Look and feel is an incredibly important step in designing a game. It influences player perception of the game, style of gameplay, the story of the game, and even the genre the game is placed under. When considering look and feel a developer must consider their target audience, as well as what kind of game and what sort of story they want to tell. This must be carefully considered from many angles, because, as Anhut describes in his article about character signifiers, outside influences can impact the meaning a player infers from a certain design, regardless of whether or not the designer intended it.
Style and Mood
As the intended target audience chosen by our studio was Sam, the 12-year-old boy who enjoys Minecraft and Pokemon go, we decided we wanted to create a game with bright, toonish colours similar to the style of games aimed at children such as the two previously mentioned. This can be seen in the colour pallet, as we chose to use colours similar to those in the game Crash Bandicoot, in which bright colours are used, but they are somewhat desaturated in order to separate the style of the game from those aimed at very small children.
We also wanted the mood of the game to set the character in a foreign environment, but not an unfriendly one. The big concept we wanted to base the game around was valour, so we felt it would be important to design the game and characters around the concept that the main character, although a foreigner to the world they are in, still wishes to assist the inhabitants of the island.
We first focused on how would we convey the before mentioned style and mood ideas through shapes in characters and environments. Solarski’s article about the use of shapes in game design was utilised in this process. The main character, a small knight who wants to do good and save people is rounded, in order to elicit the idea that they are soft, innocent, and doing their best. We felt that this fit well with the idea that our player would be using problem-solving, as opposed to just killing monsters with a sword. This concept can be seen in the two knight pictures seen in the mood board above.
As can be seen in the island pictures in the mood board, our focus for the environment was a combination of triangular and circular shapes. Triangular shapes are utilised in order to convey dissonance between the player character and their environment, to convey a foreign and unknown environment. However, this was paired with circular shapes, in order to allow the character to somewhat harmonise with their environment. This was used order to create a feeling of a home away from home, and display an environment that, although foreign, was still welcoming to the player and that they would still want to protect.
Enemies would be a combination of triangular and rectangular to convey hostility and strength.
Spatial Dimensions, Size, and Boundary
The center image of a paper puppet play in the mood board was used to convey the style our studio wished to attempt in our game. We wanted to utilise 4 spatial dimensions in order to convey a somewhat puppet style in our game, based on the fact that we are designing for a 12-year-old and felt this was a somewhat whimsical style that conveyed the days of yore and valour. Our idea for this was to have a foreground, with bushes and grass that would go past the camera, a midground, in which the player would move and the game would take place, and two backgrounds, one with trees and homes, and one with the larger, more general island background.
The size of this world would be only one level, in which the entire game would take place. We felt that this would help the world of the game feel small rather than large and imposing and fit into the paper puppet style.
An initial sketch of the one island level
This island would be bounded by ocean and the mountain, which would also help with making the island feel like a small world.
The story is set in a fantasy location, with no correlation to real world time or geography, although the island will be lush, with a focus on a tropical environment. We chose to do this as we felt that the was too much negative real world events in history to do with the treatment of islanders. We also felt that this made sense for a game like this which would feature creatures such as dragons and monster, as generally seen in games with a valourous main character.
Representation of People and Objects
NPCs would sometimes like you and sometimes dislike you, just as real people, but they would not be hostile, as we felt that the stereotype of ‘savage islanders’ was played out and racist, and did not want to use it in our game. They would trade items with you in exchange for collectible items found in the less populated parts of the island, and this would contribute to the PX goal of problem-solving.
Besides monsters, the island would also contain animals, some friendly and some hostile, to again mimic the real world concept seen in Minecraft in which animals such as rabbits and horses will not attack the player, but animals such as wolves will if provoked.
The sound heard in the game would be light-hearted and tropical, with occasional animal and insect noises to make the environment feel welcoming to the player.
Relation to the Target Audience
Throughout this post, connections have been made to the target audience, but there is one other choice that will be described in this section.
The design was used in order to create an environment which welcomes problem-solving as opposed to brute force, which was what we inferred was the preferred style of play for Sam. To this end, Williams’s article about the semiotics of choice was used to decide that multiple choices should be given to the player in order to achieve the goal of saving the island. We wanted the player to utilise problem-solving to defeat enemies, and ultimately, the dragon, but they can find different items in the environment, as well as trade for them with NPCs in order to achieve goals differently throughout the game.