One of the key factors for a game to be successful revolves around the charisma and empathy of the lead character, a task that seems easy in essence, but which can be an endeavour of epic proportions.
The first step in creating our main character was to try and think of a character who would be full of charisma, and who would have natural abilities that would empower them to move around the world and adapt to the kind of mechanics we wanted to build into the game.
After a lot of brainstorming, coffee, comic reading, watching cartoons and lots of other inspirational tools, we thought that it would be interesting to play around with a small spider with big eyes that would be able to bring some “human” emotional rapport to the game. We also decided to stick six legs on him — instead of the standard eight — to make the character a little more friendly looking and little less creepy, as there are a lot of people with arachnophobia. See, we do care!
Once we decided on a spider, we knew the game’s mechanics would have to focus on web spinning abilities, which in turn adapted very well to the controls for the platforms we had in mind.
Here you can see some concepts with six and eight legs, along with those characteristic big yellow eyes.
The initial concepts were very neutral with a lack of expression and very similar body styles, so we decided to bring more life into the eyes, and in the overall animation styles.
Then we tried to play around with the overall shape of Spidy, based on different ‘styles’ of spiders, paying special attention to the eyes so we could incorporate more expression.
From there, in full Technicolor, we played with other elements of Spidy, like the antenna…
Once the spider concept became clearer and we were confident on how it was progressing (and how people felt about it being a spider), we decided to concentrate on other aspects of the game, taking into consideration the targeted platforms for development, to leverage the differences of each machine and create a unique experience for each of them. We quickly decided to rethink the overall game concept to make it suitable for controller-based platforms like PS3.
Now that the plan was to target consoles, we would need to have an interesting story that would capture the player’s attention. So we thought, “How can we make a character look charismatic, handsome like George Clooney, but at the same time, a spider?” the answer wasn’t clear at first, but after more coffee, more cartoons and several bags of Invader crisps, it hit us! Aliens can be whatever you want them to be, especially cool spiders with their very own spaceship. That’s how Spidy became a spider from the outer solar systems.
At this point we had a charismatic character and an interesting story, so we were only missing the right setting and environments to make a vibrant adventure. Right from the beginning, we wanted the game to be different, not only from a gameplay point of view, but also from a visual one. Games are visual entertainment; therefore we wanted the first impressions players had of the game to be visually striking ones. The team took inspiration from many different sources and created an amazing game world. We developed our own visual style by mixing colourful and dynamic multi-layered backgrounds with darker active colours in the foreground that can tell the player about potential dangers. The end result is everything linking together to create a very high quality, visually appealing game world.
We also played around with object shapes in both the foreground and backgrounds to create some totally unique environments, and we tweaked them until we finally came up with just the right balance.
We hope that you have enjoyed our ramblings and insights into the development of Alien Spidy. Look for more updates delving into other aspects of the game soon!