Welcome to the first post dedicated to an aspect of N++! We’ll try to do more of these on different stages of development whenever we can find the time — things have been pretty crazy around here as we try to get this game to come together. Right now we’re working on finalizing the art style, and we wanted to give you a bit of insight into how we’re approaching it and how it’s going.
Because (as you may have heard) this will be the best — and the last — iteration in the N series, we’ll be trying our hardest to execute the aesthetic that we’ve always intended for the game, and to really nail it this time.
Where are we trying to go with N++’s graphics? The first thing you have to know is how much we love minimalism. Minimalism is an art or design style “where the work is set out to expose the essence or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts.
Minimalism can be found in any design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimalism)
Minimalism has influenced Metanet’s style in many ways — it’s the principle governing both the art style and the game design behind N, and of course N++ as well. We want to highlight the feel of the controls and the experience of playing the game, and a great way to do that is to have the graphics be subtle, simple, and in the background. This is where minimalism shines. As an aesthetic, it supports the gameplay without stealing the spotlight.
Although minimalism may seem trivial to execute, there’s a real challenge in deciding what to keep and what to cull, defining a world by using only a few elements creatively, and perfecting that balance, taking a game’s graphics from a set of disconnected objects to parts of a complete, designed world. It’s a thoughtful, detailed process. In short, simple is not necessarily easy.
Our favourite designs generally have clean, strong lines, visual balance, shades of neutral colours (possibly with punches of brighter colour) and strong, blocky, solid shapes.
But minimalism is more than just the sum of its parts, and it resonates with both of us in an interesting way. To look at a beautiful design makes us feel relaxed, happy and complete – it’s a powerful, palpable feeling that pervades brain and heart and guts, as if your whole body is utterly content. It’s a really good feeling!
Minimalism is simple, elegant, and beautiful, and a good match for N. But in N and N+, we feel we were unable to really refine it and capture that elegance — N and N+’s graphics are fine, but they feel slightly off. They never quite gave us that utterly content, complete feeling. So for N++, we’re trying to make that happen.
We’ve been collecting books on design, graphic art, architecture, techniques and programming for over ten years now, and have created a pretty amazing design library in Metanet’s office; some of the influences we’re working with for N++ are pulled from our favourite books. We’re taking the opportunity to work with one of our favourite graphic artists, MASA, in order to really define and refine that style. We wanted to work with an expert, someone who can take our vision and make it powerful, punchy, unified, timeless, beautiful and fresh.
The graphics will in part be an homage to Wipeout 3, because it was one of the first games whose graphics stood out and really made us understand the wealth of possibilities there are for game graphics. We remember vividly the first time we played Wipeout 3 on PS1 waaaaay back when we were in University. Watching the intro sequence was mind-blowing! We immediately reset the PlayStation and watched it again. The menus were crisp, organized, subtle and stylish. The in-game UI was easy to understand and elegant. The icons and power-ups were masterfully simple. And the prototype tracks — oh, the prototype tracks. The graphics for those perfectly epitomize minimalism and are, in our eyes, very beautiful. That’s the feeling we want to capture in N++.
If we could summarize the direction we want the graphics for N++ to take, it would be this: An evolution, similar to the evolution of Mario’s graphics from SMB3 to Super Mario World. In those games, the characters are well-defined, and the transition from one game to the next retains the historical connection between them so entities are recognizable but upgraded with details and a fresh look.
We think the N++ concept art teaser trailer is a pretty great introduction to what we’re going for. Check it out!
Again, this is concept art only! But it should give you a taste of what you can expect from N++. The graphics may change as development continues and we refine the style, but we’ve carefully crafted this little video to capture the mood, tone, and feel we’re trying to create for N++. Wondering who made that bouncy, flute-y track you hear? Yep, it was none other than our own Raigan Burns! You can hear more of his work here.
So there you have it. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but we feel like we’re on the right track. Thanks for reading! We’ll be back as soon as we can with more N++ news.