A new engine, and new possibilities.
When starting fresh with a new engine, we explored a bunch of possibilities, both mechanically and aesthetically. As we were learning how to work with the Z-Engine to make the base for our game, we were also drafting how the game would look; What cues we wanted to preserve from the previous project, and what we wanted to take in a new direction; For example, the characters we worked with in the past had a soft, cartoony look with plenty of bright, lively colors, which we really liked, and which we wanted to keep for this new game.
Having Lauren, and all her years of experience in the cartoon industry to help us with the character designs was a huge help there, because this time, we wouldn’t only be “porting” an existing franchise’s existing designs and making do as best as we could, but we could craft the characters’ look and feel from scratch, to better suit an interactive medium, and a very specific genre such as fighting games, in which a character is presented and known for their unique flavouring; Their individual quirks, their personality, their whole character has to shine through the artstyle and animation in a medium where long exposition and character buildup are not as available as they’re in a non-interactive medium, such as a comic book or a tv show.
And one of the first steps to achieve that was redefining our pipeline to fit both our artistic vision, and to make the process feasible to build from a technical standpoint.
Artstyle wise, we started with the “default” look we could achieve just by importing assets into the engine using the vanilla pipeline. This assumed black lines, placed on top of the colour and shade layers, which allows the detailed artwork and crazy motions of the Skullgirls characters to stand out from their enviroment, while still giving a huge amount of control over the palettes (the different coloured ‘skins’ for the characters), but while the result suits Skullgirls’ very detailed artstyle, the hardness of the black outlines on our characters wasn’t quite giving off the feeling we wanted to achieve. Our goals and methods with the character designs were too different from Skullgirls.