How Clash: Artifacts of Chaos uses traditional techniques to look like an animated illustration
Video games can use many different styles to create a unique look. For Clash: Artifacts of Chaoswe knew from the start that we wanted to use a very colorful and unrealistic game for many reasons: to make it stand out from other games in the genre, to allow us to stylize and exaggerate the animation and color palette, and to bring illustrations and punk fantasy closer, which in the first place turn inspired the creation of the world.
Stylized rendering is a powerful tool that highlights what “What to draw?” And “How to draw it? these are two different questions. This is the third time we’ve been visiting the surreal world of Zenozoic and its primitive humanoid animal inhabitants, but for the first time we’re approaching “how to draw it” with a really different technique!
We could have gone in many different directions and we tested several different styles before settling on the one we used. When choosing what to simplify and what to exaggerate, you get completely different effects. One of the more interesting styles we tested was the painterly thick brushstroke (above). It allowed for very expressive forms, a messy, almost impressionistic look, and was certainly very different.
We eventually abandoned this style because of the oversimplification it produced: our artists always wanted to add more small details to characters and environments, details that wouldn’t shine in this impressionistic style.
The rendering style we have chosen is called hatching or crosshatching. This is a drawing style that creates shadows and conveys lighting by drawing closely spaced lines. The closer the lines are to each other, the darker the area will appear. This style is often used in traditional drawings, illustrations, and comics, and gives the artwork a hand-drawn look. This technique allowed us to achieve an illustrated style while retaining detail.
By separating lighting information and conveying light intensity and detail primarily with ink pencil lines, we can treat color as a separate layer. This allows us to use more artificial color schemes that would look odd in a realistic rendering style but match the look of the illustration. Purple and orange skies, blue or yellow-skinned characters, orange mud, turquoise and green mineral deposits in the mountains… we intentionally use rich colors or color combinations that are hard to find in nature to convey that this is a different world.
One of the main challenges in getting the hatch style to work was making sure it worked at different distances and with different levels of detail. It’s not just about drawing lines on a surface, because what works for small details up close may not work for a mountain at a distance. In addition, some features need to be preserved more carefully, such as the eyes of the characters, which are the focus point and should always remain sharply defined and defined. The lines should be consistent so that it looks like they were all made with the same tool.
Finally, while we designed a very specific look for the game, we still decided to include configuration options so players can personalize the look. Players can choose a cleaner look or add and remove effects. We even left out the comic book-inspired black and white mode, which isn’t perfect for reading but still great to play!
Clash: Artifacts of Chaos will be released March 9th already available for pre-order on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One. If you’re interested in keeping an eye on all future news, developer blogs, and trailers, feel free to follow us on Twitter or join our official Discord server.