Evolution of an Art Style 2: Monster Design

My brother has been absolutely killing it with art this last month, and I really want to show off some of it. And because every piece of high fantasy needs monsters to fight, I figure I'd start there. We finally have some monsters in our game!


Creepy huh? Or I hope so; that was the goal.

When I first started designing these creatures, I wanted to hit two points: organic and Lovecraftian. I hit the former, though I believe i fell a bit short on the latter. I don't believe that's a problem though, and anyways, I really like the final product. Seeing these things move around and towards you with their giant blades is actually quite unsettling, and that was the hoped-for outcome.

This creature, like all of the things I design (I'm not much of an artist if that's not obvious) had very humble beginnings:

Small fungal enemy concept sketch.jpg

I began the designs by looking at random pictures of fungus, from long creeping slime molds to microscopic spores, until I found something I thought had an interesting pattern. That became the basis for the head. The creatures themselves are fungal in nature, and I've always found fungi to be creepy. There's just something unsettling about opening a loaf of bread and finding mold all over it.

Once the head was done, I began filling out the rest of it. The slime molds I looked at inspired the crazy tentacles to some extent, but really I just wanted something odd looking, something that couldn't ever logically exist, something that looked wrong. I was going for chaotic.

It was Joe's idea to change the weird finger things into giant blades, and that's a decision I whole-heartedly approve. A few minutes later and a what I drew turned into:

Small fungal enemy concept sketch better.jpg

It's quite a bit different than my original design, but the basics are still there. It looks a bit more logical now, and given our art style, a bit easier to actually execute. The changes he made to the head were also vast improvements over the silly looking spore thing I came up with.

After that, it was just a matter of drawing and animating it. The body was done in Adobe Illustrator, and the head and blades were done in Adobe Photoshop.

The creature went through a few other revisions before winding up as the thing at the top of the screen. Joe started off with the head he drew, but it didn't quite look right. With all of the lights on, the thing just looked too much like some kind of sunflower. He took to his tablet again and used a mixture of his design and mine to land on our finished product:


We originally planned on coloring them, either some kind of sick-looking green or maybe a very drab, grey purple. Splash in some browns and that nasty blue bread turns when it's been sitting too long.

But we decided against that for two reasons. The first reason is that our game is already very bright and awash in colors. Adding more colors on top of that would just look too busy. Plus, we wanted these creatures to look otherworldly, and having them completely match the style of our world would take away from that. Familiarity isn't scary. The second reason is one of practicality: it's easier to animate something that's one solid color.

When it actually came to animating the thing, Joe used Adobe Illustrator and GameMaker to get the job done. I don't know too much about either program, but GameMaker has its own sprite-based animation editor built in, and if a tool already exists, why not use it? When we were discussing what parts should move as it slithered forward, he opened the sheet up in GameMaker and fiddled around with it until we got something we both liked. After that, he went back to Adobe Illustrator to execute our planning.

It was surprisingly fast and easy, all things considered.

Now, the funny thing about this creature is that I intended it to be the smallest fungal enemy the player fights, but once it was done and in the game, Joe told me we needed something smaller. I smile to think of how big my bigger designs will be!

I went back and sketched something new out, something more player-sized, and Joe looked at it and went "that's way too phallic." We both had a laugh, and then perhaps ten minutes later he walked down with a new design that was based off of mine but less phallic. The end result is this:


I find the creature a little adorable and a little disarming, but his tail swipe is quite fast and his walking animation is awkwardly creepy. It also helps that he's currently set up with some high damage as we're playing around with gameplay balancing.

So, this is, in short, how our monsters came to be. I hope you like em.