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It's Sim City meets The Walking Dead. Rebuild civilization one building at a time in this strategy game for Win, Mac, iOS, & Android.
It's Sim City meets The Walking Dead. Rebuild civilization one building at a time in this strategy game for Win, Mac, iOS, & Android.
2,226 backers pledged CA$ 41,330 to help bring this project to life.

Rebuild's New Art Style

Posted by Sarah Northway (Creator)

Hi everyone! We've gotten some comments and questions about the art style in Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville. Lead artist Adam Meyer thought it'd be fun to take a deeper look into the art and and see why we've decided on this style for the new game:

Just a quick heads up on who I am, My name’s Adam Meyer and I’m the lead artist on Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville. So if you love what you've seen so far, then thanks! If you don’t? Then tough luck! Haha, seriously though, there have been some concerns raised about the new art direction and it not being as gritty or as realistic as Rebuild 2. Completely valid complaints, but why did we go this route? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few reasons why we went with the more cartoony look that we ultimately settled on. Caution, made up words ahead. 

1. Marketability: I know this one won’t be popular. But the truth is that to get this great game in even more hands, it needed to appeal to more casual users. Okay, now I got the tough one out of the way. 

2. Visibility: Because the game is going to be on mobile phones it ‘s extremely important that you can quickly recognize what you’re looking at. Characters, buildings and interface all needed to have enough exaggeration in them that they would be nice and clear with the limited screen space. Realistic stuff tends to kind of blend together when scaled down. 

3. Usability: At the end of the day, clean vector objects like this take up much less space than their raster cousins. So the game will download/install faster, and the graphics scale easily so they look just as good on different screen sizes. 

4. Consistency: One of the things Sarah expressed as a concern when starting this project was the lack of consistency in Rebuild 2. You had these realistic characters, title screen, and interface. But the map was filled with these very cartoony buildings. So above all, everything had to match. I also felt like there was a lot of humor in the game. Dark humor maybe, but humor non the less. So that was probably my main reason for developing the look the way I did. It just felt to me that it was the style that was most consistent with what Sarah was writing. 

5. Lovability? There are going to be hundreds of survivors in this game and every time you send one out to ransack the local All-Mart, we wanted you to fear for their lives. With this many characters you can imagine how they might all start looking the same if they were realistic. I mean most people have pretty similarly shaped heads. (I’m not looking at you Jay Leno!) Anyway we didn't want you to come down with a case of face blindness so we decided to make the characters more iconic so you not only would know who was who, but you’d care about them in the process. 

Now you know the reasons, let’s have some fun and compare apples to oranges. But first, a quick look at a few different rendering styles I tried out on the buildings. 

Here we can see that while most of the game is more cartoony that Rebuild 2, the buildings actually will be grittier and more detailed. Dead bodies, cracks in the buildings, broken windows, and generally more post apocalyptic looking.

This image really shows how we tried to find a balance in the new character designs. Somewhere between the first game’s stick figures and the second one’s realistic characters. Just for some nostalgic fun you can check out Sarah’s original post about the new art style for Rebuild 2. I noticed a lot of the comments in there preferred the originals more cartoony style. Haha. So we've come full circle now. 

Interface comparison. It’s hard to tell in this pic, but the interface blends much better with the map this time around. 

Even though we went a completely different artistic direction for the new game, I’m trying very hard to pull from the prior games. For example, the giant red moon and city in the background found it’s way into the new logo.

I hope you've enjoyed us pulling the curtain back on Rebuild's new look. Thanks to everyone for your support!

Speaking of art. stay tuned next week for some live drawing from illustrator Sara Gross. You'll be able to drop in on her TwitchTV channel and watch her sketch Rebuild characters while the team answers questions live.

mark thorson, Darrel Hutchins, and 11 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      John Schiavone on

      I typically hate to simply echo something already said, but I feel strongly enough to add my opinion to the (seemingly) growing mass below.

      I actually really, really like the new art style, and I love the survivors. But the zombies AND the logo screen are a huge turnoff for me. As much as I love the Rebuild series (and I really do love it!), I almost decided to pass on this Kickstarter based on that opening graphic alone before I pushed myself to read more closely.

      As mentioned, the zombies look far too... friendly and goofy. It's one thing to make the survivors more relatable and thus easier to get attached to. It's another to make the primary antagonists something out of a coloring book for kids.

      Yes, Rebuild has its share of humor, but this is the same game where a wedding party were violently eaten and where survivors can be sold into sexual slavery for weapons. It's a pretty dark place. These zombies don't feel like they belong there.

      Anyways, I love the rest! Best of luck, and I'm looking forward to the game!

    2. Esai Munoz on

      I agree with Celtika!

    3. Missing avatar

      Celtika on

      The buildings look great in my opinion, and are just what i would hope for in a game that has evolved in the manner which 'rebuild' has.

      I agree with the characters having distinctive faces, because it does help them stand out a little more, and it does allow us to build a bit more of a relationship with them.

      As for the zombies? Big thumbs down from me.
      While i don't need guts and eyeballs hanging out, with half the skin of their face rotting away, i would at least like to feel a degree of 'fear' when i am looking at them.
      It's extremely hard to take the game seriously based on the zombies that have been shown so far, and i think it would be a dire mistake to keep the friendly/comical zombies the way they are.
      A zombie game should have proper zombies.

    4. Missing avatar

      Russell Sullivan on

      I like the direction the art is going, but please add some shadows to the characters to make them more consistent with the buildings. In addition, I must agree with the other comments about the zombies. They don't look menacing enough. I realize you are trying for a wider demographic, but the zombies don't look scary at all.

    5. Missing avatar


      Love the extra detail of the buildings, and I don't mind the caricature style of the people; I get what you're going for with making them more iconic. I don't even really mind the zombies in the logo screen; the background ones have appropriately moaning-dead faces, and the smiling one has a sinister air that makes me worry that not all undead are dumb in this game. (He looks like a Harrowed from Doomtown, which is cool). And anyway, we won't be looking at the logo screen during play.

      For me, the only thing that doesn't fit is that one bug-eyed, spike-haired, sad looking zombie on the other screens that appears to be the persistent icon for "hunting zombies" (on this update, it's the one with red bar on the character screen, but I've also seen it on the map). I agree with the others - if that is going to be the face of the enemy while I'm playing, it would be nice to make it a bit more threatening. Not gory or grittier, just less puppy-dog eyed, so I will indeed feel uneasy about sending my people after them.

    6. Brendon Faulkner on

      I'm a backer because the first two games were fantastic. I like that there is a new art style. I does feel a bit more cartoonish than I'd like but its a step up from the cut out paper dolls from 2. All in all, I'm super excited.

    7. Dont touch those squirrels nuts! on

      What Peter Jacob said several down below...

    8. Missing avatar

      Woolfe on

      Thanks Adam, I for one like your work. Altho it is good to see I am not the only one who didn't like that female character, she just looks odd.
      I actually liked the "Realistic" characters of R2, but was not a fan of the still shots and intro page. I find your style to be a nice fit with the old city scape, so for me its good.
      I like what you are doing with the cityscape. Will there be variations of the buildings?
      Also in R1 the actual number of Zombies on a block used to be represented in the image. So from day to day a blcok could change from a few zombies to lots, then to a horde etc. It was a really nice touch that I am hoping makes a return.
      I could stand the Zombies being a touch more "violent" looking. But overall I think they are ok.
      Finally the term "Cartoony" is a terrible term, and is used everywhere, even in games that are much more realistic than this. This term needs to die horribly torn to death by the Zombie hordes... Please please stop using it!!! (Sorry pet peeve of mine :) )

    9. Missing avatar

      Geoffrey Brent on

      One thing I really liked about the art for #2 was the way it handled female characters. Racially diverse, quite a range of faces, and they got to wear sensible zombie-hunting clothes just like the guys.

      I hope #3 hangs on to that. I've seen too many games that look like they were designed for 14-year-old boys who don't have access to girlie magazines, if you know what I mean.

    10. Missing avatar

      Sebastian A. Mayotte on

      Hey long time fan here, and as many others have said; the building and survivor changes are reasonable and good...but the zombies are a serious downgrade

      Zombies are meant to be gory, grotesque, and scary. if they aren't, comedic or not, the game will fail.

      You mention wanting us to be more emotionally attached to the characters/game, but that's impossible if the enemy is too cartoonist... why do I car if my #2 guy gets zombified, if the zombies are just so outlandishly humorous.

      How can I truly despise something I can't even look at with a straight face. why do I fear the zombies? why do I fight them? this game looks good, and you still have my $75, but I'll be honest this zombie thing is really throwing me off, please reconsider their style, keep the mood appropriate.

    11. Felipe Peluco on

      I've liked the buildings/survivors art style, but these zombies...they are not very scary, and as peter jacob said, i wouldn't show it to anyone, but anyway, i bet that it's going to be amazing, keep it up!

    12. Peter Jacob on

      Thanks for being upfront about it at least. If I were to rate the new art style, it'd be:

      Buildings - Yes
      Survivors - Maybe
      Zombies - No, nope, nein, nyet. As a fan of the zombie genre, I would feel embarrassed playing something that had that pic on the screen. I couldn't show that to someone, not without a disclaimer at least. "Um, ignore that. The game is actually good."

    13. TanC on

      Appeal to the casual gamer?? What's this crap??

      LOL. J/K. I can appreciate the need for mass market appeal and to be honest the graphical direction is pretty good already; I do prefer Rebuild 3's art style over 2. Looks grittier. As to the proportions of characters, I think the proportions should be off to accentuate the cartoony feeling of the game. Sure, there's nothing funny about death but this game is designed to be humorous through and through. Why shouldn't it reflect this in the art style too?

    14. AitchThree on

      I very much have to agree that the proportions of the female character are just way off, in just about every way. Not being any good at art, I know I couldn't do any better myself, but since I first saw it, it bugged me. Overall I'm pleased with the art, especially the priesty dude with the shades I've seen about!

      The dude isn't bad, but a guy running around in BVDs would be annoying. A gal running around in BVDs would also be annoying, but it would probably cause less complaining.

      I think the smiling cover zombie is a good indicator that there will be zombies that are still intelligent and possible allies, which I greatly look forward to!

    15. alcaray on

      For me, art is not nearly as important as game-play. To the point that I still spend a large chunk of my gaming hours using dosbox. Make it fun, is all that I ask.

    16. Kelly Barrett on

      I prefer R2 art style as well, but Adam has provided valid reasons for going in the direction he is. Although I don't think humour means you need cartoon characters.

      Anyway, as long as the gameplay remains interesting and fun, and the UI easy to use, easy to read and informative, then I'll be happy.

      Thanks for the post Adam :)

    17. parmeisan on

      I'm one of those who didn't like the style of 2 much. Rebuild 1 was nice and clean but I think I like 3 better than it so far. It's more detailed without being gruesome or distracting, and as this post points out, the visibility is great.
      I must admit that something about that female figure bothers me though. I think it might be that her arms are too short and she's oddly-proportioned around the hip/stomach area... kind of like she's trying to suck in her belly and thrust her butt out.
      (I think it might also go a long way to assuaging people's sensitivities if the smiling zombie in the logo was a bit more sinister... like maybe his smile was showing pointy teeth or something. It doesn't bug me much, but ever since somebody pointed it out, it *does* seem off with the rest of the game's mood.)
      Anyway, it's all fine with me. I think the style's great.

    18. Frank on

      Cool. Any chance you'll randomize the appearance of buildings with the same name (with graffiti, trash, cars, other knicknacks)?

    19. Sean Long on

      Speaking as a long-time Rebuild fan (Rebuild was among the first ten things I bought for my new iPad a couple months ago) ...?

      Honestly, I think R3's art direction is the best of them, so far. And the reasons for that are indeed consistency and recognisability.

      One mild criticism I have, though? While I generally like the overall STYLE of the character art, and don't find them "ugly" ... Tim Gilbert nonetheless is correct about the female character art. The male character IMO is fine, but ... damn, that female model is just ... all kinds of wrong, and all of them do to with proportions.

    20. Missing avatar

      Tim Gilbert on

      I think the new building pictures for R3 are fantastic, and I pretty much agree with the five principles you laid out.

      I really don't like the new character work, though. it just looks, sorry, kind of ugly to me. The proportions are way off, like the female figure's legs are 150% the length of her torso + head, and she has tiny little T-Rex arms, and a little wee head that is about 2/3 the size of the male figure's head.

      I don't object to cartoony art in general (I don't really think it fits with the overall tone of a game where characters frequently die in terrible ways, but I can deal with it), but I don't much like /this specific/ cartoony art. I also think I'll play the game less if I have to look that that one dude's grey tighty-whities (with belt loops!) the whole time.

      I hope you take this in the spirit of constructive criticism. I really do like those building designs a lot.

    21. Jörn Huxhorn

      @Zombra You really should play the previous games. They are worth it.

      I also like the new style.

    22. Rhys Corlett on

      I prefer the R2 art style, but I can also appreciate the new direction. It's the same game underneath, the new style is pretty enough and the old characters always looked like they were on a road trip from the uncanny valley.
      My one worry is that the stats are hard to read due to the layout. For that one section you need a little bit more consistency, and a few less off centre boxes.

    23. Zombra on

      Full disclosure: I never played 1 or 2. I don't know if that makes my opinion less valuable than those of fans of the "classics", but I think the art style for 3 looks wonderful; I much prefer it to the "realism" of 2.