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Worlds Apart

John set some high expectations with last week's post!

So we mentioned in our first #screenshotsaturday post that we're still working out how to transition between the real and fantasy worlds. Not only is there a shift in the environments, but also in the style in which they're drawn. Some of y'all with a keen eye may have noticed the disparity in that initial gameplay GIF, so I'd like to talk about the differences, and why they're there.

Probably the most obvious inconsistency is that the world of reality is flat-shaded and one-dimensional while the fantasy world seems to take on more dimension through shading. Another visible difference has to do with the colors used in the environments: the colors of the real world are brighter and more discordant while the colors of the fantasy world are more muted and complementary.

It wasn't deliberate, at the outset.

I actually started working on the backgrounds that are a part of Fantastic Jack's reality world back in April 2013. I was feeling really demotivated about Two-Faced and had the idea for the prototype that became Fantastic Jack; it got my mind off of Two-Faced, and gave me a way to focus my creative energy.

Flash forward to August 2014, when we decided that Fantastic Jack should be the next game Adorkable Games would take into development, partnering with Disparity Games to announce Fantastic Jack as part of the Kickstarter for Ninja Pizza Girl. As part of the announcement, we agreed to produce that gameplay GIF.

In retrospect, even the workflow suggested the differences that would emerge between reality and fantasy.

I made a storyboard of the gameplay sequence and a breakdown of the individual assets, then got to work.

I gave myself constraints while creating the real world. I worked inward, starting with the frames of each building, which I blocked out after carefully working out the optimal size of buildings relative to each other; this involved lots of math. After I established the exterior structure, I moved into compartmentalized spaces inside, from the window displays to the back walls, filling in individual items until the space was bursting with detail. I wasn't satisfied with simplicity. Every pixel has intent.

The fantasy worlds feel more expansive, likely from working outward. I collected a lot of references for the fantasy environments but didn't have set boundaries, which enabled the spaces to flow somewhat freeform. By design, the fantasy worlds exist on a larger scale but don't require as much complexity. Without constraints, composition was the key, enabling the environments to breathe. Imagination fills in the details.

Of course, the differences might be attributed to a more basic truth: so much of our reality revolves around indoor spaces, whereas fantasy usually involves the desire to escape and explore.

But I realized that, inadvertently, the inconsistency between worlds carries significance in the context of the gameplay and cemented the contrast as a stylistic decision.

In Fantastic Jack, the real world’s vibrant, clashing colors combined with the presence of detail and lack of depth suggest a shallow exaggeration of our own reality that’s almost overwhelming. Jack’s reality is unwelcoming.

Fantastic Jack’s fantasy worlds are, ironically, more realistic. The lush fantastic worlds evoke the freedom of possibility. The fantasy realm is full of dangers and is challenging to navigate, but is also more exciting. Jack runs faster, jumps higher, as well as acquires other abilities that aren't present in the real world. Yet, as appealing as the fantasy is, Jack can’t exist only in fantasy.

After all, Jack has responsibilities. Like getting home and doing homework.

The way the worlds are drawn mirrors perceptions of reality and fantasy.

Admittedly, I realized a hint of depth snuck into some of the elements of the real world--you can find shading on the streetlights--and some of the elements of the fantasy world are flat--like the snowmobile--but this only reinforces the connection between worlds. The line is blurred.

Plenty of cause to wonder what is reality and what is fantasy.

###

We're gonna be taking a break from Fantastic Jack next weekend 'cause we'll be celebrating our fourth jammiversary at the Global Game Jam! You can still expect a #screenshotsaturday post from us, but it'll be about our GGJ game instead. Thanks for understanding!

/Ashley

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