Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Space Crack: An artistic dilemma

Cute or Hardcore?
I'm a relatively decent artist. This poses a problem. I have the unholy power to skin Space Crack with an acceptable facsimile of almost any popular art style out there. The result is too many choices. So here's a question for everyone who has been kind enough to read this blog: What art style should Space Crack use? I've got a couple of seed ideas that I've been playing with.

  • The first is Fifties iPod. This one is very white, with simple retro shapes that harkens back to glory days of early sci-fi. Other than sporting a classic 50's pin-up girl, the designs tend towards more abstract and geometric shapes
  • The second is Space Cute: Another rather white design, but this one has cartoony characters and highly symbolic graphics. Red hearts, yellow stars, and people with space helmets make an appearance. Think of it as Mario in Space.
Fifties iPod

Space Cute

Worms shows the way?
Someone mentioned how Worms made an incredibly violent game palatable to a wide variety of players. I'd love to do the same thing with the art direction on this game design. I'm not sure if my 50's pinup (as enjoyable as she was to paint) does the trick here. At the same time, I'm curious if the Space Cute style is too generic. Thoughts, opinions and critiques are welcome.

take care


  1. I think your instinct is correct - Fifties iPod is likely to be found cool by design-conscious hipster types, but that's not who you are going after. Space Cute is closer, but the sketches you have put up in that direction run the risk of alienating guys like Ray.

    Remember "Z" by the Bitmap Brothers? I thought that struck a nice balance between chunky sci-fi and cutesy accessibility.

  2. I think both styles show a lot of potential.

    Personally, I prefer the Fifties iPod design. But that's me, and I hardly make up the majority of your target audience by myself. The pinup image captures the theme perfectly (good job!). The world sketch you have looks a little more Seventies iPod to me, though. The ship designs seem more Star Wars than Buck Rogers.

    A cute theme could also work really well. Your current sketches are a little generic, but with a little work they could be just as original. I'm not sure I like the highly symbolic graphics, though. Cartoony graphics will make violence much more palatable, but if the graphics are too abstract, it may make it less visceral and exciting.

    I think if you were to take the best parts of each style, you could possibly come up with an interesting mix.

    Love what you're doing so far with the entire game, and I don't think you can go wrong with either art-style.


  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Looks like deleting didn't go so well! I'll have to learn to make do with errors.

    I unsurprisingly like Fifties iPod and hate Space Cute. The same might be reversed for someone else, in fact I would put money on only a tiny fraction of people liking both. A better idea would be a compromise...and a idea better still would be to have all three and more.

    It's an entirely new revenue stream and method of personalisation. Make (and continue making) loads of interchangeable themes, start each account off with three or four and put the rest up for sale. Let players make and after moderation sell their own through the same interface. Make a player’s ship and planet take on his or her theme and make everyone else see it. With one stroke the game is more fun, has more visual interest, allows for deeper player-created environments and to top it all gives us a whole new source of income from our subscribers.

  5. Oh my god, and I still can't get it right! An idea better? What am I writing?

  6. First, I think Tom Edward's idea for skinning your planets/ships/sounds is fantastic. If you're looking at this as a subscription service, then it seems being able to choose your favorite sounds/appearances would be similar to ringtones and wacky looking cell phones. So, rediculously popular.

    And strictly deciding between the two, if you're going for a smaller hard core audience, the more realistic 50's iPod seems like the winner, but if you want to pick up a wider audience, the space cute imagery is far more welcoming and generally appealing, I would think. It also reminds me of Katamari Damacy, which is always a good thing. Certainly my fiance and mother would be more willing to play space cute than fifties iPod.

    Also, it seems the overall concept - exagerated epic space drama, and rapid gameplay, would be a better fit with the less-serious space cute.

  7. Space Cute, although not quite as cute as your art (keep everything else, but make the people a little less SD). I thought the "Space Cute" style was one of the biggest draws of Outpost Kaloki, and could definitely work for your game too.

  8. 50's iPod is the way to go. Space Cute, is just too cute, while 50's iPod looks cool.

  9. Having played Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic (www.ageofwonders.com) until 2:30am (and still regretting my moral slippage... ;) ) I have to say that you can employ cute without completely abandoning "cool". In Digimon/Pokemon, etc, there are "cool" critters, and really cute ones. If you could choose an alien race that was cute, or one that is hideous and evil, I think you give players more options.

    I do think, as David said, the pinup girl approach runs the risk of offending the Rays in the world, not that it's not a gorgeous rendition and awakens latent boyish indulgences, but such things would not be appropriate for my little girls, who might join daddy in playing the game.

    This is one of those areas where you run the risk of doing a GTA:San Andreas Hot Coffee moment... You and your natural tendencies may be far removed from your target audience.


  10. I think Space cute is definitely much closer to what is best. I would try to take a comical or cute theme but put a unique spin on it so it doesn't look like SpaceMario as you said but something original.

    Had worms been with humans and the violence been depected more realistically it could very well have gotten an M rating. Those little guys are evil!

  11. I actually liked Fifties iPod a lot more. The style just seemed a lot more unique and innovative than "Space Cute".

    Though I suppose maybe the best solution is to find something in between the two? Something that manages to be family friendly while still standing out on its own? Much easier said than done, of course.

  12. The pinup girl is great, but that style for the game is not as fun as Space Cute.

    I look at it this way. If you have a good game guys are going to play it. Look at Advance Wars or Pikmin as examples of this.

    The pinup girl is a good hook for teenage boys and a potential turn-off for women (see your previous discussion topic).

    If it was going to be a game just for me I'd go with iPod. If I was going to be the one selling it I'd go with Space Cute.

  13. Danc,

    Might I be blunt and make a note that you really didn't put a lot of effort into your "Space Cute" proposal, whereas your pinup girl approach is beautifully painted.

    Space Cute is not an effortless endeavor. Cute requires (imo) more clever animation and clear characters, that are not just obnoxious. I have to say that your cute borders on obnoxious, as if you really don't want to go that route, but tried to pay it lipservice...

    Also cute should be accompanied with a theme or spirit of light-hearted fun through and through...

    Nintendo is famous for this sort of thing. Check out Mario Sunshine, for example, a game that could have easily have been a stupid little shooter platform game, but is a really clever game, because it completely skirts violence by the use of a squirt gun and cartoony mechanics... the physics in the world are consistent and ingenious.

    I say "embrace the cute". there's something dark about cute things that hammer on one another and engage in ethnic cleansing... Perhaps there's a way to resolve conflicts that continues the "cute" theme, avoiding the implications of potentially offensive actions?

    Just thought I'd push you a little...


    PS> As an aside, I ran across this interesting (imo) discussion of the difference between sex and violence in games, and the comparative "harm" therein.


    I'm not sure he makes a good case for why such arousal is detrimental, though I think most young men know the answer to that, if they're being honest...

  14. The 50's ipod style is definitely better from simply a design standpoint. But I think that the cute guys are definitely better for the game, they have sort of a Pikmin style going on.

    However, I was imagining a style that is simpler and more futuristic. Something close to what Darwinia uses. Only more hand drawn and less CG.

  15. Wow. This is better than having a full time art director working with me. :-) All the comments are very much appreciated and spot on. I'll try to model up some ideas this weekend and see if I can come up with a new theme.


  16. I had the same impression about Space Cute that Raymond did - it's not inherently bad, but you didn't seem to put the same amount of effort into it. Ultimately, I think it could be just as engaging as fifties iPod, even if it takes more effort to get there.

  17. Hi!

    First time poster, long time reader.

    I personally prefer the 50's iPod. I think it just really sets the whole world and idea of Space Crack alight, with that whole, over the top atmosphere. The Space Wife baking Space Pies, the badly designed aliens, living on the moon.. it just gives me an image of the whole idea of what space travel was back then, in a purposely corny way.

    But I think you could get away with adding some colour. Although I personally love the style, but white is nothing but bland, so I think if you found a way to make a compromise between the two, it would help not alienate half of the target audience. Replace Space Cute with the Jetsons, make something inbetween, and I think you'd have a winner.

    I hope that came out well, but anyways, good job! I look forward to playing this.

  18. Purely on liking the look more I'd pick the 1950's sci-fi look, most treasured posessions are old Asimov pulps with generic spaceship covers. Though one of the things going for the space-cute style is that with its exaggerated features it becomes quite easy to see what properties a planet has at a glace. In a game like this I'd be avoiding putting things in sub-menus where possible.

  19. One snag I've just realised with my per-player theme idea is how it would work with microplots. Having generic stories that suit all of the wide-ranging themes at once would be ridiculous, but at the same time writing a seperate set of text for each would be a hugely increased strain. It could be there isn't a solution.

  20. Simple solution for that, Tom - simply release the text as a part of the skin.

    Skinnable content is perhaps one of the best ideas I've yet heard for this game's minutiae. If you allow for player-created skins, you build up an excellent community - but of course you also open the door for unscrupulous players ripping you off. Then again, they probably weren't going to pay you for the skins anyway.


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