Exploring the art and animation behind hand-painted odyssey Planet of Lana

Look within the course of Planet of Lana and you will be smitten. The cinematic puzzle journey is being framed as a vibrant off-Earth odyssey by developer Wishfully, and it is easy to see why. 

The dreamy venture, at the moment slated for launch in 2022, contains a hand-painted aesthetic that mixes the whimsy and verve of Studio Ghibli photos with the slick stylings of contemporary classics like Limbo and Inside. It is a mix that feels each acquainted and recent, and if the early trailers and photographs are something to go by, ought to look rattling stunning in movement. 

Regardless of being a work-in-progress, Wishfully inventive director and lead sport designer Adam Stjarnljus agreed to speak with us about how Planet of Lana’s visuals had been conceived and finally carried out, charting an aesthetic journey that started 4 years in the past with a single picture.

Gamasutra: Why did you go for such a lucid visible type in Planet of Lana? Are you able to discuss us by means of a few of your inspirations? 

Adam Stjarnljus: To reply the query I would like to return in time a bit. This entire venture actually began with this picture that I drew again in 2017. Some issues have modified since then, Lana’s garments for instance, however in any other case it’s the identical picture we nonetheless use as our foremost key artwork.

It got here to fruition after I experimented to discover a sport concept that I may consider in as a result of I knew I needed to change my profession into sport improvement and to attempt to create a sport that I needed to play. 

I liked Inside and Limbo in addition to older platform journey video games like One other World (Out of this World) and Oddworld Abe’s Odyssey. I needed to take good bits from these video games and add the mechanic of a dog-like companion. And for the world, I needed to create one thing the exact opposite to the darkish and gloomy backdrops which are so prevalent in lots of sport experiences. I envisioned a colourful sci-fi world that also had a severe, grown-up tonality. A planet that reminds you of your individual experiences in nature on earth, however nonetheless is a vastly totally different place by way of its creatures and different surprises I’ll preserve to myself for now.

So with that concept formalized, I painted this picture in Photoshop. And when it was achieved I knew that I needed to attempt to carry this sport to life. That picture has been our guiding star style-wise since then.

Studio Ghibli is a giant inspiration, which got here naturally since I’m an enormous fan. Particularly Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro but in addition bits and items from different nice artistry in addition to Zelda video games reminiscent of Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker. From there we’re nonetheless attempting to carve out a novel type, with stylized flat-shaded characters, and this black foreground which provides the sensation of wanting right into a set-piece or theater stage which I actually like. 

May you clarify the way you iterated on among the earliest character design and environmental ideas? What knowledgeable your choice making as you refined these preliminary concepts? 

So my concern is that I can’t actually sketch, I virtually at all times find yourself persevering with till it’s a completed art work each time I put pen to pill. Which positively is just not at all times a very good factor. So mainly, there weren’t any iterations. I simply pushed on drawing extra of those “type frames” of how I envisioned future screenshots from the sport. It actually simply continued from pure pleasure of making these photos. 

In August of 2018, me and my spouse Maria Brunsson began a sport studio and our Lead Animator Olle Engström joined the venture. Because it was simply us right now and we did the job in our spare time, it actually freed me of any potential stress from others. These are the second and third photos I painted for the sport throughout this time.

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Relating to characters, we really began the venture with the imaginative and prescient of getting them in 2D with frame-by-frame animations, in addition to having a 2D world with parallax environments with a grid-based motion system, as within the previous classics I talked about above (One other World (Out of this World), Oddworld Abe’s Odyssey).

Right here you may see the primary frame-by-frame animations of Lana in addition to how our grid system labored.

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However after working for half a yr as a studio, we scrapped having the world and characters in 2D solely in addition to the grid system after early suggestions from publishers that had been harsh however in the end made loads of sense to us. The immersion and cinematic really feel we needed to create wanted a extra dynamic animation system with characters in 3D, and the world additionally benefited from a extra 2.5D look with extra 3D parts. 

Rapidly after this we shaped the present sport firm Wishfully along with a number of different very proficient folks. That is additionally when Klas Martin Eriksson joined as co-director and script author which actually additionally elevated the unique thought to new heights. 

At a later stage, we modified the garments of Lana as properly to make her pop extra towards the backgrounds.

You’ve got talked about on Twitter that you just’re working laborious to maintain the hand-painted type of your idea artwork when creating scenes in-game. May you discuss a bit about how you have achieved that — what expertise ({hardware}/software program) do you employ when recreating these painted scenes? 

So even when we got here to the conclusion that the world benefited from having extra of a 3D really feel, we nonetheless needed to maintain the hand-painted look of the unique idea artwork. The next yr, most of us nonetheless labored within the studio part-time as we experimented with looking for the appropriate steadiness technically to drag off this type as we developed a proof of idea demo for the sport. Nevertheless it was actually when our second artist Jimmy Chan, in addition to our proficient stage designer Rikard Carlsson, joined the studio that the type actually bought a lift. Collectively we discovered the appropriate steadiness of 3D belongings and 2D sprites to create the present type, which can also be fairly near the unique idea artwork as you may see under. 

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We obtain the look by hand-painting (in Photoshop and substance painter) the textures for 3D rocks, cliffs, floor planes, and different belongings. And in these textures we paint the “lighting” straight onto the rock, for instance. Similar with the sprites for grass, timber, leaves; we paint the lighting proper into every asset. We don’t have any magic 3D render pipeline. The magic comes from consideration to element and the way we then with these belongings, mannequin up every scene in order that the lighting feels pure and attention-grabbing. You could possibly name it a hand-painted baked lighting answer, I suppose.

On prime of that we use 3D lights for dynamic shadows from the characters on the bottom in addition to shadows on the 3D characters themselves. We use hidden “shadow planes” to create the 3D shadows from timber and belongings that aren’t really 3D. 

On some belongings we use a way the place we venture a 2D hand-painted picture of a tree for instance onto a 3D airplane and we then mannequin the tree to have a slight 3D impact on it. So it’s not really full 3D, however nonetheless offers a pleasant depth-effect as pictured the large tree within the gif under.

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In any other case, we create the sport in Unity and we use Maya LT for characters and surroundings items in addition to common Maya to bake rendered lighting for some extra superior areas indoors in addition to buildings.

It’s actually a mixture of methods to realize the ultimate look. 

Why did you select to hand-paint your idea artwork? What had been the professionals and cons?

We needed an authentic search for the sport and fell in love with this type, that’s the only cause. However to not confuse anybody, the idea artwork is “hand-painted” in Photoshop with a Wacom pill. Not made by hand with out a pc as some indie video games do, scanning in photos and many others. All kudos to builders that take that route. We would like our sport to appear like a portray in movement, however how we get there’s not necessary for us.

The professional of getting this hand-painted colourful look is that (if we’ve achieved our job proper) it stands out from the gang. Early on we observed that individuals already needed to play the sport even once we simply had that first picture to indicate. 

The con is that it took a particularly very long time to determine the way to technically obtain the ultimate look that we had been pleased with. 

What’s been probably the most difficult facet of designing and implementing Planet of Lana‘s visuals to this point? 

Due to the methods above we’re type of working towards what the rendering engine needs to do, which is utilizing real-time lighting, shaders, shadows, and many others. to create the look of the picture. Since that is the case we’ve got put ourselves in fairly just a few tough conditions the place we wish some elements of this traditional render system to work however others to be turned off or tweaked in methods the engine doesn’t assume is logical. 

Bringing the world to life has additionally been a problem in itself, however the dynamic wind system we created actually helps tie the type collectively and make it really feel like a dwelling, respiration world. 

The instance under exhibits a time-lapse from the method of portray a tree, to having the wind system carry it to life in-game.

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You are pitching Planet of Lana as a ‘cinematic’ expertise, however that is a phrase that will get tossed round rather a lot. What does that imply for you in actual phrases and the way are you trying to make good on that promise in a visible sense? 

For us it means creating an immersive, epic expertise for the participant. To ship on this imaginative and prescient, we have to ship a top quality bundle of artwork course, animation, music, and sound design on prime of the inspiration of enjoyable and assorted gameplay that additionally ties into the multilayered story.

We actually really feel it’s the entire bundle that creates the cinematic expertise. Since a number of of us within the studio come from a background of movie and animation it’s additionally a bonus to create a side-scrolling sport the place it’s a lot simpler to regulate the digicam framing and stage of every scene. 

How do you hope gamers will reply to the visuals after they finally play the sport?

I hope that it helps in transporting folks to this distant world, creating a novel backdrop for the story and destiny of Lana and Mui. And if it will probably encourage future sport builders to create the sport of their goals simply because the video games I grew up with did, that might be the most effective consequence for me personally. 

What is the greatest artwork design lesson you have discovered engaged on Planet of Lana? A slice of sport dev knowledge you wished you’d identified while you began the venture?

Be ready to vary issues if wanted. Regardless that it hurts to scrap months of labor it’s higher than persevering with on the mistaken path. Take note of how your viewers reacts to the type you might have chosen and if it really works. And provides your self time to iterate on the type to make it work and to make sense for the sport you’re making. 

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