Hey guys! Today I have something pretty special to share with you. I was able to get in touch with the artist who worked on Wanderlust: Rebirth, and who is currently working on Wanderlust: Adventures. Not only did he agree to do an interview with me, but he gave me some of the best answers I’ve ever seen.
Interested in Art side of game design? If so, this is a must read!
1. How did you start your art career in the gaming industry?
I think to fully answer this question, I have to start from the beginning. I started developing games when I was 12 using a game engine I saw advertised on TV called Stagecraft. I ended up getting really invested in the entire game development process, from design to the final product, I was captivated. Resources then were not as plentiful as they are now for aspiring game developers, so I started learning how to create artwork and program my own games.
I continued on this journey, going from Stagecraft to RPG Maker, and eventually finding Game Maker. The Game Maker community at the time was filled with aspiring game developers, so setting roots in the Game Maker Community (GMC) seemed like the next step. While there, I met another aspiring game developer, Matthew Griffin, and we began working on our first joint project, Wanderlust: The Online Adventures. It was an extremely ambitious project that was admittedly not very well organized from the beginning (we kept refocusing where we wanted the project to go, etc). Inevitably, we cancelled Wanderlust: The Online Adventures and refocused our ideas into a more concise and formulated idea, Wanderlust: Rebirth.
screenshot from Wanderlust: Rebirth
Wanderlust: Rebirth began development in 2006, and finally released in 2011. Throughout development, I managed to go to college and get my Bachelors in Fine Arts and Animation, and with my degree and previous development experience, landed a short (but sweet) job doing art for Kiloo games, in Denmark. Shortly after leaving Kiloo games, Matthew and I founded Yeti Trunk and began developing Wanderlust Adventures.
2. Out of the games you have worked on, are there any that were difficult to work through?
I feel all of my game projects have challenged me in some way or another. Working on a randomized open-world such as Wanderlust Adventures, it initially seemed like a relatively straight forward task, but I am constantly finding myself revisiting artistic design decisions and finding ways to improve them. Take the dungeon system for instance: We knew we needed a way to easily add and create dungeons to fill the world, but having to hand craft each dungeon and their layouts would take a tremendous amount of work and we would only be able to have a very limited number of them in the game. This just wouldn’t do, so we devised a system where I create all of the rooms with a single developer tileset. This tileset is then swapped in-game depending on what dungeon you are in, allowing for us to very easily add massive dungeons that look drastically different from each other in a days worth of work.
screenshot from Wanderlust: Rebirth
When we initially started designing Wanderlust Adventures, we had to really flesh out how we were going to realistically create a massive sprawling world, and I feel the system we devised has allowed me to make massive changes/improvements to the entirety of the game’s world with minimal effort. Being able to change a few maps/tilesets to completely re-sculpt the landscapes has been a real treat.
3. How do you combat lack of ideas or drive during a project?
Often times when I find myself in a situation where I am lacking motivation/ideas, I have found that the best way is to just play games. I really engulf myself in the art of other games as I play, stopping to observe how they created asset X or Y, and why they decided to take the approaches that they did. This really helps me get a new perspective on the work that I am creating, and often times allows me to return to my work with a new outlook.
Another great tool that I have been utilizing lately to keep me focused has been actively streaming my game development on twitch.tv. Having a community develop around my art, and having people being motivated by my creations is really a special feeling. It makes developing early or late at night not so lonely, and it keeps me from drifting into the depths of youtube since I know there are fans counting on me and being inspired by my art. It really is a great process, and if anyone is interested in watching me create, please visit my twitch channel (http://twitch.tv/d2king10) and join the community.
4. What program do you use for most of your pixel art?
The original Wanderlust Rebirth was almost completely done in MS Paint (why!?!), but since then I have managed to create a productive workflow using Photoshop. Really, any art program should work, it is more about creating a workflow that is efficient and doesn’t get in the way of your artistic direction.
5. What is your creative process for sprite creation?
I typically start by collecting images that have a similar vibe/feeling to my vision, then I start to sketch away by defining strong silhouettes. Silhouettes are one of the most important aspects to creating game art, so it is key to nail them in the design phase. After I have a shape that I am happy with, I start to lay down blocks of colors and cleaning up all of the lines. Finally, I shade the sprites according to the style of the game, which can be a very time consuming step to get just right.
Luckily, many fundamentals of sprite creation carry over to all mediums of art, so doing a lot of illustration/painting/etc, you will see massive improvements in all aspects of your art.
5. Do you have any tips for an artist trying to get into the gaming industry?
Never stop creating, never stop dreaming. Constantly try to improve, constantly view art blogs/forums for inspiration, and constantly keep creating. You have to be self-driven and be able to stay focused with the end vision in mind at all times. It is a very rewarding feeling when you get to release your games, and have others experience your vision.
6. When you were a kid, did you ever expect working on a series like Wanderlust?
I have always loved action adventure games, so my game designs tend to drift towards those key elements. Being able to create a virtual world that other players can experience has always been an important factor of game design to me, so naturally a game like Wanderlust would come to fruition. Luckily my business partner, Matthew Griffin, shares this same vision, so together we sculpted the Wanderlust series.
If you were to ask my overly-ambitious younger self what game I want to make, I would have probably shouted, “An MMORPG!” Realistically, I know that isn’t in the scope for an indie developer like myself, so scaling that back it makes sense that Wanderlust Adventures is our next project.
7. Are there any other projects you want to give a shout out to?
There are some people in my twitch.tv channel that are making some really awesome projects, but they aren’t officially announced yet. One really awesome project I have kept my eyes on is Zombox. It is an ‘open world’ zombie game that has a lot of really cool mechanics going on. Everyone should check it out over at zombox.net
I want to thank Jason for doing this interview with us! PixelFAQ loves supporting indies, and the guys over at Yeti Trunk are some of our favorites, by far! All of the staff wish you guys the best of luck and we can’t wait to play Wanderlust: Adventures!