At Ronimo we strongly believe that for a large part, concept art should look like the actual game. So when drawing a car for a racing game, the back of that car is actually its most important part, since that is what the player will see 95% of the time. Since we make 2D games, we can take this to the extreme: some of our concept art can easily be mistaken for screenshots. In fact, for Swords & Soldiers, many reviewers actually included early concept art in their reviews, thinking it was a screenshot from the final game.
For Awesomenauts, our art team made three of these concept art shots that essentially look like fake screenshots from the final game. This helped us see what we needed for our graphics style. It is also a great way to show to publishers what the game would look like in the end.
Here are the three fake screenshots that our art team made, plus a bunch of notes on remarkable things that changed since this concept art was made:
- As can be seen above, early versions of Froggy G looked like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction. At some point, his afro was not deemed cool enough by our art team and was removed. After a lot of protest from other team members (including me), the afro came back. However, the game design required the camera to be zoomed out a lot more, and this required some more changes to his looks. Many of the details in his face were removed to keep the art readable on a much smaller size.
- Lots of weapons and skills changed during development. At some point, all hero's even had both a melee attack and a ranged attack. When the concept art above was drawn, Froggy G's main weapon was a lightning chainsaw. Later this changed to his famous gun-that-looks-like-a-fish.
- The big robot at the bottom right was a tower. For a long time during development, towers could move around to patrol a small part of the level. Players could also unleash them to help during an attack. However, this design was too complex and resulted in gameplay issues with backdooring (moving beyond a tower to skip part of the level), so towers later became more like a static wall.
- Originally, the shop was a vending machine with arms and legs, as can be seen above. In the final game, the healing area and the shop have been merged and the shop is not a character anymore. The vending machine concept remained, though.
- Initially we were going to make only one level, so to keep screenshots varied, we added a lot of variety to this single level: jungle, purple caves, space station elements. In the end we decided to make two more levels, allowing those two levels to be more focussed on a single unique type of environment. Since the Ribbit IV map was originally meant to be the only level, you can still see in the final game that it has more variety than the other two maps.
- As a remnant of an art style for Awesomenauts that we cancelled really early in development, the level had some purple areas, as can be seen in the concept art image above. Later our art team made these areas more brownish. If I remember correctly, this was to make the gameplay stand out better against the background. I was personally really bummed by this, because I liked the purple areas a lot. However, I guess our art team was correct about the readability and made the right choice. :)
- The object that needed to be destroyed to win the match varied a lot during development. In the end, we settled on the Solar Drill that can be seen in the final game. However, when these fake screenshots were drawn, the end goal was to destroy the big spaceship that can be seen on the left of this screenshot. A much bigger spaceship later ended up in the game as the place from which the player is launched onto the battlefield. At some earlier point, the end goal of a match was even to destroy a big multi-stage boss that you had to fight as a team! Obviously, having lots of heroes around during that boss fight created utter chaos, and thus the boss was removed.
For a quick comparison, below is a screenshot from the final game. Note especially how the camera is zoomed out a lot, and the level art does not have as much contrast as in the concept art shots. In a chaotic game like Awesomenauts, readability is key, so our art team toned down the levels quite a bit to make the characters and bullets stand out more.
I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of how the game evolved over the years! :) For more screenshots of the final version of the game, please visit the Awesomenauts website.