Most artists tell us that they begin a project by searching for references and looking for elements to create the base designs for their concepts. How did you start your project and what kind of references did you search for to influence your fantasy world?
At the beginning, everyone had a different idea as to what the project should be; we didn't even see it as a game at that point. It was an exercise in new universe creation and something to focus our talented group on to make an interesting studio portfolio piece.
After a few, quite heated, brain storming meetings, I persuaded everyone that trying to blend the key features of western and eastern art to create an epic adventure story that would appeal to all ages was the way to go. From there we started researching a ton of Japanese films like those of Miyazaki and studio Ghibli, as well as animation productions by Pixar and DreamWorks. These references mostly influenced us in terms of color palettes, atmosphere and character proportions, and the rest was derived from looking at nature, history and our local surroundings.
The hardest parts to design were the two main characters. Sarina, for example, is a young girl coming of age and so she can't be too grown up, but at the same time she can't be a little kid either as children always want to look up to inspirational people who are a little bit older than they are. We eventually settled on her being about 13-14 years old, but early designs depicted her as about 8 years old.
Toru the Giant was also tough in that we wanted him to be made of stone. but also have emotion and a softness towards Sarina. It was quite hard to get right in a giant rock monster!
The story running throughout The Realm taps into recognisable human emotions, relationships and journeys. How important is it to give animated characters relatable human attributes and experiences when telling a story?
With the camera angle that The Realm
will be played at, most of the emotion will be shown through body language and so we needed to be sure not to cover our main characters up too much with big clothes and bulky items. A lot of the emotion will come from how they interact with each other; for example, if Sarina is riding on Toru's back and then goes to climb down, he subtly takes her hand or puts an arm in a strategic place, ready to catch her if she falls.
The game's world also conveys the status of their journey - the weather and lighting play a key part in this. Sarina starts her journey hopeful and rebellious; it is a new dawn. Her journey then gets hard and so the levels become stormy and wet. When she meets Toru he saves her and they start to become friends; for this section of the game we go for warm, sunbathed, afternoon colors like those seen in The Lord of the Rings
movies when Frodo is in the Shire. As their journey becomes perilous it is dusk/night and everything starts to take on a sinister edge.
The Realm environments contain many elements that look like they have been drawn from different genres of art, like futuristic, sci-fi buildings, fantasy woods and historical looking market places. What techniques and tricks do you use to tie these diverse elements together to create a cohesive world?
The key to tying different genres together is to use a consistent timeline in your universe. So by that I mean you can mix fantasy and sci-fi, but you have to establish them in a historical context.
In The Realm
, the age of technology (our current time) has come to an end, through an event that we don't want to give away just yet. Just as before the technological age, mysticism and magic have returned and the sci-fi elements are relics and have their own mysteries which help tie them into the fantasy genre. I noticed that the guys at Bungie have also done a similar thing with their new game, Destiny
Besides, who doesn't want to see a magical rock monster and robot mechs in the same universe? (Laughs).
You mention on your site that the game is being designed primarily for touchscreen devices. Is it possible to play using a desktop computer or laptop as well?
Yes of course! Basically point and click games were only on PC and so while PC is a core market for this game, the interesting part of the game design user experience was coming up with a way to make it also enjoyable on touchscreen. While we were at that, we also wanted to streamline some of the annoying aspects of point and click games, namely the endless clicking on the screen to see if you can interact with something and also the confusing inventory systems. It will play the same on all platforms due to our new innovations on the control system.
Many of our readers are students of some kind or another; are there any words of wisdom or top tips for those hoping to create something similar to The Realm in the future?
I know that this is quite a nebulous thing to say, but the main thing is to persevere - although to know when the opportunity is right will make it easier for you. For example, if you are 16 years old and have never had a professional job before, then while there is a chance you could create something viral that goes crazy, the odds are that you won't know enough yet to be able to focus your energy on the right things. When I was younger I had a million ideas but could never sit down long enough to develop them properly.
If you have some talent to begin with then the key thing is to train enough to start working as a pro and from there you will learn a lot about the different creative processes as different types of projects need different methods. You'll also learn how long it takes; we started working on The Realm in 2010.
From there you just need to start dreaming, and never be afraid to rethink your ideas. You see many artists and designers bullishly claim that they just had a vision and then created it. I'm afraid that it doesn't work like that; you have to iterate, throw ideas away, and be prepared to start again over and over. Challenge your ideas to be sure they are solid. Also focus-test them a lot, and show your friends and colleagues to see how they react - chances are if they give you a lukewarm response, the public won't be any kinder. We tested The Realm over and over and each time got some great advice from people.
You can check out The Realm
on Kickstarter here: The Realm
and read more about the game over at the website: www.therealmgame.com
If you like the look of their work, make sure you get a copy of their 3DTotal published book: The Art of Atomhawk Design: Volume 1
for the discounted price of £9.99!
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