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Hint sleeping is not one of the ingredients ;)

The Recipe for Great Game Graphics is Quite Surprising – #Heistuesday 18

Hint sleeping is not one of the ingredients ;)

Howdy, partners!

Thanks for tuning in this #Heistuesday! Last week we revealed some of our best kept game dev secrets. But a game is nothing without its graphics. And here to tell you more about how we create the imaginative art and characters of SteamWorld Heist is our very own guiding light of graphic design: Agnes Mikucka.

Julius: Hi Agnes! Tell us a bit about about yourself and your favourite games.

Agnes: Hi there! My friends call me Agnes. I’m an artist here at Image & Form. My main interests are arts, comics and creating self-published fanzines. My favorite games are the Fire Emblem and Legend of Zelda series as well as Final Fantasy VI.

J: What are your main responsibilities as a graphic artist on SteamWorld Heist?STEAMWORLD HEIST CONCEPT ART 4

A: I mostly do character concept art and then turn selected characters into in-game sprites. I’ll hopefully do some marketing artwork and illustrations later on in the project!

J: Do you have any other responsibilities at Image & Form?

A: I sometimes have the opportunity to create marketing artwork and comics for our games, and I’ve made all the employee portraits for our website.

J: From start to finish: What goes into creating a new steambot?

A: I first try to make up a background story for the character. It won’t necessarily be the official background story for it, but it helps me to sketch up some ideas and designs. I also gather a lot of different references to help me along the road. When I’m satisfied with a design, I open up Illustrator and start making it into an in-game sprite. A lot of changes happen during that process so I make sure I have a sketch book next to me, as I sketch to find better design solutions. There are times when I have to “kill my darling”, because the concept might be great and interesting but just won’t work as a sprite.

Captain Piper Concept Art – SteamWorld Heist

J: Do you have any influences?

A: Artwork from various games will always have an influence on me. For example, various Nintendo titles, early Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Ace Attorney and Mega Man. It’s hard to decide when it comes to artists since I discover new ones every day to be inspired from. Artists who still influence me greatly are Hayao Miyazaki, Akihiko Yoshida, Alphonse Mucha and J. C. Leyendecker. Quite the mix, don’t you think?

J: Yeah, totally! By the way, what’s the secret behind your creations?

A: Loads of tea, KitKats, my trusty unicorn mask and funny cat GIFs! Jokes aside… ah no… that was no joke. Great headphones, music and a peaceful working environment are also mandatory!

J: You have a background with writing/drawing comics and graphic novels. How does that benefit you in your work on video games?

A: It helps me with (as I mentioned above) creating a background story for a character that’s work in progress. There are times when I help out the team with creating storyboards or share ideas for the main plot. A few times I’ve been able to draw comics for our games. I hope to be able to join the story team one day, perhaps on the next project of ours.Those metal bangs are lovely!

J: Will we ever see an official SteamWorld cartoon?

A: Oh, who knows? A web comic would have been fun to see or perhaps even some fan-made ones! I’m a fan of 80s and 90s anime… I would have loved to see a SteamWorld cartoon created during that time.

J: The SteamWorld games are (until now) in a 2D perspective. Do you ever think we’ll see a 3D steambot running around in the future?

A: Hmm. I guess it depends on what kind of game we’re working on? I personally hope to stick to 2D as long as possible. There is something about 2D graphics that 3D simply can’t replace.

J: From a graphic artist’s perspective: What makes SteamWorld Heist a unique experience?

A: Compared to SteamWorld Dig, Heist is a much larger game that allows for more creative expression. We’re adding tons of fun and quirky characters, and we’re hoping the player will be able to connect with each and every one of them.

J: Awesome! Thanks for the chat, Agnes 😀


Feel free to ask Agnes any questions of your own in the comments below. If you enjoyed this interview, we’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by e-mailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks!

Game Dev Secrets You Probably Didn’t Know – #Heistuesday 17

Ulf Hartelius from Image & Form share his thoughts on developing SteamWorld Heist.

Today we’ll continue the series of SteamWorld Heist related interviews with a look at the technical aspects of making a game.

At a rather small game studio like Image & Form not every role is easily defined. We have lots to do in a relatively small team. And while we have people specializing in areas like art direction, programming and level design, we also have our fair share of chums gracefully wearing not one, but two or three hats.

This week I’ll introduce you to one of those team members: Ulf Hartelius. He’s skilfully juggling both programming and game design and is said to be indie enough to make all other indie devs look like Disney. So without further ado, let’s go!

Julius: Firstly could you introduce yourself, tell us a bit about what you are working on and what your favourite games are?

Ulf: Heya! I’m one of the coders and designers on SteamWorld Heist. On the wee hours when I’m not busy fiddling with that (actually or just mentally) I’m trying to learn Japanese, make small artsy games, and listen to a lot of music.

As for playing games, right now and for the foreseeable future I’m rocking out with the new Guilty Gear!

J: A lot of people are asking us about our development tools, what game engine are you using for SteamWorld Heist?

U: We’re using a custom-built thing that’s grown and evolved for almost as long as the company’s been around; from way before my time. Luckily it’s frequently given love, care, and a lot of trimming, so unlike some engines that have lived for more than one game it remains pretty manageable. And for those who wonder: it’s 100% C++.

J: What are the perks of creating a custom engine instead of using an existing one (like Unity or Unreal)?

U: The main perk is the Nintendo 3DS, I’d say. Neither Unity nor Unreal has any support for the 3DS, and even if they did there’s a big risk that the overhead such engines add would outdo any benefits. Having our own engine also allows us to make whatever changes we want without any middlemen, which is practical and fast. Of course, the flipside is that nothing happens with it when we’re busy with other stuff; like making game content.

Ulf working hard with coding and stuff.

Ulf working hard with coding and stuff.

J: Could you briefly describe a typical day as a programmer?

U: Most of my work is tied closely to either design or graphics, like implementing gameplay abilities or getting the user interface (buttons and stuff) to behave. So I often have a lot of close teamwork with other people, which is the coolest thing about making games: that you’re not working in a vacuum, but that your little cog becomes part of a greater steambot.

J: Is there a specific process for finding and eliminating nasty bugs?

U: Absolutely. For instance, say the game crashes whenever you shoot someone. That’s not the game’s way of telling you that it’s better to be nice; rather it’s definitely something going awry in the code handling shooting or dealing damage. That way, you can narrow it down. “Divide et impera”, like the Macedonians said.

J: Are the graphics applied to the code or is it the other way around?

U: It’s a collaboration, definitely. The artists make mockups and tests with just graphics, so they can get a feel for how they want it to look. We then discuss how we can bring that into the game, how much work it would take, and how players might react to it.

J: We haven’t revealed too much info on actual SteamWorld Heist gameplay. Without giving too much away, what’s the essence of what makes the game unique from a programmer’s point of view?

U: There are a lot of different systems working together, like shooting, managing the crew, creating the heist encounters, and of course ______ [REDACTED].

J: What’s the best part about your job?

U: Being able to work closely with a bunch of terrific individuals and to craft an experience that I believe gamers will enjoy a lot.

J: You rule, Ulf! 


What did you think of this more in-depth kind of interview? Ulf will be down in the comments section and do his best to answer any questions you might have. So ask away! 😀