The Art of ArmyDillos!

 

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Armydillos! has an army theme with the classic super hero comic book color style while capturing the world of Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner in the game’s environment. This look just felt great to stick into an army game where typical colors are drab dirt and ho-hum gray.

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I wanted the world to feel cartoony like a classic comic book and Looney Tunes. Each of those little barrel cacti are some crazy idea I came up with for bumpers. We also got some pretty fantastic ideas in our game like landmines.

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Yeah…*blushes and sweep kicks the floor* So the landmines are turtles with army helmets on their heads. Awesome, right?! I REALLY wanted them to parachute down from the sky, sink into the ground and then creep around the level like slow discouraging annoyances. Unfortunately again, this idea was out of scope. While my mind still sees the idea as nothing short of fun-tastic, it’s important to know when to let an idea go, no matter how fantastically amazing you think it is.

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 “Don’t do it Wile E!! It’ll explode!! I’ll never get the art done if you do that!!”

Bear in mind, I was the only artist on this project and I had just one day to cram as much art into the game as possible. I sacrificed a great deal on artistic style as I had to make cuts wherever I could. Using 2D halftone diffuse textures quickly got thrown out the window and I was forced to use raw color in unity instead. *Uchk!* Lighting also suffered, but without significant bump mappage and proper form on my models, I figure it didn’t matter much anyway. Another section that suffered is the UI, which is unfortunate because it’s also the most important. Though its implementation is not a lusterous experience, it should never be an after-thought. It’s the most important part of the game and it tells the player how to play, how to win, and how to loose! Without it, you might as well go monkey-town bonkers(my way of saying, go home).

toomuchartSo I had one day. One measly Sunday to cram it all in… And you know what? I’m pretty pleased with the results. While I didn’t get to accomplish all of the art’s style in the game, and really wished I had more artists on the team, I somehow managed to do ‘just enough‘ to get by. Being alone helped me understand how to quickly to iterate on artistic style and game assets so that the overall art doesn’t lack-luster in comparison to gameplay, and that is an important memo. That’s not to say there weren’t a few tears and feeling like a lonely artist throughout that day. There definitely were multiple times where I wished I had just one more person! The art’s style is fun like Looney Tunes, destructive like an army warzone, and glaringly bright, border-lining on over the top… at least thats what everything looks like in my mind including the things I didn’t have time to create!

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Honestly, i’m no saint! During a jam, these are all things you figure out as you go along while making the art, there’s no time to truly plan for artistic style. I figured out most of this stuff AFTER the game was released. All you know from the beginning is how many assets you need for basic gameplay, if you’re lucky to have worked out the design that far with the design team. Figuring out how everything is going to look next to each other, understanding how its all going to come together into some sort of cohesive fashion and look good in the end is just a matter of working and planning the best that you can as you go. This also means not to spending too much of your valuable time time on one asset. Possibly one of the biggest mistakes I may have made on the project was accidently spending too much time on our Armydillo characters, but water under the bridge, I’m super happy with how they came out regardless (and really everything else in the game too)!

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From the beginning I immediately envisioned a rolled up armadillo with an army helmet atop his head with his little ears sticking out. Did you know there is only one species of armadillo that has this rolling capability?! I sure didn’t. This video about armadillos is hysterical and gave us loads of information and inspiration for our game.

Our furry friends (yeah, they have fur! you’d know that if you watched the funny video above!) were made by cracking off half of a sphere, and sticking three pyramid shapes inside. From there, the very basic shapes, I modeled out more detail like the eyes, nose, claws and tail, and gave him his not so magic helmet!

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At the request of one of the designers, I gave him an eye patch. This LOD isn’t really seen in gameplay as they spin so fast  that you have to get super uselessly close to see it, but as it was a quick piece to add on and felt no harm spending five minutes giving more humor to our awesome armor all critters. The colors I chose specifically were pink vs. green, as the two are total opposites of each other on our color wheel, and because they completely stick out from the level’s stark orange Looney Tunes desert colors. If I could go back into the game and tweak more, I’d make them even more neon pink and neon green, similar to this marketing art below:

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It wasn’t until we decided that we wanted to share our game online that we discovered we would need marketing art. So cons, logos, and banners were created outside of the game jam, even recently for making this post purely for your amusement! I used elements directly from the game like the spark explosions and the bright orange boom effects that happen when you play. I’m really proud of the logo art, I grabbed screenshots of the 3d assets and shopped them specifically into the logo and for this action shot I use on my game artfolio. I made the most of what I have from the game (which isn’t much!) and whatever artistic 2D juices I could grab along the way.

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I’m still getting a hang for using the halftone pattern and using the exploions; both tend to overwhelm the viewer. I feel like I need to say “use the halftone style and explosions responsibly.” Just because there’s a sale on merchandise, doesn’t mean you go off and buy the whole store!

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AKA: no crazy photoshop filters everywhere just because you can use them, stay within reason! But at the same time, I prefer the marketing art and future game are to feel a little over the top to prevent the work from feeling like a typical gimey army game, or boring… Like the UI Art.

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UI art is unfortunately nothing to gawk at. All I knew was that I wanted to have stars in place for lives, and that I wanted them on an army patch to keep up with the theme.  They turned out nice-ish for the time I had but the problem was that I didn’t communicate properly to the UI designer how I wanted the art to be implemented. Instead of scripting for a single star to disappear from the patch when the player dies, he wrote the code for the whole patch to be a single life and repeated it three times to indicate the life system. This was a lesson well learned for me, never bet your guts on assumption because we had no time to change it. The UI is lackluster, its importance was neglected. It was literally the last thing that we created. I hope for future jams, we can think of UI more ahead of time, perhaps even have a flexible and reusable system on hand where only art and layout needs to be implemented. Good food for thought with a menu system, but not for a HUD. Some game HUDs are just too different. Our second game ConspicuFish doesn’t even have a life system, it has an awkward meter. But more on that later, we have to talk about animations in ArmyDillos!

Turns out.. we didn’t make any animations for the game! There aren’t any at all! That doesn’t mean we didn’t try an idea that wasted one whole day. We thought we wanted to animate the Armydillos rolling action, but kept hitting various buggy roadblocks. The alternative was to animate from the player’s input based on physics. This was actually easier in the long run. It also lead to unpredictable entertaining results (partially also because of the camera’s script). Whenever a player hits the other armydillo or smashes into a bomb, the camera turns upside-down and awkward and sends the character flying! This accidently made our game more fun! Yay!

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Our tiny game jam lead a huge helping had to my game art development experience. I’m super excited to be making a game every month and look forward to multiple vast improvements in my artwork and time management every time! Plus, I get a game to talk about with you guys! I simply love ArmyDillos!; and the art isn’t half bad either ;) :P

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OH! AND there is also THIS video of it RAINING Armydillos in a freak-prototype-level-warzone… Enjoy!  Watch this then go play ArmyDillos! with a friend! Happy Exploding Everyone! <3 EJ