This post was written by Brent Kobayashi, our lead artist for Road Not Taken, who is currently enjoying a much-deserved vacation so I’m posting on his behalf. -d
Meeting a few of you in person and talking online to others excited about Road Not Taken, I’ve been asked the question a number (2 is a number, right?) of times what the inspiration behind the look of the game was. Obviously, the style borrows heavily from kawaii aesthetics. The dot-ier the eyes, the higher the mouth, the happier I am. But that’s sort of a rule given my Japanese background. So, I’ll briefly mention a couple of specific points of inspiration behind the look of the game as well.
I have a terrible memory. I don’t often remember artists’ names I like, names of paintings I enjoyed, or what the point of this sentence was supposed to be since I started typing it. But very specific moments seem to stick with me. One of these moments is a brief scene in a montage from Samurai Jack of a matryoshka doll being sliced open, revealing a smaller nested doll, and she perks up for a split second. She’s alive! The moment lasted one second, but it was so unexpected and so delightful that it comes up in my conscience frequently. The memory of this brief moment was the kick-off point for all the artwork done on Road Not Taken up to this day:
Outside of illustration, another place for the inspiration behind the look of many characters in the game comes from old pottery and sculptures. Especially those from my favorite period in the history of humans making art, the Middle Nazca Period, 250 – 450 AD (Thanks to Wikipedia, anyone can sound cultured and look like they know what they’re talking about!) Their use of simple shapes ornamented with textile-like patterns is a look I’ve been going for for several years in my designs. When I started really digging into Nazca art I came to a sad, but inspiring nonetheless, realization that they seemed to have perfected what I’ve been trying to do. They only beat me by something like 1700 years. No biggie.
Finally, to follow up a little more on the idea of simple shapes, here’s a quick peek into an approach I use when creating these characters that will ultimately be shown at small and usually 1:1 aspect ratio size. Whenever I sketch out a character for a concept, I rarely draw them much larger than a Canadian quarter (Can’t guarantee this will work with US currency, sorry.) This ensures that the silhouette of the character will be legible at any size. Then I fill it in with all that fancy stuff. But ultimately, they’re just shadows playing with each other in my eyes.
I couldn’t leave you hanging without an actual update from the game, so here’s a piece of concept art that shows the original sketch for our newest character we’re currently working on, to the final art. Introducing… the Doctor!
If you have any source of unusual inspirations, let me know in the comments!