Semblance is certainly mechanically innovative, but it was the game’s colorful aesthetic is what first caught my eye at PAX East 2017. With a soft pallet of purples, pinks and teals, and nary a sharp edge to be found, it was easy to recognize as it’s own property with it’s own distinct style.
Semblance is finally out tomorrow, and ahead of release we had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Jean Roux and Daoyi Liu, two artist who worked on the game. Read on to find out about the role of color in Semblance, and how they dealt with the game’s principle mechanic of a squishy world.
IndieHangover: Tell us a little bit about your backstory? What’s your artistic background like, and how did you start doing art for Games?
Jean Roux: We’ll I loved playing games as a kid and when I couldn’t play them I would draw them or try draw my own. Really loved platform games and would draw out entire levels on pieces of paper stuck together and spread across the floor. From there I just grew to enjoy drawing and went on to study art, got side tracked by animation for a while but got back into art after seeing a concept artist in action. I was happy to discover that people would pay you for drawing cool stuff. Decided to pursue that and after various projects in the entertainment industry I found my way into game art. Semblance was my 1st platform game and a childhood dream come true in a sense.
IndieHangover: What was your mindset in designing the art for Semblance? What were some basic principles you stuck to
Jean Roux: When I started working on Semblance the initial artist on the project, Daoyi Liu, had already set a striking style and a great juxtaposition of the hard vs soft narrative in the early demo. All my design was based off of expanding on that and juicing it up more. Basics like composition and readability played a big part in making sure the puzzles looked interesting, had depth but didn’t confuse the players eye.
IndieHangover: One of the most recognizable things about Semblance is its pallet of colors. How did you decide on that color pallet?
Daoyi Liu: So the colour palette was informed by the core mechanics of the game. I needed to figure out a way to visually justify the pliable world, and the best options came down to sci-fi/alien, or marshmellow/candy-land. What we ended up liking was a mix of both: something unfamiliar and strange but also playful and fun to tie in with the uniqueness and experimental nature of the gameplay. The pinks and pastels from candy-land and purple/teal from sci-fi stood out as most effective colours in that case, with pinks and purples being “happy, fun” colours that are unusual to see in abundance in nature, and teal as an energetic and uncanny complimentary. Purple was chosen for the primary colour for the initial levels since the dark, warm tone provided a more pensive mood as opposed to the pop and fizz that pink would have, since the gameplay is more slow and thoughtful as opposed to reflex based.
IndieHangover: How did you approach the key feature of Semblance: The deformability of the environment and character. Did this effect your process?
Jean Roux: The deformability of the environment did effect the process quite a bit. Unlike you’re usual 2D platformer there had to be background bits behind the deformable platforms so a portion of the level dressing remains mostly unseen. Some tests and attempts where done in the early art concepting period with backgrounds and large shapes all being affected when the platforms where deformed but it got a bit crazy. We instead settled on some plants and the critters sticking to platforms when deformed and filling in the hidden background. Squishes shape changes had the biggest effect on the critter designs.
The idea of squashed or stretched was applied to most of the critters to give them a similar feel to Squish.
IndieHangover: What were some of the things that you kept in mind while designing Squish as a character?
Daoyi Liu: For Squish, I did experiment with several more “out there” designs, but ultimately simple was better both technically and aesthetically. I tried multiple colour schemes as well. At the time, there was an idea for a “corrupted” version of Squish, and when I noticed I was falling into the typical trap trope of “light = good, dark = bad” in some of my initial designs, I got mad at myself and decided that hero Squish shall henceforth be dark. Since the character was also pliable, it just made sense to have them be made of the same”stuff” as the existing dark world material. I’m responsible for forcing Cukia to stress over the added technical challenge of making squish seamlessly merge into any soft surface they’re standing on. Of course, a character in a game still needs to be readable and easily located,
hence the two giant, whispy eyeballs.
IndieHangover: Are there any other Indie Games in development whose art style has really caught your eye? Any indie games coming out you’re really excited for?
Jean Roux: Really loved what the team on ShatterBrawl did with the art there. Great designs translated into awesome looking sprites with beefy animations plus effects. I’d be excited for any game that art team works on to come out! Also I’m excited for Nyamakop’s next game, whatever it may be. I totally was not told to write that.
Our thanks to both Jean and Daoyi for taking the time to answer our questions and provide some insight into the artistic development of Semblance.
Also, don’t miss our IndieDev Interview with Ben Meyers, where you can learn more about the origins and development of Semblance.