Choosing an art style for my party game
I promised myself I would not do any more large projects without working in teams, but I never said anything about small ones. Even with the small ones however, I'm stuck with the same problem I have with all projects: I'm not that great at creative and artistic direction.
Consider my latest project "Domino Arena," possibly the smallest one I've done myself besides Paper Cowboys. It's a multiplayer "party" puzzle / action game where you have a playfield full of colored dominoes, and you manipulate places in the playfield where one domino knocks over more than one at a time such that as many dominoes as possible match your player's color.
You can see a concept video on YouTube:
I think it will take a tutorial and a little getting used to, but it could be fun. I'd at least like to pitch a beta around to see what people think when it's ready.
Now that the basic mechanics are defined, I need to figure out how the game will look. I've narrowed it down to three styles: Cartoon, "Jeweled" and semi-realism.
As a mobile developer, my first thought is always "cartoon" because all the popular and top selling apps that come to mind are all cartoony or at least have vibrant, pleasant art themes. Every "party" game I've played also shared similar traits. After looking at a bunch of mobile board game and Mario Party screen shots, I experimented with a scene using cell shading and six spotlights.
It's clear where all the dominoes are and everyone should be able to discern the blue from the gold dominoes...but the environment colors just don't look right to me. I'm concerned that if I make them brighter, then the dominoes will blend in more and players will have a more difficult time seeing them. If someone were to help with art direction, I bet this could work. Otherwise I can toy around with this a bit more.
During development I asked myself "what other games have game mechanics that rely on color?" The first game that came to mind was Bejewelled. After finding some gem shaders on the Unity Asset Store, I came up with a weird, wild theme of jeweled dominoes in dark scenes that keep the player's focus on the game's primary objects.
The word I would use is "bizarre." The mechanic and the style seem altogether foreign from anything I've played before...but that could be a good thing. I do like looking at the pretty colors, anyway. I could also have players "collect" the jeweled dominoes that match their color when a game is over, and have the grand total maintained on a leaderboard.
When I'm in doubt over style, I always turn to wood textures because i find them pleasant to look at. It's hard to see in the picture, but the dominoes are reflecting on the floor.
I thought this would look better as I was working on it; and the white dominoes on wood looked fine when the simulation began....but when they got colored, they just seemed out of place with the rest of the scene to me.
For me it's a close race between cartoony and jeweled with a lean toward jeweled. If I had to decide this moment, I would make a beta with a tutorial, three multi-player jeweled levels, computer player support, and just throw it out there and see what happens. If it gets a positive response, I'd work it to completion; otherwise it's still an eye catcher I can add to my portfolio.