Choosing the art style

Introduction

One of the main things a game developer has to plan out before designing a game regards art style. The look and feel of the game as the player traverses the world/levels. Everything from UI, to mechanics, to general gameplay relies on the structure of the art design. 


After actually sitting down and saying "Yes, I am going to make this" I had been caught up with my first dilemma being this such topic. I had the general gist of game planned out but I needed to figure out how to showcase the look of it.


I proceeded to jot down ideas as to possible avenues to venture towards:

  • Plxel art
  • "Realistic" 3D art
  • Voxel art

Then I proceeded to go through these options and weigh out the pros and cons alongside why I would want to use each style.

Weighing the options

Pixel Art

Drawing by Allan Langer close to the style I would like

Drawing by Allan Langer close to the style I would like

The #1 art style for indie game development, pixel art was the first idea to pop into my head. Now, I knew this game was going to be a 3D stealth game which ultimately did ruffle some feathers regarding how I would implement 2D assets within the game further ahead. Although Unity, my choice for engine, supports development of a 2.5D game using a mix of sprites as the characters and combining that with a 3D world space for the actual level design, I found that the real crutch was the fact that I cannot draw pixel art, nor is my patience enough to handle the tediousness of animating the characters at a quality that I wanted. So I decided to ove on to my next option.

"Realistic" 3D art

Adobe Fuse example window

Example Adobe Fuse Window

My next choice was the polar opposite. Instead of going 2D and pixel art, I would make it fully 3D and use a tool such as Adobe Fuse as my software-of-choice for making realistic 3D character designs. Overall the learning curve for such a program would be low, and implementing it within my game would not be difficult either. Animation would be done using the 3D bone systems and FBX animation files. Overall there was no issues related to my technical skillset like with pixel art, as I have had experience in 3D rigging and model design. However, the actual look was a bit...odd. It just did not sit well with what I envisioned Trade Secret to look like. Not to mention it was just overall uncanny in my opinion.

Voxel Art

Example MagicaVoxel window

Example MagicaVoxel window

That leaves us to the last choice. A mix of the two above choices. I have the ease of animation from the realistic art style, while also keeping the indie feel from the pixel art style. My program of choice would be MagicaVoxel, and to handle the rigging of the characters, I would use Blender as my choice. Animations would either by done by me or imported from free libraries. So what is the caveat? Well I would have to get a bit more creative on the look and feel in this manner, just as with pixel art. Also, regarding MagicaVoxel, creating characters that could be animated would pose a slight difficulty in that MagicaVoxel only supports OBJ files. I would have to convert the OBJ to an FBX for each character model and then rig that FBX file. In my experience there have been slight issues with getting the textures to properly move over which does spread development time for asset building. 

Conclusion

my_character_base

So my final choice had become Voxel Art. In the end I had created a few assets to base my game on. For now this is the current style I will be going with, and there are no plans to change regarding character design. Above is the "character base" which is what I will be using as a base for all main, side, and enemy characters.