Broken Roads art director talks about making a game in Australia
“Some of the biggest inspirations for Broken Roads have been shows like Opal Hunters and Aussie Gold Hunters,” Kerstin Evans, artistic director of Broken Roads, tells me. their most difficult to achieve the big salary. Many of them live in makeshift dwellings, wear the same clothes every day, live on cans of beans, and are more concerned with survival than lush living. These shows have been a great resource for researching how to make our surroundings and our characters more authentically Australian. ”
For context, Evans has been directing the game’s striking visuals since its inception in 2019. I’ve been following Broken Roads since its announcement that year. A lot of things struck me when I first saw him – how much he oozed the original Fallout vibes in his descending karmic dystopia, for one thing. However, the visuals were what really hooked me. They had that hand-drawn feel rather than the grainy, pixelated realism of older RPGs, and while it looks quaint and beautiful, the horrors of the world have been impressively preserved. “The visual expectations of games have changed dramatically in recent years,” Evans tells me. “The quality of a game is no longer judged by the realism of the graphics.
“The retro aesthetic is largely a product of the days when the original Fallout was created, and I think the roughness comes from the overall feel of the game world. Fast forward to now and there’s more room in the market for games with different artistic directions. Game visuals no longer need to be “real” to be of value. Some of my biggest inspirations from the past decade are Darkest Dungeon, TellTale’s The Walking Dead, Dishonored, Guild Wars 2, and Don’t Starve. All of these titles are part of a great list of games that have dared to break the mold and lean into their concept art style, rather than translating concept art into hyper-realistic graphics. More recently, the success of games like Disco Elysium further proves that we can and should experiment with the aesthetics of our games.
While Evans and the team are aware of letting their personality and style come through in the execution of the Broken Roads aesthetic, they also want to make sure that the Australian feeling is kept intact. There aren’t many video games in the apocalypses that take us beyond typical settings like America or Russia, so it’s exciting to see a huge nation bursting with culture having the opportunity to shine, especially with so few games installed there. Naturally, the developers at Drop Bear Bytes want to make sure that everything is done right.
“We do a lot of research into what our country and its people really look like, rather than what we think they look like,” Evans tells me. “Craig [Ritchie, Drop Bear Bytes co-founder] has been in many real world locations in Western Australia that you will see in our game. He has taken over 1000 photos which we use as a reference to create our levels.
This collaboration between the art team and the developers is showing through, and it’s apparently part of the culture of Drop Bear Bytes, at least from the outside. “My main responsibility is to make sure that the visual direction of Broken Roads is consistent with that of Craig. creative vision for the game, ”says Evans. “That is, create a game that feels like you are playing in the work of art. To keep the whole team aligned with this goal, I created a concept art representing our visual target for Broken Roads. The team uses this image as the primary reference for all visuals in the game.
“As an art director, I have to make some tough decisions to get the visuals for Broken Roads in line with our visual target. It could mean anything from suggesting a more efficient workflow for artists to a difficult conversation about reducing content in the game itself. Any decision I make, I consult with the whole team and make sure that this is really the best decision for the project.
Kerstin’s journey into the world of game development resulted in one of the finest indie games in recent memory. Broken Roads has a haunting aesthetic, and that’s thanks to her and the talented artists at Drop Bear Bytes. It’s exciting to see a resurgence of this graphic approach, favoring style over realism – we see that approach in the anime look of Genshin Impact, the stylized realism of Half-Life: Alyx, and – as Kerstin put it. same – another isometric adventure game, Disco Elysium. The painterly art style of Broken Roads is akin to other independent characteristics like Owlboy and Roki, modern classics in their own right. It’s wonderful to see a continuation of that mindset and I can’t wait for it to launch later this year so I can dive in and explore this gripping rendition of Australia.
You may currently wishlist Broken Roads on Steam. The game will also launch on Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation in late 2021.
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