried to visually illustrate segregation. I designed the Jazz side of the world to be perfect and clean. This side of the world would represent those in society who live perfect lives, almost like a visualisation of the American Dream. Every aspect of the Jazz side would be filled with bright-toned colour, and the architecture was based around suburban areas of 1960s America. The blues world, however, would be more built up, dreary, cluttered and messy, based off of industrialised and run down cities of 1960s America, such as Detroit or Pittsburgh. We both were fond of this idea, as we wanted both sides of the world to represent the meaning behind their retrospective music tastes. The Jazz side would represent its music, which is more upbeat, improvised and classy, whereas the Blues side would show off its music, which typically has sombre lyrics, and focusses on everyday struggles. We liked this idea for a while, as it allowed us to create two very different game worlds that players could explore individually.
This idea was developed further, and more precise concept art was designed as a result. This time, instead of individual houses, I tried to show what the landscape of both worlds would be like. The concept art below shows a couple of different scenes I made, which I had hoped would display the feeling and atmosphere of both sides. These pieces of concept art strived to show the stark differences between the two world. On the Jazz side, the inhabitants would wear colourful formal outfits, whereas on the Blues side they would wear muted colours and more casual outfits. The Jazz side would have had large spacious homes and neighbourhoods, with painted and colourful buildings, and to contrast this the Blues side would have had tall, built-up streets designed to feel claustrophobic.
However, this idea eventually did change. After numerous team discussions, we decided to take the art direction of the game down our own path. This meant cutting ties with direct inspiration from real life. Although we liked a lot of elements of design from 1960s America, in fashion, architecture and interior design, we realised we should instead make our own style based on different elements of research and visual design. I went away and began working on a new style for the game, however this time I based my design around shapes, rather than any specific real lifestyle. The Jazz world was created using circles and curved edged shapes. This decision was made based on the feel of Jazz music when listening to it I felt calm and relaxed, the lyrics were upbeat and the mood was mellow. Whereas the Blues world would have instead used more rigid and angular designs, as the narrative behind many blues songs are that of sorrow, hardship and loss, which to me felt as if it was cutting and sharp. Using different shapes for both sides of the world would have produced two starkly different environments for the players to explore. The concept art below shows how certain prefabs of shapes could have been reused and moved around to create brand new buildings, at the time we even discussed procedurally generating towns and buildings in the world based on basic shapes. This whole idea did not last long, however, as collectively we realised the style was not presenting what we wanted it to, although the idea had links to how the music felt, it wasn’t obvious enough to be used as a game style. Since shapes aren’t specific to any theme in life, many players probably would not have realised the relationship the shapes in the world would have had to music. The game is about music and the differences between two different styles, and this line of concept art didn’t seem to represent this.
Eventually, I came up with a style for the game we as a team were happy with…
- Adam Watts