This may be the time lots of folks are gearing down for lazy, hot, barbecue-filled summer afternoons, but here at Worthing & Moncrieff, we’re hard at work generating all the assets we’ll need for a playable prototype of the entire first episode of “HRO: Adventures of a Humanoid Resources Officer.” As part of that process, I sat down last week to put together the art for the locations which will appear behind the characters when the player is talking with them via video link. In keeping with our television series frame, we’ve been calling them “sets.” Below are some of the original sketches, and farther down then there’s a set of first-draft art to show how they’ll look — in the prototype at least.
Part of the challenge is volume — as in quantity. In episode one alone there are something like 16 different locations, mostly aboard the spaceship Endeavor. Of course, like any budget-conscious serial, we’ll be re-using sets (since some locations like the Captain’s office are bound to be seen again). The other big design challenge is the context. The player will only ever see these locations behind a character’s head, so all the visual interest and all the animated bits have to take pace at the extreme left and right of the image, while still being recognizably the places they are supposed to represent.
We spent a lot of time looking at the sets the early 1960’s/70’s science fiction series used. Most of these were (not surprisingly) terrible. But there were tricks we could benefit from — the random piece of “technical-looking” panel applied to an otherwise blank wall, for example. And the charm of the randomly blinking light. Some basic animations (like the aforementioned blinking lights) will be added when the sprite sheets for each location are put together.
And then there were considerations of the other kind of volume — the kind you get from using depth and perspective technique. Originally, the sets were conceived of as relatively “flat” — really just a decorative horizontal plane slapped behind the character. But by exaggerating and shifting the perspective, we found we could achieve some fun variations which suggest camera placement at odd angles and imply some larger spaces. We also spent some time with unifying all the spaces which appear in the same general locale — like all the ones on the Endeavor, or all the spaces on the enemy ships — through consistent color palettes and furniture styles.
We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-curtain glimpse into our process. Stay tuned as we get the prototype on its feet. We’ll share some screen grabs as we go. In the meantime, why aren’t you out there grilling something? It’s officially summer!
Worthing and Moncrieff, LLC is an independent developer of video game stories founded in 2015.