In this article, I'll present some of the evolution of the art of The Man Came Around as well as a brief explanation of its graphical workflow.
You can find additional informations about the game on its kickstarter page: Kickstarter.com
In the beginning, the game wasn’t a political fable. Its name was To The Sky. You played a group of plane crash survivors an cannibalism was maybe involved.
Julien -an artist with a background in printing- and myself were the last two survivors of the hobbyist team. We brainstormed for quite some time about the look of To the Sky on our free time.
We wanted something minimalistic with a heavy atmosphere. Plus, it had to be 2D. We wanted to exploit Belgium's history of comic books and weird artistic styles. We were also influenced by japanese stamps and speedpainting. Here are some early concepts.
The first version by Julien
Concepts. Most of them by Julien.
Walt already looked like a tool
But gamedev didn’t really pay the rent and the belgian video game scene was as mature as a newborn baby. Julien had to stop. I also had to choose: to stop right there or try my luck as a solo dev.
Since I’m a fool, I decided to continue, and to go pro full-time. My main problem was about the graphics. I was handling the code and the 3D modelization of the characters, not the drawings. I had no artistic formation. Could I produce something good looking and/or weird enough?
I kept the black and white approach and tried my hand at character design, in-game art and HUD creation. I also improved the game’s code.
It took a long time, but in the end I was able to produce something close enough to my vision. And I also knew exactly what I couldn’t do myself. As I was aware of my limitations from the start, I tried to keep it light.
First level of the game. It didn't change much.
With time, the style of the characters took a more definitive look. I'll explain later the guidelines I follow to get the actual result. I'm gonna try to resume the whole process very quickly.
Phase 1 : Draw the face.
That's usually the more complicated part, since I'm not a pro. Obtaining the right look/expression can take time, and a lot of tricks are used, such as deformation, copy paste and other shortcuts. I hope real artists don’t use them, but I suspect it’s a possibility…
Phase 2 : Quickly draw the body and refine the lineart.
This one never takes long. The body, clothes or equipments of the characters are not very detailed, so it's quite easy.
Once I've got a tornado of lines looking more or less to the desired result, I spend some time refining the lineart. I keep the messy version though, cause I'll use it later.
Phase 3 : Main colors.
Using the lasso tool and the paint bucket tool, I apply the main colors to the lineart. I never use too many different shades of gray, and I try to keep all the shapes as clear as I can.
Phase 4 : Texturing + Edges
The next step is to use different kind of brushes to add some textures to the main colors and break their monotony.
After that, several white brushes are applied at some locations of the drawings to give it more energy. I add the negative of the first rough sketch and partially erased it to complete the whole thing.
Finally, a bunch of additional vertical white lines are placed on the character.
I use the same process for the levels, although it’s a more simple workflow, where some part of the texturing phase aren’t used.
To finish, here is an exemple of level, from the lineart to the in-game implementation :