Mantis Digital Arts: Learning the process from concept to demo

mantis digital artsPosted by Coy Yonce – Product Manager and Artist, Mantis Digital Arts.

As we at Mantis Digital Arts are just starting out with our first project together, we have lots of “A-ha!” moments. Perhaps this is normal for every team out there developing games, but we seem to have a new revelation every day. It’s both wonderful and frustrating at the same time. I think that the most important revelation thus far has been the importance of a repeatable process. That is, how do we get from concept to demo with the lowest amount of re-work possible?

The project on which we’re currently working is targeted at children. As such, we not only want to make it fun, but we also want to make it educational and familiar. The largest part of our work thus far has been proving that the processes we thought would work either do or do not. For the last two months, in between other projects and full-time jobs, we have been playing with physical paper, taking lots of photos, digitizing models in Inkscape and Blender, figuring out Unity, and re-working things many times. This has been intermingled with testing demo-able parts of the game to ensure it works like we thought and that children would actually like to play it. During this time, we have flipped between making a first-person view, third-person view, and a side scrolling game. The result, up to this point? A process on which we believe we can finally settle and the revelation that we will be, in fact, making a side scrolling game.

The process on which we’ve settled for now:

  • Study real life examples of the environments and insects which will exist in our game. This helps us to determine movement along with look and feel.
  • Search for materials that we think fit the part of the environment or the character which we’re currently creating.
  • Photograph those materials with an HD camera.
  • Draw (sometimes digitally, sometimes by hand and then digitally) the environmental elements or the character – paying careful attention to break up those parts that need to move separately from the core object being created.
  • Apply our chosen textures to the drawn objects.
  • Animate those objects that need to be animated.
  • Review what has been created with the team to ensure it is consistent with our artistic direction for the game. Make changes if necessary.
  • Layout the object in the game where it should fit and make it serve it’s purpose.
  • Review the progress with the team and with our play testers (ahem, our children and our friends’ children). Make changes based on the feedback.
  • Repeat for the next major part of the game.

From this point forward, my hope is that we can use this new revelation and our decided upon process to move faster and get a playable demo of Project Mantis by sometime in August. I’m sure we’ll see more bumps along the way, more “A-ha!” moments, and more challenges. I believe that this comes with the territory of creating games and ushering along creative teams.

In the meantime, I’ll be constantly keeping an eye on what our fellow game developers are doing to see how we can make our processes better and hope to be sharing more about what we learn as move through our journey.

Thanks for reading.

Coy

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