Friday, June 24, 2022

Interstellar Express Part 1 - Planetary Concepts

Over the past several years, I have been fortunate to work on an educational game at my day job. While we don't do as much of this type of work as I would like, it is an excellent change of pace that allows me to use skillsets not usually used at my day job. What started as a work retreat brainstorming session in 2018 resulted in two versions of a game based around a space fairing train, planet-hopping, and many aliens. There is a lot of me in this game, and I was the lead on the visuals, design, naming, and production. It was definitely a group project, and there has been a TON of coding, animating, and work going on, but I got to establish the look and feel for the game. It has been a fun project, to be sure. The majority of my involvement wrapped up in late 2020. There is likely still more to be done as various aspects of the project conclude. 2020/2021 really did a number on a lot of things, and this project is no different. What was to be one game has ended up being two, and each has to now do things a little differently. But that is a whole other conversation. Let's jump in and get to the fun stuff! I present you with Interstellar Express.

Interstellar Express space screen
Final art by Lee Bretschneider

I plan to spend Fridays here on the blog sharing different aspects of my work on the game. When it is all said and done, I have eight weeks' worth of work to share, ranging from concept work to final production assets. Starting things off today, I have concept work for planets and environments. As the game focuses on a space train that visits planets, we needed to have different and exciting locals to visit. I tried to give them all a theme and a look, so they were quickly differentiated and unique. Nearly all the environments relate to aliens I designed. While all the planets made it into the final game, not all of the aliens did. I will talk more about this when I share the alien concepts. I had a tight turnaround for the concepts, so I sat down and had to churn things out. Here are planetary concepts followed by the environments that relate to them. I should also mention that each planet has an attraction, which is the point of why you are visiting that planet, that I also had to design.

Concepts for the Bug World, Dinosaur World, Bizarre/Generic Alien World, and Ocean World

Bug World environment and attraction concepts

It should be noted that while there are clearly options for the planet designs, the environmental concepts were more along the lines of, "this is what you will be getting if this planet is included in the game." The final environment assets are based on the look and feel of what I established in these designs and evolved to better fit the rest of the art I was making for the game. I tried to include two to three options for attraction.

Dinosaur World environment and attraction concepts

With the Dinosaur World, I envisioned a planet where dinosaurs were never wiped out by a meteor. What fell from space was nearly hollow and weighed very little, and became a destination for visitors as the dinosaurs developed space travel and an interest in the surfer culture of Earth.

Bizarre/Generic Alien World environment concepts
Bizarre/Generic Alien World attraction concepts

I wanted to have some fun and make a generic alien world so that I could do some weird and different shapes and forms. While it lacked the focus or real-world hook that the other planets had, I thought it would be something distinct and cool.

Ocean World environment and attraction concepts

The fully submerged concept won out, and it went toward more ocean and less aquarium.

Concepts for the Bird World, Shapes World, Robot World, and Lava World
Bird World environment and attraction concepts

This was one of the first environments I created the final art for, and after I had made all the other art, I went back and redid the art. I will share more on this when I share the finals, but sometimes you have to go back and start over to improve it.

Shapes World environment and attraction concepts

The Shapes World offered many exciting challenges and options to play with. The alien designs offered up the chance to do something very different with the planet, at the same time making some nods to the art world.

Robot World environment and attraction concepts

The Robot World was another of the first environments that I created the art assets. It pained me that the robot aliens didn't make the cut for the final game, but their world still has a place.

Lava World environment and attraction concepts

The Lava planet, and especially the lava aliens, were a big hit with the client, and it all got a lot of extra love and attention.

Concepts for the Elemental World and Desert World
Elemental World environment and attraction concepts
Water, ice, and steam make up the world of the elemental aliens. Sadly, they, too, are not in the final game. A giant snowman made it into the game, so that is at least something. 
Desert World environment and attraction concepts

I never had an alien design for this world, only the concept for a weird planet of sand and vaguely Egyptian structures. This was the first environment I created and remains one of my favorites. The Tasty Swirly was also a big hit with the client.

Concepts for the Train Depot World

While the environment for the train depot was created, the planet view was never made. As development progressed, it became clear that it was an unneeded asset, and you would never have an opportunity to see it in-game. I thought the designs were interesting, and I would have liked to see them completed, but that is the way of things.

That's all for another exciting week on the blog. See you back here on Monday! Until then...

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