Kopanito All-Stars Soccer: game development in the eyes of Designer

People tend to think that game development is a great deal of fun. It really is, but as a Designer, I can say that it’s also not the easiest of tasks. Judging by focused faces and sweaty forehead of game developers who vigorously write hectares of code, I suspect they also consider it to be quite challenging.

Idea for a game

But let’s go back to our hapless Designer, Illustrator or, if you prefer, a Game Designer. At the beginning of the creation of any game, there is only an idea — when it comes to Kopanito it was the thought of making it about football. All interested parties have to approve the concept and then the team can be assembled. Before even one line of the code is written Designers has to grab a pencil and/or tablet and get to work. Their first (and probably the most important) task is to show agreed concepts on paper/monitor screen and prepare the early concept of how the game might look. Everyone, who has seen “Saving Private Ryan” can visualize this moment as troops landing in Normandy. Hundreds of ideas fly through your head like whistling bullets from machine guns. From all this chaos they have to pick out only of the best ones and present them to the rest of the team. It is worth noting that at this stage everything is based on close cooperation and teamwork, what requires constant communication. Ideas that may seem cool to you often turn out to be impossible to implement, especially when you have limited resources. You also can’t worry if your drawings and ideas end up in the trash. Games are not created single-highhandedly (except few cases) and require a group effort. A game development team is like an organism — an idea must be accepted by all people involved in its production before it gains causative power.

Starting game development — let’s begin with stadiums

As I already mentioned, Kopanito is a football game, so the first thing that we started with was determining the projection of the pitch on which matches will be played. We had some ideas, one of which was a pixelated and inspired by Sensible Soccer, but we quickly abandoned this vision (remember what I wrote about throwing ideas to the garbage bin? :)). Vertical projection imposed too many restrictions on us — for instance, we would have problems with the animation of players. Also, the overall look was too similar to it’s to its iconic predecessor — we didn’t want to make a clone, but a modern game that is visually inspired by the ones we were playing as kids.

The next part in the evolution of stadium view was a horizontal projection, by which we wanted to evoke associations with other cult game of our childhood — Nintendo Soccer. This vision proved so rewarding that we decided to stick with it. Showing the pitch in such a way allowed us a much clearer display of players because they are for the most time facing forward. This is opposite to the vertical projection, in which the players are attacking the upper half of the field would be turned back to users most of the time. Another important element was the scaling of turf — it is smaller than in reality, what allowed having fewer players and more dynamic gameplay.

Creating unique football players

After final acceptance of stadium, we moved to the next part of the design — football players. In this case, we had two assumptions — we wanted them to be caricatured and to give users the possibility to assemble teams from as many characters as possible. We were supposed to create over a hundred national teams with nonrepeating players of different appearances. It is easy to calculate that with six characters in the team it will give over 600 different faces. The task of drawing each of them individually can lead any person to suddenly turning grey. To avoid this aging hairstyle I decided to approach given a challenge in a creative way. We divided all players into five races and created six different face features (six pairs of eyes, six noses, six types of lips, etc.). As the result, it gave us a lot of elements which guaranteed that none of the players will appear in more than one team. These items are colored on a separate layer with the usage of virtually an infinite number of colors, which ensured an even greater diversity of players.

Different textures of a ball

After creating stadiums and players, it was time for taking care of another element that is necessary for every match — a ball. Presentation of the two-dimensional object that by its very nature is a rolling ball can be quite challenging. In Kopanito it is done through programming magic, what any self-respecting designer will never understand. However, what they can do is create texture, which, thanks to lines of code, will magically change into the ball. Textures of 25 balls presented in Kopanito resemble the skin of animals that proud hunters used to hang on their walls. However, I assure you that all you need is a little practice and execution of such a texture takes relatively no time and is really fun. This also allowed us to experiment, so we had a squash ball, Smiley ball, and even the Death Star. Unfortunately, they ultimately did not end up in the game.

With these three core elements (stadium, the appearance of the players and ball) we were able to move to the next design elements of the game. There were a lot of challenges in the course of our work, starting with the design of the interface, through icons or logo, and ending with game illustrations. It is, however, a little different story, about which I will certainly write in the future.

Originally published at www.merixstudio.com.

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