We discovered something interesting from our pre-alpha playtesting of Keep Craft’s mobile version. The browser version of the game has no art. It’s clean and minimalist – like reading the words in a book. Because there are no pre-existing visuals, you can create a mental image of your civilization with ease.
We assumed that adding art to a game that previously had none would automatically be an improvement. What we did not consider is how the existence of art would change players’ expectations of the game.
When you start to add a little bit of art, however, like in the mobile version of Keep Craft, suddenly people start to lean on the existing visuals and imagination becomes harder. Now that there is some art, people expect these visuals to tell the story that previously existed in their head. Think of it like a movie adaptation of your favorite book – you’re no longer judging it based on the writing, but now on its costume design, set design, and cinematography – all of which took place in your head during reading. We assumed that adding art to a game that previously had none would automatically be an improvement. What we did not consider is how the existence of art would change players’ expectations of the game.
This is not a bad thing! It just meant that we needed to find a good way for players to visualize their civilization beyond just icons. We needed to give players a sense of the bustling, interconnected city that the economics of the game implied. To do something like redesign the entire game into a top down city-builder would be outside the scope of the project (and would lose a lot of what makes the game special), but we did the next best thing! Working with the rest of the team, artist Justin Schut created a snapshot of the player’s city that will update in real time as they advance through the ages. Check out a preview below:
It’s not finished yet though! Next up are animated people and building effects to bring it to life even more. When the animations are complete we will post them on our Facebook, so be sure to give it a Like if you want to follow the updates (as well as check out all the existing game art).