ANGRY BIRDS TRANSFORMERS
Concept Art & Visual Direction
During the course of development for this project we had some difficulty establishing the art style for the game. It wasn’t a problem with the art quality or content it was with the tones and themes . We had begun development with a beach theme and, inspired by the humorous short films Rovio were producing for Angry Birds Star Wars, the talk of crazy weapons with Rovio lead the team down a path of tennis balls, melons and other quirky objects, they were fun but didn’t hang together properly. Meanwhile this was all taking place on a bright and sunny beach, it looked pretty but taking in everything that was going on was hard work for the player, I went about rectifying this with the art team as follows…
Here is the starting artwork, it is of a good standard, bright and in-keeping with Angry Birds. However, it did not feel like Transformers, at this stage I discussed using the lasers that featured in transformers as the key weapon theme.
We darkened the mood with the aim to focus attention on the weapons, after re-evaluating our source material (Transformers) we noticed that the scenery was always lit in a dark tone, even in sunshine, of course, this was to allow for those super bright weapons…
This was starting to look more like it, but it felt like night time, it still needs to look like a day time event plus the sky was drawing too much attention. It should be noted that our awesome VFX artist was now able to crack on with the weapon FX, we starting some quick and dirty weapon concepts for him…
Finally we reached a happy balance, in part this was helped by Rovio’s film department as they released some early footage of the trailer campaign – this solved it for us and the rules for the art style were set.
Making sense of the design and art roles during the games development was, for the first part of the development, a little confusing. We had the art team making props and assets and placing a spattering of these in the world, then we had the design team doing the very same (but with breakable towers). This caused a problem because both would complain that each other had sort of ‘ruined’ a bit of games play or a bit of art.
I decided that it would be better to make everything a game play object beyond the player, if you could shoot it, it should do something. So we made ‘metal’ versions of the props and these now became targets to shoot and get bonuses – for shooting and converting a metal object back to its natural state you received ‘energon’ which powered up your special weapon. We used a cheap ‘glint’ shader to catch the players eye. We then handed all responsibility for placing these objects to the designers. (Huge thank you to Claire McClaughry for spending weeks in text files un-tangling the art and design elements!) I think it was worth it!
Front End UX & UI
Working with the Exient Leamington team, in particular the UX Designer Ian Bickley and the small talented art team, we set about dressing the wireframes of the game which had been in development as a light Flash prototype since the beginning of the project.
With the Transformers part of the theme locked in, designing out the rest of the experience felt pretty natural, the ‘menus’ would take place inside ‘Astro Train’ the huge space/ship type robot from the stories; whilst normally an enemy Deceptocon this seemed a humorous choice especially as the pigs and birds were kind of working together in this game (Later on the team scrawled a crossed out Deceptocon badge to honour this). We felt using ‘overlay’ effects was the best treatment as though a projector was showing the Transformers all of the information, the animators played with this idea too and had them milling around and reacting to them.
We opted for a map view of the game as the main landing screen in Transformers, this immediately presented the player with a sense of their progress in the game. It also showed the player what might be to come and served as an excellent ‘strategy’ map for battling across Piggy Island. For technical reasons we decided to build the map in 3D although the further we got into development the more we realised we should probably have taken the technical development hit and built it in 2D.
The final piece of set dressing was the HUD icons, whilst a simple game to play, there are a number of boosters and modes available to the player, switching character to their ‘buddy’, the weapon booster system and the running/driving mode (robots could transform into their vehicle form to go a little quicker in the tricky situations).
At the end of the level we needed a smooth way to exit and we came up with the idea of Astro Train swooping in and picking them up, we then used this same technique to send in your buddies when you needed help and to pick up the injured along the way, so if you get killed, your player is beamed back to safety.