Author Archive for Mathieu Robillard

The Importance of Colors in Game Design

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When you meet someone new, it takes the brain approximately 200 milliseconds to process a facial expression to generate a first impression. That first impression can stick for a while and define your whole perception of that person. Now, imagine how fast the brain can process a simple color palette. In video games, the color palette is your first impression. It can set the mood of a whole game or generate emotions within you before you even start playing it. So if you plan on making an immersive video game, you absolutely have to nail your color schemes.

The Not-so-Basics of Color Theory

Everyone knows at least a bit about color theory: blue is sadness, red is anger… you get it. Now, let’s spice things up a bit. What if you want to set the mood for an adventure? Is it possible?
Hmm… Adventure. Your first thought might be “a red mustang is pretty adventurous”. Well, let’s learn from those who make a living off color palettes and first impressions: posters’ designers.

Whoa, red Mustang? More like blue Westfalia with gold mags…

 

“It’s all in the backlighting and the fairy dust” you say? Well, it sure can’t harm to have a little fairy dust on an adventure. But take a quick 200 milliseconds look and all you see is blue and gold. In other words, a pizza is a pizza whatever dressing you put on it. Back to the point, a thoughtful color scheme can convey way more than simple emotions like sadness or anger. You can induce complex moods like the thrill of an adventure or the suspense of a mystery. You just have to find and create the right color palette for the emotions you want to convey.

The Love Story Between Colors and Level Design

Now the real deal: How can you use color theory in Level Design? Let’s analyze the first level of our upcoming game, Light Fall, and see how we used color theory for our game.
At the beginning, the player appears out of nowhere. He doesn’t know where he is or even what/who his character is supposed to be. It’s a complete mystery. So we went with a mix of blue colors that we called ‘‘mysterious blue’’ and put it everywhere.

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The elements of the level all share the same color to create a specific mood.

The player then starts wandering off trying to find clues on what’s going on. He slowly discovers that all the things around him are supernatural or magic: friendly fireflies guiding him, huge and deadly crystals, etc. All this stuff cries outfor a bright and stand out color. So we decided to go with ‘‘sparkling pink’’ to contrast our ‘‘mysterious blue’’.

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A new color is introduced into the level to change the atmosphere.

That’s right, blue and pink. We’re way off the boys and girls stereotypes. Blue alone can be mysterious, pair it with pink and you get magic. Now, you also have to be careful with the presentation of your colors. If the player would’ve appeared in a blue and pink environment straight from the beginning, the mysterious and eerie feeling would have been lost. In our case, a build up was needed to convey the right emotions at the right time.

As you can see, it’s possible to join hand in hand color palettes and level design. Slowly implement your colors into the level progression, stay coherent between the player’s emotions and the presented colors, and you’ve got yourself an immersive journey.

The Deep Relation Between Colors and Game Design

That’s all cool: colors, emotions and stuff. But we’re making a game, not a movie. So hang on and let’s dive deeper. What’s the utmost aspect of the art of video game and the main difference between films and games? Interactivity.
When you have pinpointed the color palette you want to use, it’s important to make interactive elements stand out using those colors. YouTuber snomaN Gaming makes a nice case study of this subject in his video “Rayman Origins: When Art Meets Gameplay”.

As a counter example, he also mentions the old cartoons’ backgrounds, remember those?

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My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

That, my friends, is how you break an immersive experience. This cactus is so obviously not a cactus, it hurts. In TV and movies, it can help the viewer figure out what’s going to happen, but in the case of an immersive video game the use of incoherent colors makes you realize you’re in someone else’s Matrix. The absolute opposite of what you want to achieve, so stick to your palette.

Let’s go back to gaming. Remember the blue and pink level of Light Fall? In this very level, there are two types of objects: interactive and non-interactive. Additionally, there are also two types of colors: dominant blue and highlight pink. You see where I’m going with this? In this level, the bright crystals kill you if you touch them. So we wanted to put the “deadly pink crystals” into the spotlight without breaking the immersion. By making all the non-interactive stuff blue, we channeled all the attention to the interactive crystals.

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In a sea of blue, the pink is your firework.

 

Beyond Stereotypes of Form and Colors

The pink crystals are not your typical “gonna kill you” stuff, so it may seem strange that we went with this in Light Fall. It’s true that pink isn’t usually used as a dangerous color and that the crystals aren’t extremely sharp. But because they are the highlight of the scene, the players automatically go ‘‘something’s fishy”, and they’re right. We didn’t need a red glow around some pointy sticks, we didn’t need a sign “watch out for the pink crystals of death”, we only went with a coherent color palette.

So, establish your color palette and embrace it with your game design. Go for a yellow but deadly banana or go for a red but loving bear if you want. Gamers want to see original stuff, give it to them. All that matters are the coherence and unity between your colors.

Stunfest 2016: Mat’s thoughts and recap

Hello everyone. This devlog post is not written by your usual suspect Ben, but by myself, Mat.

I decided to write a quick recollection of my thoughts and a short recap of my experience at the Stunfest 2016, that took place last week in Rennes, France.

My journey or how to introduce oneself to a new country

Last week, I attended the 2016 edition of Stunfest in Rennes, France, leaving my proud Bishop compatriots behind. My first mission was simple: to make new friends to replace them of course! It was the first time we presented Light Fall in Europe, and man, what a first time. I was travelling with Louis Leclerc from Pixel Quebec so at least I was in good company!

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The first dive
To start things in full force, I had to give a lecture on the first day in front of hundreds of game developers. The topic was on independent game development but also on our own experience at Bishop Games and how things are in Quebec, Canada. Obviously, the best way to grab everyone’s attention is to start strong. What else than a broken Powerpoint to do so? It was a stressful first minute but overall it went quite well. It allowed me to introduce myself to all the other exhibitors out there and break the ice in a funny way. At least people remembered me easily as ”the guy who fails at Powerpoint”!

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The leap of faith
The start of the exhibition! Ah, the Stunfest… a retro-arcade-indie game festival who brings forward everything we love in the video game culture. An outstanding and unique event! Armed with my laptop and a boatload of business cards, I was ready to showcase Light Fall to the European public: French, Swiss, Belgian and many more were at the rendez-vous. Three days of exhibition starting from 10 AM to 3 AM… Wait what?! Yeah, you read that right, it isn’t a typo. As a wise sage once said: sleep is for the weak…

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Seducing the French people
Quite the task, but I had some help. A rumor went by that some stranger from over the sea, living in the cold North of Canada, was in town. My French accent from Quebec, which is nothing like the one in France, was enough proof. People came by just to hear me speak sometimes…
Moreover, the Stunfest and the other indies in general were extremely generous. Light Fall received a lot of exposure: trailer showcase on the ‘Grande Place’ in front of thousands of people, public speed runs, a full-page in the event’s promotional pamphlet, etc. I was lucky enough to meet the gamers, the media and the press, as well as lots of speed runners during the days I spent there.

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France: the home of Speed run
What attracted that many speed runners to my booth: my Quebec accent or the Speed run mode of Light Fall? Alas, we will never know! One thing is certain though, the French speed runners absolutely loved their experience with the game. RealMyop, Speed them All and many others will keep an eye out for the game and are eager to share their feedback if needed. Good news for everyone, right?!

My pilgrimage: success or failure?
Only time will tell, but the reactions from the public and the press was honestly outstanding. I didn’t expect this at all, I’m usually not the guy who handles the press so I was going in blind. Overall, the event organizers and the indies were all extremely welcoming and helped me survive this gruesome exhibition schedule! Shout-out to the people of EpicBob, Eode Group, RuffleRim, Wako Factory and all the speedrunners! A very bright and amazing indie community resides over there.

As of right now, I can definitely say: Mission accomplished and until next time Stunfest!