Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Pigs (part 3)

Continued from part 2...

When the idea for the game first started as a parody of Angry Birds, we obviously deemed birds as the villains of the game. In my earlier sketches, I wanted the birds to be stupid, idiot creatures, but the head of the game wanted more a more sinister feel to them - that they were aware that they were evil, and would therefore be more appealing to defeat. You can see in the sketches below, the first couple of birds all look pretty dumb... and then they all start to look really pissed off. After sketching out just basic everyday neighborhood birds, I started going with all different types of birds - owls, eagles, chickens, woodpeckers, pelicans, penguins - just to get a good variety in there.

The first bird I took to a more polished state was this one. Later on, we had to take him out of the game because we didn't want to encroach on copyright issues with Rovio once the game became less of a parody.

The next couple of birds were all created to give the game variety. Each bird has several different facial expression states that it uses throughout game use, including smiling, laughing, being scared, being injured, and blinking doubles of each of those expressions. This was one of my favorite parts of the design process - coming up with all the different types of characters and then figuring out what each of them looked like with different emotions.

The favorite bird of the team was by far the Cuckoo bird. We wanted a villain mascot for the jungle levels that stood out and seemed crazier than the rest of the birds.

One of the references that really helped me was Kevin from Pixar's "Up," especially when it came to picking out its colors.

After a year of development and work, the game was submitted to and rejected from the Apple store, mostly due to copyright problems with Angry Birds and their massive hold in the Apple Store economy. The gameplay underwent some interesting changes and instead of being a game about merely killing off all of the enemies, it became about freeing fellow pigs through more of a puzzle-strategy process, instead of a blast-and-smash approach. One of the major changes we had to make was to change the villain and, after a lengthy rest from working at Giraffon, I came back for a few months to start working on the new antagonist. One of the first ideas that I pitched was to make the bad guy a wolf because it makes total sense when you connect it to the 3 Little Pigs, but some of the other ideas that I pitched were little imps, devils, and robots. We decided to go with the wolves.

Wolves would be a completely different approach than the birds. The birds were all round-ish and didn't move around much. They had no limbs or joints and the only thing that changed on them was their facial expression, making their animation much easier. Now we had a wolf - with four legs, an elongated body, and a head that could swivel around on its neck. I worked with the programmer to find out the easiest way that we could bring the character to life and make him move without having to animate frame-by-frame images (which, apart from being more work, would take up more memory in the game).

Another idea that I came up with that didn't make it in the game was to have boss battles - you would have a giant version of one of the birds (or wolf) who would move around and had a weak spot somewhere on their body. You would have to have good timing and aim to be able to hit just the right spot, but you would get to destroy a huge enemy every once in a while instead of constantly strategizing through the levels. Wouldn't that be cool? I thought so.

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