Finding a true balance of 2D arcade platforming nostalgia with modern 3D art assets was a key design element for Demon Ninja Assault: Slash Damage! creators.
“Bringing that magic we would find in the arcades when we were kids is critical, and it’s very easy for that personality to get lost with 3D games and characters emulating that era’s style of design. Mixing the new with the old traditional hand-drawn style helps keep the character feeling timeless, and less dated,” says Christopher Chang, DNA’s Creative Director and Character Designer.
...It’s very easy for that personality to get lost with 3D games…
- 2D concept art of DNA’s main hero Kenjiro,and final posed 3D asset.
Arcade/Neo Geo quality characters are achieved by painting lighting and shadows directly to the textures of the 3D assets. This technique assured that the style remained cartoony, yet gritty, maintaining the game’s graphic dark undertones. “We primarily use 2D hand-animated fx in DNA, such as the blood and hit sparks, to help sell that arcade throwback vibe to the 3D animated characters’ combat,” adds Jonathan Sakamoto, DNA’s 3D Animation Director. Although all assets are animated to the platformer styled camera, characters must still have the weight and believability of any free floating camera styled 3D animated game.
...We primarily use 2D hand animated fx….to help sell that arcade throwback vibe…
- 3D animated characters with 2D animated fx textures give DNA a classic 90’s arcade feel.
DNA:SD will not only pay homage to the games of old, but will also satisfy the appetites of kung fu action aficionados. “We took a lot of the ideas and story elements from not only the classic arcade martial arts games, but the classic kung fu movies as well. We wanted a game that had the magic and the essence of what the ninja represents in all forms of entertainment from the past when we were growing up,” adds Chang.
- Super Ninjas aka Five Element Ninjas, Sengoku, & Mystic Warriors are only the tip of the iceberg of classics influencing the story and style of DNA:SD.
DNA:SD will have elemental sword upgrades that will help the player to slash, dash, and dice through various enemy types. The power of each sword will dictate how much damage it can inflict on any given enemy. Each enemy will be damaged differently based on the sword the player uses. Since the arena battles are timed, choosing your weapon wisely can greatly reduce the time taken to complete the level, adding a speedrunning puzzle element to the action.
- Storyboards for the damage inflicted by the many swords available to Kenjiro.
- Swords will be upgraded by collecting scrolls, and will inflict different damage to the elemental ninjas that battle Kenjiro.
- Elemental Demon Ninjas of DNA:SD
...Choosing your weapon wisely can greatly reduce the time taken to complete the level, adding a speedrunning puzzle element to the action.
Once the rounds of speedrunning, puzzle battles have been won, each world will plot Kenjiro against an epic boss battle to truly test the player’s demon slashing ninja skills. Upon completion of each boss/world, Kenjiro will receive new power ups, combos, weapons, and unlockable levels.
- 2D Concepts (above) comparison to 3D asset (below) of some of the characters in DNA:SD.
- 3D Animated Demon Wheel creature with 2D effects
Putting everything together for DNA enriches the total experience and nostalgia. Animating characters in the backgrounds and putting environments on different layers help create the depth and complexity that made arcade classics so magical. “We added a lot of controls to the character rigs, such as the training dummy, zombies, ninjas, and spiders, allowing the animator to create unique deaths of enemies getting chopped up. It just adds to the graphic quality of the game and gives that extra detail that the classics had,” says Chris Luckenbach, DNA’s Technical Director. “You will see some small details we added in the environments like a bird flying away or pecking in the foreground of the graveyard level for example, just like some of the old fighting game backgrounds you saw in the arcades,” he adds.
- Kenjiro’s Sensei overlooks the dojo level, which utilizes many of the classic elements of beat em up environments of the past.
- In game footage of training dojo level for DNA:SD
DNA has no dedicated programmer, instead the artists resorted to using the Playmaker visual scripting plugin to rough in the gameplay, controls, UI, and enemy AI. Once the level is roughed in with Playmaker, Luckenbach combines C# code to run the game efficiently for optimal performance. The creators didn’t want to restrict their vision or integrity of the game by having to go through a programmer, so they taught themselves Playmaker and within a few hard working months, they were able to get what was in their concepts to the screen with playable assets. The game is continually going through rebuilds and playtesting to find a balance of solid game play, challenging stages, and fun replay value.
The creators didn’t want to restrict their vision or integrity of the game by having to go through a programmer….
- Start screen of a DNA:SD graveyard level, Ready...SLASH!
- The graveyard has many ghosts, and creatures preparing your demise
DNA:SD will be coming soon to iOS. Weekly updates can be found via their twitter page http://twitter.com/SockobotZ