Project "Dice" - Part 1

General / 31 January 2021

"Dice" Is a game project i'm creating together with Joshua Christiansen and Anton Pilmark.
It's a Tactical RPG with dice mechanics, with a gameplay focus on always being engaged in the choices you make,
having to think strategically about the uses of the die that has been cast.

The setting of the world is a kind of parallel reality where the renaissance sensibilities never went out of style, and different families/houses control the world we live in, but in modern ways - there’s a family that controls the media, a family that works on all the latest technology and gadgets and so on. The branded clothing the commoners are wearing will feature colours, coat of arms or patterns associated with one of the houses, and commercials on the streets will of course feature important personages of the well-off families. 

You play as one of the lesser families who are mostly tasked to suppress people and beings who disturbs this world, while also keeping the major families pleased, and making sure not to make an enemy out of any of them - unless you are sure you can take them on!
The tone is a bit over the top, it should be a colourful and cool futuristic renaissance world, rather than a sad and dystopian future - highlighting the eccentric and corrupt lifestyles of the people who control the world in a tragicomic way.

The setting of the game has changed a lot over time though, so I will go a bit back and take a look at the development of the world, and talk about why we took some of the choices we did. LET'S GO!

---- Early Concepts ----

At the beginning of development we had a world which was very inspired by ancient Egypt, and especially funerary texts like the book of the dead.
The ancient texts meaning to guide the dead through the underworld is extremely unique and inspiring - and the world they build up is honestly a perfect fit for a game.
I did some research into ancient Egyptian mythology, and read quite a lot of text written during the New Kingdom - a very long period to be sure, but since I'm sadly not very knowledgeable about that period, I just read whatever I could find. I was honestly surprised about how many works are preserved from such a long time ago, and how many good stories there are, that I feel people are unaware about - unless they are specifically interested in that subject!
Well, with inspiration in mind and pen in hand I worked on some concepts of an Ancient Egyptian underworld.

early exploration of different rooms

I was of course inspired by ancient Egyptian architecture, but also looked at Egyptian revival architecture to get some other elements in.
I also experimented quite a lot with colours in the start, to see how I could push it in different unique ways, but still keep it "Egyptian". 

Some thumbnail designs for "the temple to the underworld"

I also worked on some character concepts to figure out how an ancient Egyptian inspired fashion style could look!
I looked at a lot of accessories, paintings and architecture from that time, to find some interesting patterns and shapes to use that would still have the right feel!

  some of the concepts ↗

As you can see, we did end up doing a bit of work with this theme in mind, and I did quite a lot of exploration before we ended up changing the theme. So why did we do it?
Most of all, it just didn't feel right. We really thought the setting was cool, but somehow we never got too excited about it, we had a hard time coming up with truly interesting stories and encounters we could envision in this world - at least the way we wanted it.
A big thing was that the setting was a bit too serious. We do want a world that can have depth to it, but we also want a world that will have space for very extreme characterizations, and characters that don't take the whole thing too seriously.
At one point we knew that we would have to come up with a new setting we could be really excited about - sadly, that's not always something you can just magically invoke, but luckily for us, we were about to go to a perfect place for renewing the creative juices and gather inspiration
- a vacation!  

---- New Exploration ----

The idea of different renaissance houses in a modern setting was sparked after a trip to Italy,
especially after seeing the medieval "skyscrapers" of Bologna.

Walking around in Italy, you can't help but be confronted with the different prominent families that have ruled the country through time, they have made their marks on the land with magnificent monuments and buildings, and immortalised themselves through the most talented of artists.
Every family has a legendary narrative surrounding them - their often humble beginnings, soon to be plagued by intrigue, war and deceit, is bound to inspire anyone who hears about them. It definitely inspired us, and we were so eager to figure out more about the world, that we would use the hot Italian mid-day hours with a cold shakerato in one hand, and a notebook in the other. When we went back home we were brimming with ideas, and ready to work!

One of the first things I worked on back home was the mood picture above: I wanted to capture a bit of the warm Italian colours while they still were fresh in my mind - something we know we want in the game. This special kind of sunshine that can make the most haggard ruins and run down places look appealing and beautiful. 

We want the player to be able to see which families' district you are in by looking at the commercials, banners and colours in the environment.
I'm working a lot on making different recognisable and appealing brands for the houses, with their own shape language, patterns and colours.
The concepts you see above is early exploration of some commercials and patterns for the "science" family, a family involved in tech, gear and knowledge. Their way to success is always having the newest and coolest products available, they use science and knowledge to reach new heights of production and technology.

Above is the very first colour and shape design I decided on for the Science family. For the colours I decided on the Black and white to give them a very clean and professional feel, the cyan to invoke a bit of futuristic technology feelings and the orange to tie it together with the world.
Their shapes are only made with sharp corners - no rounded shapes here! They cut straight to the point, it's clean and efficient. The 2nd pattern is inspired by shapes you would see in ancient Greek, which is of course a time often associated with knowledge and forward thinking. The last two patterns is a very stylized version of a laurel leaf, placed in different potential patterns. The Laurel, too, is a symbol associated with wisdom and greatness.
I needed to rethink some of the design though, as each of the families' symbols are supposed to show up on a dice, and be associated with different things - for the science family it's movement, and I didn't feel like it was communicated enough with their main symbol (the first one).

I've started thinking about and working on some redesigns for them, but i'm not completely satisfied yet. As you can see above, i've tried some designs associated with movement, still using the shape rules of course - No rounded shapes!

Above is some very early style concepts for the science family, i quite liked them at the time, but my teammate pointed out that they looked a bit too renaissance, and we needed to have some modern elements in it too. I could definitely see what he meant, and one of my biggest struggles with the style of this project (especially in the start) is that i naturally tend to incorporate more renaissance elements than modern ones.
Luckily i've gotten better at reminding myself to change it up - otherwise my teammates will definitely remind me! 

This is the result after the feedback, which turned out much more interesting!
I'm still trying to incorporate some renaissance elements into all designs, parts like the puffy or long sleeves, and the dress cut with square neck, but i'm experimenting more with modern fabric and details - like pants! The vibrant cyan and orange combo is definitely also helping.
It's a very fun challenge, since I neither want it to look too sci-fi or too renaissance! I have to find the right balance, and the style of the different families will undoubtedly have varying degrees of "modern-ness" and "renaissance-ness". 

A small moodboard and quick sketch of another families' style - the "media" family! It's the celebrities, the news, the influencers, and the movie directors. Their shapes are much softer - but there can still be some edge to them! Their colours are inspired by purple and pink sunsets, when the sky goes from yellow to pink to purple, and you can still see the sun that shines and the stars beginning to twinkle! I also want to incorporate a lot of holographic materials into their style, as it is a material that shines and draws a lot of attention to itself, with very modern feel! 

Some early concepts of the player family: the "inquisitor" family. They are send out to punish the wicked, and i wanted a bit of chain and leather feel to them, together with a lot of sharp edges. Their design still have some curves, but it should invoke more of a dragon scale or sea creature feeling, since the ends are always pointy, and not rounded. 

Well, what's a magnificent renaissance noble without their shiny armour? We knew we wanted our characters to be in armour in-game on missions. We've had to find some way to cut down costs throughout development, as i will be in charge of creating all art, and having armour that multiple characters can use is a great way! I wanted the armour to be reminiscent of modern day branded race cars - completely plastered in colourful commercials, and made out out of extremely shiny and polished materials! 

We of course needed some enemies as well, and where I wanted the families to be clean and a bit too perfect, i wanted the enemies to have a distinct unruly and messy style, while still looking cool.

 Above is some of the explorations for the enemies' style. I tried to experiment with unusual colour combinations or materials, and giving them a messy look with some painterly flairs like splatter effects, grunge and shifted linearts.

Some of the final designs we are going with for now!

I want to experience a bit with how much i can do with their material and shader for the in-game model, to get a feel of what looks good and what is possible. So before doing too much refinement, i went on to create the model for the bat enemy to test it out!

---- End of Part 1 ----

Well, you already made it this far, so i'm sure you can handle some more ~