Shadow Puppeteer Sketches of the final design for the Island Village

Concept Development: The Art of the Island Village

Today’s post is by Marianne and Philip, who reworked the original visual concept of Shadow Puppeteer and lay down the guides for the final design.

When we started reworking the design, we decided to start looking at different sources of inspiration. We didn’t want a classic «steampunk» setting or another typical setting. The internet is a wonderful source of inspiration, but there are a few drawbacks. 1) It’s easy to find what you are looking for, but not always as easy to by chance stumble across something that might be of interest, and 2) It is so easy to get sidetracked or lost and lose precious time.

So to seek inspiration we went to the library next door at the Hedmark University College. We started looking through the art, culture and architecture sections, picking out books on different topics. Then we brought as many as we could carry back to our office and worked our way through the, making mental notes and small sketches of things we thought might be of interest. After going through the books we experimented with and discussed various styles and general shapes of different elements.

(Early sketches of shapes and elements)

(Early sketches of shapes and elements)

After a while we decided on certain shapes that would be found throughout the world to create a sense of unity, and designs for the opening area in particular. The three main elements that embodied these shapes were were:

– Roman arches

– Norwegian cabin logs

– Breitind (Norwegian mountian)

(Sources of inspiration. From top left: Breitind, drawing of a "stabbur" by Eilert Sundt, The Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Findalslaft)

(Sources of inspiration. From top left: Breitind, drawing of a “stabbur” by Eilert Sundt, The Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Findalslaft)

From there we had a long discussion about natural resources and technology. The idea that this was a island was born, and from Breitind we found the shape of a bare «rock» in the sea.

The Rainforest suffered over the next couple of days with our frantic sketching on paper, our stacks of ideas growing larger and larger. Computers are good to work on, but with quick sketches and ideas that you just want to share and explore as fast as possible, we found that the best things was to be in the same room, and not be distracted by a screen. We always had the option to refine or revisit and expand upon some ideas digitally later.

(Early sketches of the Island Village)

(Early sketches of the Island Village)

With an idea of the resources at hand and technology, we explored how this would have shaped a society and their culture. In the end we focused on what it would do to a people to live on an island as bare and bleak as we were imagining, and decided that the people would be:

– Fairly isolated (news and ideas don’t travel fast to them from other parts of the world)

– Stubborn (even though life is hard they choose to stay)

– Maybe not so bright (related to the stubborn-ness)

– Self- sufficient (with restricted contact with the outside world they could have to manage on their own)

So in essence: They have made the most of what they have, even if their solutions aren’t the best ones.

As we continued to explore the design, we changed some things. The prominent roman arches seemed too complex for the Island people to make with their «if it works, it works» mentality. So we changed from roman arches to straight edges to reflect their limited engineering capabilities. After all, if life is hard and you’re spending most of your time just surviving, you’re probably not going to set much stock in overly complicated designs.

We made a demo where the Island Village was a city that you walked around in, but we found that it didn’t work with the gameplay. Players would get lost. So, we created a hillside structure, as though the people we’re just clinging on to the side of the rocks of the island. Visually we loved it as it enforced the sense of isolation and stubborn-ness we wanted.

Sketches of the final design for the Island Village

(Sketches of the final design for the Island Village)

Most of our thoughts and process may not be evident in the final game. But in having a thorough design proces we ensured that everyone understood what the world is about, and as a result we have hopefully create a look with a sense of unity about it.


Shadow Puppeteer available on Steam

37 thoughts on “Concept Development: The Art of the Island Village

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