From The Vault: First Mockups

Ahoy! I’m Xin, the Kitfox art officer. Today we’ll be digging up some artifacts from the archives, the first mockups created for Shattered Planet in 2013.

May 2: Space travel is cool. Video games need more fish spaceships.

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May 6: Maybe a separate screen for combat?

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May 16: But we wanted to focus on planet exploration!

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These guys are adorbs, but we thought it made our Roguelike look too casual.

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June 7: So we tried out three different aesthetics.

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The last one dates from mid-June 2013. You can see the beginning of the tile-based island formations. We felt a disconnect between the characters and the environment, so we opted for painterly look for everything. Mockups were great for brainstorming the art direction, UI/UX and even game mechanics! Possibly my favorite part of pre-production.

Environment Design: The Shattered Desert

Hi guys! Tanya here!

Today I’ll go into some detail on our environment design, using the Desert as an example, since we haven’t shown it off much yet and it’s the first area-type the player encounters. I’m actually from the Mojave Desert of southern California originally. I spent most of my childhood chasing lizards, catching kangaroo mice, and climbing the Rocky Mountains… when I wasn’t allowed to play NES, anyway.

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An environment’s atmosphere comes from every element — the landscape, the colors, the wildlife and lighting. Xin, our artist, starts by painting the terrain we need. For the Desert, we knew we wanted basic tiles of Dirt, Sandstone, and Brush. We want the Desert to feel desolate and dry, but not lifeless.

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Now, before you think, “those aren’t very interesting! Where’s the life, the juice, the oomph?” … we started out going super-detailed, with intense painterly details on each tile…

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And yes, they were beautiful! BUT when they’re tiled all together, 10×10, it looks terrible. Dirt starts to look like meat!

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We might still sprinkle details like these throughout as a rare treat, but for now, we’ve had to forcibly tone down the contrast and details of any one basic tile, for the betterment of the whole.

Next, he paints combinations of each tile-type with another, so that the world generator can smoothly transition between regions. For example, a half-Brush, half-Sandstone tile should always buffer between Brush and Stone areas.

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The final terrain layer is composed of “crumbly bits”, as we call them, which help reinforce the idea that you’re on a shattered planet. They match at least half of the tile-type they’re generated next to. For interior levels, these take the form of metal struts and frames. For exteriors, they’re more like chunks of earth and rock.

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And then, at long last, the fun part — we can add gameplay! Bushes and rocks are obstacles that get in your way and help with the ambiance. As for enemies, you might have seen our Hatchling and Nest Guardian back when we first concepted them in July, and now they can finally romp and hunt in their natural desert habitat. Combining all of the elements together gives us a flavorful, unique Desert environment that feels significantly different from the others.

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So, with no photoshopping or other trickery, here’s a screenshot taken directly from the game while it’s running:

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The next step will be adding in a flavorful background for each environment. We want to keep the lonely, dark feeling of the desert at night, but something a little bit more interesting than plain black.

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Unique story encounters can also happen in the desert — finding unearthed skulls, old campfires, lost hatchlings, or even strange stones can lead you on mini-adventures into the unknown. Just like home?


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Infiltrating the Alien Ruins

Sometimes, your teleporter might not take you to the surface of the planet. It can take you into the depths of abandoned alien ruins, where ancient devices continue to hum and whirr, preserved well against potential intruders. These ruins clearly weren’t built by the tribal nomads roaming the grasslands.

For our environment design process, we first looked at references and decided on an overall mood, from Jedi temples to Weyland-Yutani. We chose to go for geometric since it would match our tile-based world, and a clean, plastic feel would contrast nicely with the “fuzzier”, more organically textured outdoor environments.

This was Xin’s first doodle, experimenting with different concepts of rivets, grating, angles, transparency, and metallic tones. If you look closely, you can find an informative hologram screen, severed wires, a cybernetic supply closet, and an exposed electronics panel.

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From there, he went on to roughs, and refined them into an environment we could all agree looked sufficiently intriguing to call our interior tileset. The lasers serve the same function as water tiles — unwalkable yet visually interesting area. It still needs walls and obstacles that match the architecture, and help build up more of a sense of purpose to the space.

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As you can see, walking on heavy plastic, metal grating, and glass should feel quite different than walking on fuzzy grass and moist earth.

We liked it so much, we made it our Twitter page background, complete with an intrepid slicer droid!

What do you think the alien civilisation was like?