Cardénas was the very first computer game we've ever built. This meant finding out for the first time what it means to develop a game. Concept art, moodboards, colour palettes and stylesheets were something I only read about up until then.
Since our briefing was to create an arcade game, we wanted the graphics to be comparable in style to the old arcade games. Pixel art, a limited palette, screen transitions and "simple" animations were things we decided were most characteristic for those games.
Our concept was to create a stealth-like, low-violence game set in 1930's San Francisco, in a Mafia controlled harbour. Together with my fellow artist I did a ton of research into how the harbour looked back then, what colours are associated with that time period and the Mafia, and how the environment looked different from what we have today. With this information I created a stylesheet, a moodboard and a palette.
After we had our visual style lined out it was time for concept art. I did most of the concept art in isometric view, since we had discussed that an isometric world would be cool (we changed to top-three-quarter view after we found outthat making isometric pixel art takes way more time to create than we had). Most of the concept art was done in sketchbooks or whiteboards, though I coloured a few sketches in Photoshop.
After collecting a bunch of pixel art reference and following a few tutorials, it was time to build some assets. I was in charge of all the environment assets. The first asset I built was a train, so we had something to scale the otherassets to. After that it was on to placeholders, so our game- and leveldesigner could already start building the intro level and other areas.
If an asset was completed, it had to be named correctly and added to the asset library in Adobe Flash (our development platform). Once imported, a few settings for scaling and anti-aliasing had to be set and then it was ready to be used in game. If you wanted to make a level you also had to put the asset on the correct layer, since the z-sorting was based on those. Animation was done using the Photoshop animation tool and importing in it Flash with layers. That made the level designers' job a lot easier.
The game did extremely well, seeing as it got us nominated for Indievelopment 2013, and it being top school project of the year. Personally I really liked how the feel of the game is. The music fits perfectly, and together with the polished intro and assets it feels like a real game. About half way into production I strayed too much from the palette I had designed at the start, but luckily that didn't have too much impact on the visuals.