Follow up to the June 1st Art Update
Kickstarter is sometimes an imperfect medium to have a two-way conversation, but in this case I feel the need to at least follow up to the many comments on yesterday's post.
I want to start with a little extra context for how we arrived where we are with the style.
1. We cannot copy Yoshida's style
PlayDek engaged Yoshida, he did work, he was never paid for it, and there was a dispute. I have already spent months going back and forth with Cygames about bringing him back or even paying for the work he did, but we couldn't make that happen. So it's important to bear in mind that legally we need to stay clear of his style and anything he did previously for the project. I don't want to step into dicey territory that will jeopardize the project.
For the record, I absolutely love Yoshida's work. I wish this situation were different. As you saw in early updates, we tried playing with some hybrid styles. At best they were passable. At worst they felt like cheap Western knockoffs of Japanese art. So we abandoned that approach.
2. We are limited by what the studio can do
It is possible that PlayDek would have been able to deliver on the thousands of art assets it takes to make this game - all within the style they showed. But it's important for me to acknowledge what my studio can and can't do well. We are not a 2D pixel art studio. We aren't a Japanese-based art studio with lots of that style of talent.
In fact I saw mention of Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment in the comments, and I think that's a very good example. My studio (Hijinx/Game Machine) worked on Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment. It was our first tactics game, and being forced to deliver on that art was awful. Konami had their hearts (pun intended) in the right place, but they also pushed us into a box where we weren't going to be successful. I don't want to repeat that situation.
Side note: I wont take the bullet for the VH:FoJ cutscenes. Those were completed by another team that we had no control over.
3. We are already significantly behind
Many backers have graciously told us to take all the time we need - despite having already waited more than 4 years for the game they paid for. And in a perfect world, we could iterate forever. Sadly that is not the case. We are a small studio, we took on a lot of extra cost for the eventual Kickstarter rewards, and eventually we need to ship this game.
So where do we go from here?
First, it's okay not to like the art.
I said back at the beginning when we took over this project that we were going to be 100% transparent. We were going to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I think that is especially important now more than ever.
By the same token, I want everyone to feel comfortable expressing their opinions too. That's okay. The minute we stop posting on a regular basis or you guys stop responding is when we've lost the true spirit of this Kickstarter.
Second, I have read each and every comment.
There are lots of very well thought out pieces of feedback that the team will be considering as we move forward - specifically female bust and waistlines, exaggerated "cartoony" proportions, and color saturation. I also acknowledge that we need to push to make sure this style stands out on its own. I can't promise that we are going to address each backer's specific concerns, but we will do our best.
Lastly, our enthusiasm for staying true to this project hasn't changed.
This was the comment that hurt the most to read yesterday, and it's probably the biggest reason I'm posting today.
We have worked very hard to stay true to what you guys backed. It goes without saying that changes and additions have been made. My lead writer may never get proper credit for the amazing work she has done alongside Matsuno's work. Hopefully most fans wont be able to tell where his work ends and hers begins. But it takes a lot of people to make a game like this, and the original core ideas have to translate successfully through a lot of hands before they become a finished product.
Art is no different. It needs to not only look aesthetically pleasing, but it needs to serve many functions for the game to work properly.
Please bear in mind that you've only seen the first couple pieces of what we have planned, and it's all out-of-context. We haven't shared any fully composited scenes with finished environment art and UIs. The studio needs to keep pushing forward, but we're listening, and things will continue to evolve.
I hope you'll continue reading, watching, and commenting. Most of all, please be patient just a little longer. You may find that as things progress they aren't as bad as you thought or maybe we incorporate a change that helps make the style work better. And if not, please know that we gave it our all.
Thank you for your continued patience and support.
Sincerely, Matthew Scott