The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has launched the franchise into the open world, receiving positive acclaim worldwide. With the success of Zelda, we’ve chosen four Nintendo properties we felt could use the open world treatment.
Game Freak has recently posted several job adverts, indicating there could be a possible new Nintendo Switch game under development; Pokémon the rumor churning around the media. After The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s release, and how much it changed the Zelda franchise, the possibility of a new Pokémon on the Switch opens many possibilities.
In just the same way as Breath of the Wild became an open world format, revolutionizing the Zelda franchise, Pokémon on the Switch could transform the Pokémon franchise with much more freedom to the player. Whilst Pokémon represents one of the greatest strategy games of all time, it’s also used the same recipe for its two-decade history. The player is confined within the same cage of play, each town joined by a route that usually goes in two directions, back and forth.
Pokémon Sun and Moon brought a lot of new ideas to the franchise, but the difference between trials and gyms is quite minuscule. The opportunity to forge your own Pokémon journey has never really begun, ushering us off on the same conquest of the Elite Four. On our way, we encounter a typical group of thugs whose reign of terror becomes short-lived thanks to our supposed bond with our Pokémon.
Much of the current gameplay of Pokémon was due to the hardware capabilities of the Game Boy. The Nintendo Switch isn’t the Game Boy, it’s much more powerful, capable of supporting Breath of the Wild to a high performance. An open world that allows Pokémon trainers to walk on every blade of grass they see on the horizon would owe more to the spirit of the game. Adventure and self-discovery; diversity the malasada of life.
At this point, Pokémon has been influenced by the anime just as much as the games. There are many ideas within the anime for the usage of Pokémon. Many of the concepts from the anime can be used to create missions within an open world Pokémon. This concept is occasionally touched upon in the games, such as fetching medicine for the sick Ampharos in Pokémon Gold and Silver. This also creates a divergence away from the linear approach to Pokémon battling, opening up more possibilities for the Pokémon performances that never really shined as bright as they could have.
An open world would make Pokémon much more unpredictable. Encountering a new town should be exciting, but currently, it’s a formality to gain a new badge or Z-Crystal. Imagine standing on the summit of the Indigo Plateau and seeing the small village of Pallet Town in the distance. Rather than traverse on a linear pathway, you can find new Pokémon in the strangest of places on your way there. A Pokémon Go without the rural abandonment. A Goldeen in the sea, a Mankey in the tree. The Pokémon revolution we’ve been waiting for. (James Baker)
There’s no denying that the Fire Emblem series is rife with opportunities for exploration and discovery. The long-running tactical RPG franchise excels at taking players on grand adventures across wild and exciting worlds. While leading troops into battles set on diverse, gridded landscapes has been an enjoyable endeavor, it’s become rather repetitive. Furthermore, each Fire Emblem title follows a similar progression pattern of linear levels and short dialogue events, giving the player little chance to explore the world around them. It’s high time Fire Emblem made the jump from a sprite-based tactical RPG to a full blown RPG, and the design that Breath of the Wild provided is the perfect template.
The constant through line of Fire Emblem is that the player is the commander of an elite troop of heroes, doing battle against the armies of some unspeakable evil, or something comparable. In this way, the series tried and true formula of progressing through each battle in sequential order, without much deviation, fits well. However, handled correctly it could be easily replaced. If the series were to become
open world, it could make each battle an immense event that the player would have to prepare for. They could do this by participating in smaller battles across the map that would allow them to gather their forces. In this way, the player wouldn’t have to be herded from one battle to the next, but rather choose the route they took to arrive at the next monumental set piece in whatever ongoing war the game revolved around.
Transforming the Fire Emblem series into an open world behemoth would not only work wonders on the series’ gameplay formula, but also its storytelling. As fans of the franchise know all too well, the storytelling in Fire Emblem is amazing, but also disjointed. Voice acted cutscenes with beautiful animation are interspersed amongst walls of text alongside drawn representations of the characters that show little to no emotion. If the series were to adopt an open world and 3D design similar to that of Breath of the Wild, then characters could be seen in a more fully realized fashion, and display a wider range of emotions and actions than they ever could in a simple sprite form. Furthermore, by transitioning to a 3D format, some of the ancillary characters would get the chance to shine in a way more akin to that of the party members in Mass Effect or Dragon Age. Rather than being just bodies on a field or simple conversation partners, these side characters could add meaningful weight to the overall story, and feel like a bigger part of the team as the journeyed with the player across a fully realized expansive environment.
The complex nature of Fire Emblem’s story and the grandeur of its battle system make it the perfect game for a redesign in the open world style of Breath of the Wild. Giving the player a chance to engage in the masterful tactical combat of Fire Emblem on a larger scale, and fully explore that multitude of environments and locals that these games offer would elevate the franchise to new heights.
Super Mario RPG
While the Mario RPG series has certainly changed since its Super Nintendo inception, its basic formula really hasn’t. Many linear RPGs have successfully transitioned to an open-world style, and this could be the next one to do it. The newer titles have all the right pieces to create a massive open world that would retain the exciting combat system that the series in known for.
Interesting game worlds are often filled with a variety of unique locations, both aesthetically and functionally. The Super Mario mythos is famous for its “Worlds,” aka unique areas that house different types of environments and enemies. These could all be combined to form a massive area that can be freely explored by the Bros. This could include the typical ice world, Peach’s castle, the desert, and more. Past Mario games have also been filled with dozens of unique enemies, so there would be no issue with filling the world with monsters.
The trickiest part in transitioning the series from linear to open world would be the battle system. Enemy encounters could be handled similarly to games like Xenoblade Chronicles; enemies seen in the wild could be immediately fought rather than cueing a screen transition. The camera could zoom out in order to keep the viewing angle consistent, as this particular battle system call for a lot of timing in both offensive and defensive moments.
The new open world system could also benefit from the movement options of the 3D Mario games like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. Exploring the world would be a blast with Mario’s jumping abilities and acrobatics. Throw Luigi into the mix to incorporate the series’ “Bros. Moves,” which would seriously add to player’s movement repertoire.
So much of the world could be borrowed from past entries in the series, making this transition a no-brainer. It could be tricky to nail the battle system down, as the turned based gameplay has been a series staple that fans look forward to, but it’s definitely not impossible. This could be the first opportunity for Nintendo fans to truly explore the Mushroom Kingdom. (Zack Rezac)
Forget open world – how about open galaxy? It would be easy to go with a Metroid pick here, but the themes of isolation and labyrinthine dread don’t really fit total freedom very well. So, while there may be plenty of groans from those who cling to the idea that any new Star Fox game MUST adhere to the traditional Arwing-based combat that made the original Star Fox and its amazing N64 sequel so beloved, anyone that played the vastly underrated (and strangely abused) Star Fox Adventures should have no problem wrapping their heads around the idea of Fox McCloud stepping out of the cockpit and fully exploring a planet’s surface. With a universe brimming with potential for fantastical space adventure populated by alien enemies and an epic cast of anthropomorphic weirdos like Pigma Dengar and Grippy Toad, though, why stop at just one?
Breath of the Wild has a variety of regions that make up its enormous map, with terrain that varies from deep forests to arid deserts, but it still feels like one Hyrule, still feels connected. An open-world Star Fox that utilized its space well could see the canine commander running around civilized Corneria, then hopping into his Arwing and seamlessly blasting off to the stars on a voyage of discovery, boldly going where no fox has gone before. Imagine a Lylat System like the sea in Wind Waker; each speck on the horizon, be it an asteroid, moon, or entire planet would inspire excitement and the prospects for adventure, a beacon in the infinite abyss that may hold either treasure or traps, or possibly both.
With any luck, players would also be witness to strange new lands with fantastic environments, the flora and fauna only limited by the imaginations of those creating them. From towering Xenoblade X-sized beasts roaming lush countrysides outside shining cities to monsters lurking beneath the barren surface of a dead star, and maybe even a visit to the world of Pikmin (please!), the sights and sounds alone would be a treat, letting the franchise’s universe finally stand front and center in the way that other sci-fi properties have.
And what a universe! Of all Nintendo’s properties, Star Fox could be the most ripe for world-building. The series’ stories have always come across like popcorn soap opera, loaded with colorful characters and distinct personalities to go along with light melodrama, the sort that was found in the golden age of radio serials. The backstory of James McCloud, the rival Star Wolf team, the insane machinations of a mad-monkey-scientist-turned-giant-ape-face, puts a foundation for the main story is firmly in place, but there’s no end to the amount of intrigue and side quests that Fox could run into, whether suffering Falco’s repeated challenges at home base or wandering through a small trading outpost filled with old friends and nemeses of a father thought long gone. So many possibilities for talking puppet heads…
Sure, shooting things with a spaceship is still lots of fun, and that can certainly be an element of any open-world Star Fox game, but freeing Fox from the pilot seat could be one of the best options Nintendo has for rejuvenating a stale franchise. (Patrick Murphy)
Breath of the Wild has expanded what it means to be a Zelda game, taking the series in a direction that has re-introduced the joy of surprise to what had become somewhat predictable (even if excellently so), but the shift to open world could also help some of the franchises Nintendo doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with, allowing them to experiment, letting them really stretch their wings and fly. While Pit and Co. haven’t been shown a lot of love over the years, Kid Icarus is a valuable claim still worth mining. The NES and Gameboy games may not serve as much inspiration, relying on traditional side-scrolling setups of the day, but the absolutely amazing 3DS experience that is Kid Icarus: Uprising introduced players to a gorgeous mythical world pulsing with hilariously convoluted intrigue, a wealth of treasure to seek, and epic battles over locations ranging from glittering cities to cavernous underworlds, and even the moon. All that’s needed is for more powerful hardware to loose the shackles a bit, removing the rails and knocking down the corridor walls.
If the setting alone – a colorful comic book/bizarro-style version of ancient Greece complete with towering gods and colossal monsters – doesn’t hook you, then maybe the possibilities for a world populated with witty characters, each with their own motivations and backstory, will. Despite Pit fighting solo, gamers would never feel lonely with the always chatty (and often amusingly deprecating) Palutena constantly in his ear, helping the hero uncover the secrets of whatever mystery is at the heart of whatever attack on the unsuspecting populace is being perpetrated, and temporary team-ups with a host of ambiguous allies like Dark Pit and Magnus, would only make the conversation livelier.
A who’s who from stories as old as time allows a Kid Icarus game to cram its world full of characters, but the refusal to adhere to any sort of reverence can provide for a unique personality often lacking in more serious titles. From Hercules to Jason and his Argonauts, to gods and goddesses apart from devilish Hades and sarcastic Viridi, a whole ancient tradition is at the writers’ disposal, providing the chance to intersect video game fun with a rich mythology. Green valleys and dark abysses, fiery forges and wind-swept mountains, towns filled with shops, upgradable equipment, statues to the divine, citizens in need – any of this sound familiar? But instead of melancholy and meditative, these landscapes and acropolises would appeal to a more bubble-gum kind of entertainment need. Open worlds aren’t often about sensory overload, but a new Kid Icarus game could change that, bringing the snap-crackle-pop atmosphere to a grand stage, with petty disputes among the pantheon resulting in an action-packed, joke-filled quest for the fate of all mankind. (Patrick Murphy)
The Manual Matters: ‘The Legend of Zelda’ How It Was Meant to Be Played
“Can Link really destroy Ganon and save Princess Zelda? Only your skill can answer that question. Good luck. Use the Triforce wisely.”
The Legend of Zelda’s manual isn’t just throwaway reading material, it’s an essential component to understanding the game. Design priorities have shifted with time, but the first Zelda relying on its manual so intimately is not a flaw and never was– it’s simply reflective of its era. Video game manuals aren’t as common as they used to be, but The Legend of Zelda coming with a manual in 1986 is no different than a board game coming with instructions today. There was only so much space on a Famicom Disk Card, and a game as conceptually sophisticated as The Legend of Zelda naturally wouldn’t be able to parse all its key information in-game. In fact, one read of the manual is really all it takes to recognize that many of Zelda’s obscurities are anything but.
For what it’s worth, The Legend of Zelda’s opening does offer some basic information along with laying down story context. Ganon stole the Triforce of Power, Princess Zelda broke the Triforce of Wisdom into 8 units, and it’s on Link’s shoulders to save Hyrule. There’s a certain charm to how The Hyrule Fantasy details every single treasure in the game through what is essentially a scrolling cast list. The intro even ends by telling the player to look up the manual. The Legend of Zelda is kind enough to offer some narrative breadcrumbs through its demo reel, but it has the sense to use all the tools at its disposal.
Zelda’s manual wastes no time in getting into the meat of the story. The Prince of Darkness, Ganon, has ushered in an era of Chaos for Hyrule. Foreseeing the inevitable, Zelda instructs her nursemaid, Impa, to find a hero courageous enough to challenge Ganon. The Princess is soon imprisoned by Ganon while his forces close in on Impa. Exhausted & surrounded with no means of fighting back, Impa is left at the mercy of Ganon’s minions. Only for Link, a weaponless boy clad in a green tunic, to swoop in and fight off the Prince of Darkness’ forces. Impa rescued, she imparts onto Link the plight of Princess Zelda, beckoning him to become the hero of Hyrule.
Described as “burning with a sense of justice,” Link sets off to rebuild the Triforce of Wisdom and liberate both Princess Zelda & Hyrule from Ganon’s clutches. The rest of the manual is framed through the actual message Impa left Link. Impa specifically detailed Hyrule’s history, along with the layouts of the nine labyrinths Link will need to brave– the latter of which appear together in a cute & crude drawing featured later in the manual (hand-drawn in-universe by none other than Link.) It’s no Final Fantasy (or even Dragon Quest,) but the manual does a good job in making The Legend of Zelda’s plot a little bit compelling. There’s no real emotional or character nuance, but it’s a classic fantasy premise laid out well with just enough dramatic flavor.
The rest of the manual is framed like a children’s fantasy story, conveying conceptual gameplay mechanics through the text. Link has to meet shopkeepers in caves because they’re hiding from Ganon’s monsters; Springs are referred to as a home to fairies & other secrets (a cheeky hint at Level 7’s hidden entrance;) and multiple pages are dedicated to explaining basic dungeon design– from outlining the emphasis on puzzles & riddles within labyrinths, to ensuring players they haven’t done anything wrong when all the doors lock in around Link. It’s easy to take for granted, but gaming was still a young medium at this point and there was nothing quite like The Legend of Zelda.
It’s for this exact reason the manual goes over the literal controls in such a meticulous fashion. A attacks with the sword, B attacks with items, the D-Pad moves link, Start opens the menu and Select pauses. Basic wisdom, indeed. The act of opening the menu and equipping items is also detailed in a highly sophisticated fashion, far more so than it needs to be. The manual even suggests that quickly being able to switch between items is the key to success in combat. While reflexes do play a role during battle, the in-menu tension the manual pitches are pure fiction. If nothing else, it’s a nice way of teaching newcomers how to understand not just the game, but video games as a whole. Reading The Legend of Zelda’s manual puts one in the right puzzle-solving mindset to competently save Hyrule.
Considering his silent protagonist status, it might surprise some that Link was a defined character all the way back in the original Legend of Zelda. All the same, the intent was always for players to see themselves as Link. The manual even goes over the intimacy of creating Link. When booting up the game for the first time, Link does not exist. It’s only until you register your name that Link is given life. It’s fascinating how something as basic as naming a file after yourself speaks to the interconnectivity inherent to the medium. You may not be Link, but he’s your Link created to be your namesake.
Beyond laying a narrative foundation & dishing out gameplay concepts, the manual serves the practical purpose of simply functioning as a proper manual and offering helpful advice. Players are warned that some enemies can only be defeated with the Bow & Arrow– hinting at Gohma & nudging players to purchase the Arrows. The Triforce chart helps players know which Levels they’ve beaten at a glance, perfect for anyone doing dungeons out of order (and there will be many.) There’s even a step by step guide to reaching Level 1, offering direction in an otherwise directionless game. As an added bonus, the general vicinity of Level 2 gets its own page for anyone still in need of early game assistance.
That said, the real pièce de résistance is the partially filled out map in the back. Roughly 2/3rds of Hyrule is pictured in an easy to read & understand fashion. The first 4 Levels are all located on the map; secrets containing Heart Containers, bombable walls, & movable stones are marked with question marks; and there’s even an item checklist at the bottom. Best of all are the enemy tips to the side, offering insight on which enemies drop bombs & which drop Rupees. Considering how useful bombs become late-game, it’s nice to know which enemies to farm off.
Given The Legend of Zelda’s reputation as a game that doesn’t hold the player’s hand, it’s interesting to note just how helpful the manual ultimately is. Alongside the item checklist is a separate dungeon item checklist that shows players outright which dungeon holds which item. Levels 3 through 6 feature partial maps showcasing their treasure locations, while Levels 1 and 2 actually feature fully detailed maps that leave little to no room for the imagination. It errs on being too helpful, but The Legend of Zelda’s back half is hard enough where perhaps Nintendo felt this was only fair.
Zelda’s manual withholds the game’s juiciest secrets while guiding you through the more obscure challenges. There are entire gameplay mechanics that go unexplained lest players reference their manual. Ever wonder why an entire room of enemies suddenly vanishes after killing one foe? That’s because they were the Ringleader and their death triggers the death of every other enemy in the room– a concept only conveyed in the manual. Even if you don’t reference the manual as a guide, the gamebook offers valuable story and gameplay context that makes The Legend of Zelda a considerably more compelling experience. There’s a reason the demo reel outright tells players to read their manual: it’s not actually optional.
Getting through The Legend of Zelda is still challenging, but the manual not only lightens the load, it adds another layer to the gameplay loop. Truly out of your wits? Consult the manual. Want to make money fast? Consult the manual. Just plain old lost? Consult the manual. It’s even better when going through the trouble of filling in the map, taking notes along the way. The Legend of Zelda isn’t designed with the player actively referencing the manual in mind, but it does expect you to have at least read it once. And why shouldn’t you? It’s quite literally the game’s instruction booklet.
Of course, things have changed since 1986 and the concept of reading a manual before playing a new game hasn’t been commonplace for some time. Games are often thought of as self-contained entities, and failing to convey vital information in-game is a failure of the game. But this is a notion reflective solely of modern gaming and can’t apply to a title like The Legend of Zelda, a game that presents its manual as a part of the core experience in order to circumvent technical limitations.
The Legend of Zelda is perfectly gripping with or without its manual, but something needs to be said for the relationship video games used to have with their instruction booklets. It’s not an ancillary accessory to the game, the manual is a part of the game. At release, playing The Legend of Zelda the way it was meant to be played meant reading that instruction booklet and diving headfirst into Hyrule with a clear goal in mind. It meant knowing Link would stop at nothing to save Hyrule; it meant understanding where to go, how to get there, and why you’re going in the first place.
One could argue that the manual removes much of Zelda’s mystique– and they wouldn’t exactly be wrong– but in an age where manuals are a rarity, the fact The Legend of Zelda shares such an intimate relationship with its own is in itself notable. Reading Zelda’s manual offers entirely new insight into Hyrule (arguably insight we should have always had,) but it’s also a fun read in & of itself. There’s a charm to the series’ early, almost desolate lore, and seeing mechanics we take for granted taught & laid out in such a methodical manner is almost humbling. It might not be high literature, but it might well be something better: The Legend of Zelda’s manual.
You can view the entire Legend of Zelda manual here.
The Cuteness of Competition: ‘Party Animals’ Developer Talks Origins, Randomness, and Corgis
Soon you will be able to duke it out as Corgis, Dinosaurs, Rabbits, and more in the upcoming multiplayer brawler Party Animals from Recreate Games…
Soon you will be able to duke it out as dogs, dinosaurs, rabbits, and more in the upcoming multiplayer brawler Party Animals from developer Recreate Games. We had the opportunity to ask the game’s Product Manager, Andy Jianyi, questions about the developer’s upcoming release. In our interview, we spoke about the game’s origins that derived from a missing gap in gaming experience from the team’s family members, how physics-based titles helped inspire the release, the adorable pets that inspired the title’s cast of playable characters, and of course, its future availability.
Party Animals began development because of one simple idea: the developers wanted to be able to share their passion for hardcore gaming with their loved ones. Behind the curtain of Recreate Games, the studio is packed to the brim with longtime gamers who have probably spent more time behind a monitor than they probably should have. Popular titles such as The Witcher, Kerbal Space Program, and Dark Souls have taken up hundreds of hours of the staff’s time over the last few years. Their biggest problem with these titles was that their families were not into playing them or really anything the team considers competitive and hardcore video games. The staff at Recreate Games wanted a title that they could use to spend time with their families rather than alone. They wanted people with just about no gaming experience to be able to play something fun, yet wholeheartedly competitive at its core.
“We would love to play with our close ones, but usually people in our lives are not into these hardcore games, and we are not too interested in generic party games either,” Jianya says. To solve this problem, the team decided to focus their next project on a game featuring adorable and friendly-looking animal characters. They wanted a game that looked approachable, masqueraded by cutesy visuals that appealed to all audiences. The title had to be flat out fun to just mess around in whether you were winning or losing, but something that also provided a level of depth that could satisfy the competitive needs of the developers. Recreate Games wanted a title similar to other popular easy to pick up and play games that are difficult to truly master.
“[When creating Party Animals], we drew a lot of initial inspirations from Human: Fall Flat, Gang Beasts, Stick Fight, and Super Smash Bros: Ultimate,” Jianyi says. “We love the idea of real physics in video games. Aside from the endless and funny outcomes of the physical actions, physics-based games provide a level of immersion that couldn’t be achieved in other genres.” Party Animals was intended to be entertaining from both a playing and viewing comedic standpoint. Every punch, kick, and flip was intended to have a special outcome with a knockback of a few laughs. “In our physics system, the effect of a simple punch will vary based on your position, your enemy’s position, speed, stamina, and where you land the punch. It’s quite hilarious when the unexpected happens,” Jianyi says.
When it came to designing characters the team knew exactly where to start. Without any hesitation, their boss’s corgi Nemo was chosen to become the star of Party Animals and was the first character to make the roster. “We do not really have a process of choosing species though. We just add in the animals we love, which is quite a lot,” Jianyi says. Two of the game’s characters were actually directly based on two fans’ pets: the husky Kato and the one-eyed kitty Kiko. According to data gathered by the team, the most popular character is currently Carrot the bunny. The team is planning on implementing more animals at a future date, but they currently already have a roadmap to release.
“In our current plan, we will have 3 game modes, 8 maps and 10 characters at release,” Jianyi says. The three current game modes that will be available at launch are Fight Club- a time-based brawler with both solo and team modes, Last Stand- a round-based free for all battle royale, and finally Snatch Squad- teams fighting for special items in the arena such as gummy bears, soccer balls, or even lumps of coal. Each map has been intricately designed to accommodate various strategies and core gameplay elements. Fight Club and Last Stand, in particular, will always be refreshing when it comes to fighting due to the arena you may land in. Currently, the game supports up to 8 players in the same room with 4 additional positions available for spectators, but the devs have pondered making the game larger.
While fully eradicating the problems of online synchronization and making every round feel as rewarding as possible are aspects you would come to expect in a local multiplayer brawler, you may be wondering–what is the best aspect of Party Animals that will blow players’ socks off? The team still has a few impressive features yet to be unveiled that they are not quite ready to talk about just yet, in case the presence of corgis has not sealed the deal for you already. “We have a couple of tricks up our sleeves, but we are not going to say too much about them,” Jianyi said. “Let’s just say they might shock a lot of people.”
The PC version of Party Animals will be released on Steam by the end of 2020, with console ports set to hit later at the end of 2021. The game is currently planned to make its way to the Nintendo Switch, however, Jianyi did not specify whether the PlayStation and Xbox systems in question would be current, next-gen, or both systems. You can watch Party Animals’ official steam trailer below.
“We hope you guys can have a great time bonding with your loved ones in Party Animals,” Jianyi says.
From Concept to Card: Behind the Art of ‘Faeria’
The developer of Faeria takes us behind the scenes of the game’s beautiful art design, discussing inspirations and techniques.
With a loyal fanbase on PC as well as an upcoming Switch port announced in the last Indie World presentation, Faeria is a deckbuilding card game with an artistic legacy to follow. The game is packed with over 300 unique cards, each one of which features its own distinctive art. These illustrations strive to follow the traditions of fantasy worldbuilding through art, introducing their own unique spin in the process.
“From the start, we were looking at developing a modern take on the classic Faeries, the world of Brian Froud,” says Jean-Michel Vilain, CEO of Faeria developer Abrakam. Froud is primarily known today for his ethereal fantasy illustrations for the novel Faeries, which embodies a watershed moment for fantasy artwork that would define the genre for decades. With their lush and otherworldly designs, Froud’s influence is immediately apparent in Faeria’s visuals.
While Faeria has grown in scope, scale, and ambition since the beginning of development, Vilain acknowledges that Froud’s art was a significant influence from the very beginning. “It is surprising to know where we’ve ended up! But this is exactly where we come from and what has inspired the game’s name, Faeria.”
But that’s not to say that the team has been strictly limited to Froud’s artwork. Rather, they aim to create their own distinct brand, and thus they incorporate a broader array of inspirations. “If Brian Froud is a pillar, then Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are certainly another one,” Vilain adds. “Miyazaki was the key to finding a fresh approach to the world that we wanted to create, [and] we’ve found that his way of representing spirits was very creative and demanded to be further explored.”
Vilain acknowledges that the team used a wide range of references, “ranging from things like the tribal worlds to Ghibli anime,” but emphasizes that each team member’s individual creativity and ideas were prioritized above all. “Concept artists were given a lot of freedom on the concepts, [and] I think that’s the reason why the world of Faeria looks so rich and diverse.”
When it comes to choosing the artistic team to bring this fantastical world to life, Vilain clarifies that there are only two firm characteristics that the development team searches for: “Originality and coherence are the two main qualities we’re looking for in our artists.” Beyond that, Vilain says that “there isn’t any right or wrong ” that makes a good artist, beyond the fundamentals which can apply even in the increasingly digital world of art today. “What every artist needs to learn are the fundamentals such as composition or color theory. Although, with the technological advancements in painting software, we are now able to digitally sketch out the ideas on the go, so we see a rise in artists who are purely digital artists.”
“Of course, a lot of artists still paint and draw traditionally on the side,” Vilain elaborates, “but in a pipeline, it is all about streamlining the process, so many artists that were classically trained had to learn to work with various programs and gain new skills such as 3D design, to be able to keep up.”
Such diverse backgrounds and experiences form the backbone of the Faeria art team. Indeed, Vilain says that “We don’t really look at the artist’s background or at what company they used to work for.” Instead, the primary criterion is for artists whose work is “fitting Faeria’s spirit and vibe.”
The varied skillsets and specialties of Faeria’s art team allows them to flesh out its deck of cards with a swift turnaround time. Vilain explains that, “depending on the complexity of the illustration and the quantity of retakes necessary,” it takes only 2 to 5 days to bring these illustrations to life.
As Abrakam’s CEO, Vilain himself plays an intricate role in the visual and design aspects of development. Given this position, he emphasizes the intricate connection between art and gameplay. “I’m leading the design team but also working in hand with our artists in order to make sure that the gameplay is communicated with maximum impact,” Vilain says. “For instance, I would sometimes write a description of what a card illustration needs to convey its game concept, or sometimes I would help the artists build up the world’s coherence. My role is to try to make sure that everything is in good resonance: the gameplay, the style, and the audio-visual experience.”
Throughout the creative process, Vilain clarifies that gameplay and art must work together to be truly effective. When Faeria’s game designers come up with a concept, he explains, they work together with the artists to properly express gameplay concepts through visuals, and vice versa. For every new creature added to the game, Vilain explains that it boils down to a “dialogue between designers and artists” to best “convey the idea while being visually innovative and attractive.” From concept to cards, and from visuals to gameplay, every aspect of Faeria’s presentation is meant to develop an intricate fantasy world and make it come alive.
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