Interview with Steven Rynders, Hillary Esdaile, and Jonathan Winkler from Chronosaur. Additional commentary by Patrick Meehan.

Moai interview: Patrick was telling me yesterday how having placeholder art plugged into the game early on helped get Chronosaur going and led to adjustments in the art direction and gameplay. Tell me about the process.


Steven: We used some images from our concept art and just plugged them in. At the time, we were just getting started, learning how to get art into the game and move it around. What we saw was that everything was way too small! We had wanted players to be able to see what was coming, but it turned out that this wasn’t really important. It was more important to feel that you were smashing things and causing damage.

Patrick: And you went through several phases of artistic style didn’t you? You had the little buildings that the dinosaur could jump over, then tiled buildings that were flat, then a 1 point perspective , then more of an orthographic or isometric view point, then finally what you’re using today which is orthographic but with layers and some buildings and objects in the background. So that’s about 5 versions altogether.

Jonathan: We went through the same process with tiles: they were too small, then too big, then finally felt right. Also, in the early versions of the game, we could tell there was too much space on screen taken up by sky. When I first put the helicopters in, we could tell we needed to better utilize that space… The biggest change was the perspective. When the game was completely flat, it didn’t feel immersive. Then we did a one point perspective, then the two point orthographic perspective. We needed to slant the ground to make it look right, then adjust all our prop art to make them fit in with the ground. This led to the multiple layers but we made sure to have the layers behind still be destructible.

[caption id="attachment_832" align="alignnone" width="286" caption="Original 1-point art perspective"]<a rel="attachment wp-att-832" href="http://getmoai.com/2011/05/chronosaur-dev-diary-3-art-gameplay-evolution/building_one_point/">Image of city-building facade[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_833" align="alignnone" width="521" caption="Adjusted Chronosaur art perspective "]<a rel="attachment wp-att-833" href="http://getmoai.com/2011/05/chronosaur-dev-diary-3-art-gameplay-evolution/building_one_point2/">Adjusted Chronosaur art perspective[/caption]

Moai interview: And the idea is really that the player IS the dinosaur, right? So in terms of the art and the perspective, you see things as the T-Rex would see them, right?

Hillary: Yes – he fills up a lot of the screen now, and the buildings are big and go off the top of the screen, and the cars and people are small and easy to crush.

Moai interview: And you slowed the dinosaurs movement down too, right?

Jonathan: Yes -that was part of making everything feel bigger and more significant. The damage wasn’t very satisfying in the early versions. You’d destroy a small building, but you were going so fast it was like it never happened. Your dinosaur could have been Mario, or a monster from a Japanese monster movie. It’s much more impactful now that the dinosaur fills up so much more of the screen and the buildings he destroys are so much bigger. You still get a sense of moving fast, but also of being massive – it feels much more like the perspective of a T-Rex.

[caption id="attachment_835" align="alignnone" width="440" caption="Modern Chronosaur art perspective"]<a rel="attachment wp-att-835" href="http://getmoai.com/2011/05/chronosaur-dev-diary-3-art-gameplay-evolution/mockup_current_persp/">Modern Chronosaur art perspective[/caption]

Patrick: I feel like you guys had a real “Aha” moment or turning point recently when you started to add a lot more props to the game with the latest art perspective. New ideas daisy-chained together and you made a lot of progress.

Hillary: Yes, that was when we realized that things in the world should be much more interactive than just present or destroyed. The T-Rex should be able to pick things up, crush them in his mouth and throw them into buildings. A car in the new game world has a lot of possibilities (or states): driving, damaged, crashed with people fleeing from it, bouncing and burning and exploding.

Patrick: To me this is a key phase of game development: when things start to feel right and the progress gets really rapid.

Moai interview: How did the helicopters evolve?

Jonathan: When we put helicopters in the game and made it so the dinosaur could grab them in his mouth, I adjusted the angle of the helicopter to make it look reasonable. And the angle of the chopper put the main rotor spinning in-front of the dinosaur and the stabilization rotor down near the people running on the ground.

Steven: So we thought “the dinosaur should move faster when he has the chopper, and jump higher. And he should be able to use the spinning tail like a weapon to chop things up.”

Patrick: That’s the kind of thing that would never show up in a design document. It’s only going to pop up based on the art in the game and a playtest where the visuals and play experience lead to the new idea. That’s the whole point of the Moai platform. It lets a team like Chronosaur test early and often, experiment, and then implement that new idea fast to see how it works out.

[caption id="attachment_840" align="alignnone" width="440" caption="Current in-game footage of the art in action (click to see the full image)"]<a rel="attachment wp-att-840" href="http://getmoai.com/2011/05/chronosaur-dev-diary-3-art-gameplay-evolution/chronosaur_smash_art/">Current in-game footage of the art in action[/caption]

Jonathan: Actually, the helicopters are really overpowered now. I’m changing it so that only one shows up per level and it’s pretty high up and hard to grab.

Hillary: We probably need to make it so the helicopter blows up if you don’t let go of it quickly enough.

Moai interview: I just had a flash back to the blinking red land mines in Ikari Warriors.

Patrick: Totally!

Moai interview: Well thanks everyone. We’ll check back in two weeks from now to see the latest.