We here at Koukoi Games have a talented art team. At least that’s what we’ve always thought and now that our game Crashing Season won “Best Art” at the Indie Game Cup award ceremony at the White Nights Mobile conference in Helsinki, this belief has been validated.
So what goes into good (or Best) art? We think it’s about standing out, but stand-out art depends on what art it is surrounded by, so what qualifies as “Best Art” changes with the current trends. Looking at the winners of other “Best Art” winners from different awards, it is indeed the most unique art that usually wins.
In the era of brown tinted “realism”, the vibrant & cartoony games tend to be the ones that stand out. It’s not all about colour though. Character and world design are the other half, and one is almost always dependent on the other. Crashing Season itself is a very cartoony game, with bright colours and cartoony, low poly character models.
An early sketch of the Bear character.
A later, more cartoony promo version of the Bear.
No matter what your poly count is, the trick after choosing your art style is to stick with it and stay consistent. The simple low poly style of Crashing Season took a while to get right. The playable characters were chosen to be forest animals from the beginning, but how to make such recognisable creatures look good while keeping things simple? The Crashing Season art team’s answer was a desire to make the design with a world class look and feel in mind. The characters were quite impersonal to begin with. They were low poly but they lacked “character” so to speak. This is when it was decided to stylize and exaggerate certain features of the 3D models to make them more cartoony and have more “attitude”. Also, the animations of the animals were designed to be unique for each animal, and also to reflect their characteristics.
An early concept of the low poly world design.
A later screenshot used that was used as a menu background in an earlier build.
The low poly style ended up working in our favour in more ways than one, since it made possible to use very small texture sizes such as 8×8, 16×16 etc. Low poly is quite a common tactic nowadays to maximize the graphic artists’ capacities. The old adage, “keep it simple stupid” is however not always the best advice. Low poly is sort of trendy at the moment and thus many games go as low poly as possible which ends up in a lot of similar looking games. Crashing Season chose a middle ground in the definition and personality of the 3D models, which resulted in the game standing out and even winning the aforementioned award for Best Art.
A better look of the environment and character models.
So, to recap some of the tips in this article:
Pick an art style that stands out
Your art doesn’t have to be always flashy, just do it well
Aim high, having a world class look and feel in your game can be achieved even with a lower budget
Think what can be left out for being more productive and staying on schedule
Don’t be afraid to “kill your darlings” in the process
To find out more how we are finalizing Crashing Season, stay tuned for more updates and remember to play the game when it comes out for iOS and Android devices globally! The game is currently available for Android devices only in CAN & AU.
This blog post was originally posted at http://koukoi.com/2016/03/04/blog-how-to-win-the-award-for-best-art-for-your-mobile-game/ on 4th of March 2016. This blog post was co-written by Art Director Oskari Hyvönen and Game Marketing Intern Matti Luonua.