Monday, June 24, 2013

Astro Boy the Video Game

When I was the Lead Artist for Astro Boy the video game I got to wear a lot of hats creatively and had to come up with a lot of ideas very quickly.  For example, below is the "napkin doodle" as I call it, of Astro Boy's fight moves. I wanted to give Astro Boy an attack combo that used his whole body and had a spinning sort of motion to it.
 This was given to the animators along with me acting out the moves step by step in their office- complete with sound effects- to convey what I was looking for. Sometimes on a video game project there isn't a whole lot of time, maybe just a couple of hours, to nail down an idea and "napkin doodles" and play-fighting with your friends is just another fun part of the process.

Here are a couple of the original character designs I sketched up for the game. Both of these were started as game-design functional needs, meaning that the game designers and I wanted a character that say; dropped down from above, was immovable and blocked a path...and maybe had a variation that could do long-ranged, targeted attacks too. I had to quickly design something for them to pass to the game designers, modelers, and animators to start working on. The result were these little guys. I still wish I could have little TOMY style wind up toys of these guys.

In the early stages of creating a game sometimes you need to show the client what the game will look like fully finished before it exists. These images we call "game in a frame." Here is the game in a frame I created to show the client what the side-scrolling flying level of Astro Boy would look like.
 I am especially proud of that level because we  very creatively solved the background issue. The idea for the level was to have Astro Boy fly through these massive and complicated environments, dodging and fighting through bad guys and obstacles, but we couldn't afford to actually load and render that kind of a background on the platforms we were working with so I came up with the idea: Lets play a pre-rendered video in the background and have the characters just superimposed over it! It was tempting to model these backgrounds at a high resolution, higher detail than the consoles would normally be able to render real-time, since these backgrounds were going to be just videos playing in the background, but in order to keep the illusion that these were actually in-game assets, and not burden the player with realizing the background was a videowe modeled and rendered them as close to in-game assets as possible. The result was great.

Even though I have a title of Artist, most of the time I have my hands, and mind in many aspects of the process. On Astro Boy we were creating a side-scrolling platformer, and I got to do some napkin-doodles and quick sketches of level design ideas for the designers. This image is one of them, and it was so fun to design side-scrolling levels this way. It made me feel like a kid again looking at level maps in magazines like Nintendo Power trying to figure out say, the racer level in Battle Toads.

Here are some random other things I did while Leading on Astro Boy. On the top of this image you will see a User Interface flow chart created to show designers and programmers how to set up the architecture and flow for the UI. I have had a lot of experience in the UI area, so this sort of thing comes naturally to me at this point.

On the bottom half of this image are some quick character texture swaps to create varied looking characters, and of course a crate and a barrel for the modelers to work from. Astro Boy had a unique aesthetic and blending the film's look while adding some of the charm of the original Japanese mangas and animations was fun.

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