Step 2 of Game Development: General Game Story & Concept Art
Considering our game is based on a very clever novel, it’s necessary to try to carry the same feel in the game story that readers get from the book, all while avoiding book spoilers. The gameplay mockups are definitely among the first, if not the first image you’d want to put together. This is because the gameplay mockup images convey most of the information right away. For instance, if a developer is envisioning a side scroller platformer game, he or she wouldn’t want other people to picture a first person shooter.
Gameplay mockup images convey the genre of the game, ideas for environments and UI elements, what combat will look like, and the camera distance and behavior. In our case, it’s a great way to explore a visual style in terms of concept art work. For The Ables: Freepoint High, we knew we wanted a fun, cartoony style that was approachable for any audience, but not so kiddie looking that it alienated more mature players.
To be sure that we were carrying the same feel in the game story that the readers got from the book, we all discussed what aspects from the book stood out to us. We talked about what our favorite parts were - not just story-wise - but which concepts were the most memorable. We all agreed that the twists on the superhero tropes are what make the book such a fun read. So when planning out how best to translate that feeling into game format, it was easy for us to come up with logical fixes for certain game necessities. For example, we decided who would be the “cannon-fodder” enemies of every level. We came up with logical fixes by asking, “What if some of the Believers have the power of increased mental abilities, like Bentley, but instead of just being super smart, they know how to build an army of robots, or are super smart with genetics to make mutants?” This is how we really expanded the universe.
One of Dave’s personal favorite ideas that made it into the final design was introducing a power not mentioned in the book, but that fits the novel universe well. The idea is that one of the Believers has the ability to open portals to a hellish dimension and call forth little demon imps. In the book, Mr. Finch turns himself into a demonic fire creature and it’s one of the most memorable moments from the book. Adding this ability as a super-power stays true to the overall feel of the book, while it definitely also adds something new. It’s a pretty big expansion on the Ables universe.
The nature of making licensed games naturally lends itself to one of two paths. The first being using the intellectual property in a way to spark creativity to make something new and expand on the IP in a way to create a whole new entity that can gain popularity on its own. The second being just retelling the book or movie in game-format. After some research, we learned that the best licensed games were ones that stood on their own as a fun game, even if one takes out all the references to the IP it was based on. It was an easy decision for us to decide to use the book as a jumping point and make the game great on its own.
Freepoint High available for pre-order December 15th!