Retro Drive – Art and Direction

Released May 1st 2020 on IOS.

Follow the journey of a college kid, through Retropolis. Held back after class, he now has to catch up with his friends who are already out party’n! Play for free!

Driven by determination and an inspired Synthwave soundtrack, turn the volume up, put the pedal to the metal, and race to catch up with your pals! Retro Drive is a driving game with a cool retro 80s vibe. The style and feel of the game derives from the Retro Wave aesthetic, referencing iconic elements such as neon glows, muscle cars, speedsters and of course 80s references. The gameplay involves driving through Retropolis, overcoming various challenges, all to an unforgettable Synthwave soundtrack. Developed by a small team of indie devs after 2 years of evenings and weekends, among with creative individuals that had a strong passion to make games. The devs being a massive synth/retro wave fans themselves, decided they wanted this to be a homage to the Synthwave/ Retrowave genre.

Content:

  • 10 complete levels, with pure to the heart synth
  • Designed specifically just for Retro Drive
  • 5 customisable rides
  • Unique 80s inspired story
  • Jukebox to listen to the awesome synth music! Soundtrack

Retro Drive is a neon-soaked arcade racer with a killer synthwave soundtrack

Bald, Cameron. Pocketgamer, May 2020
Pocketgamer article

The project started from two developers, Myself and Marco. I took ownership over all the creative tasks, such as 3D, 2D and UI. Marco took control over the coding tasks and anything back-end related. We split the game design tasks between us. The original vision was to create a game that could be released to prove our capabilities. We set out our journey with 3 rules:

  1. Release “something”.
  2. Don’t burn out.
  3. Be proud of what we make.

We analysed why a lot of projects failed and burning out was one of the biggest elements. Among those. We also recognised that scope was a huge factor that contributed the failed projects, a lot of teams over scope and end up falling short, eventually giving up. If these two factors were met but the project was to go ahead the end result often tends to be something that isn’t quite ready to be called a game and tends to not do well. Whenever making a decision we came back to these points and would analyse the risk depending in the order of these rules. It was important the order of the rules didn’t vary too much. Although rule 3 came up a lot of the time and we had many moments of “wouldn’t it be cool if…”. These moments however cool they seemed, had to make sure that they didn’t break the first two rules.

Level 2 – Beachside
Level 7 – Retropolis Central

Inspirations

The neon 80s synth theme is hardly a new invention. Also can be referred to: Synthwave, Vaporwave, Retrowave, Cyberpunk, Neon, 80s, Retro etc. It’s something that has been used in games for a long time throughout various projects all with their own flair. Other games have taken their own approach to this and so we did a fair amount of research before starting our project.

The most “successful” indie Retro 80s hit has got to be Hotline Miami (PC Game). It ticked all the boxes: great game play, awesome story, beautiful retro visuals, and all to a kick-ass synth soundtrack.

Image taken from steam

Outdrive (PC Game) is a beautiful looking game and the driving mechanics are very good. However there isn’t much in terms of level progression.

Image taken from steam

Powerdrive 2000 (PC Game) is another beautiful looking game with some serious potential. If only the project carried on…

Image taken from steam

In comparison Outdrive and Powerdrive 2000 were massive sources of inspiration for the game. Although Outdrive released and is making money I believe the game itself needed a bit more story and progression throughout the level, great-fun mechanics however! Powerdrive 2000 was another game that had more of a realistic/cyberpunk look, and you can tell that they went-to-town on the visuals. However after a couple of years of development and a kickstarter campaign the projected ended up being dropped. An unfortunate end, as it was a game I was quite hyped for.

Our idea

Retro Drive is different because it was designed less about the mechanics and more towards progression and game progression. We introduced level progression, through a narrative direction. A simple yet appealing 80s inspired story was thus crafted and helped to drive us through an idea of progression. “It started with a map”, (much like middle earth) this helped us to decide where the character is and how they will traverse around. We also added other elements such as customisation and unlockable cars, to give the player some other things to do outside the main story and quest.

With a true synthwave soundtrack backed by Outland Recordings we had an incredible soundtrack to go alongside the game. They have some of the best synthwave artists under their belt and we were extremely thrilled with the tracks that they made for us. Our relationship started from meeting at their live events, eventually within conversation we decided to collaborate together.

Working with Joe, Marco and the Retro Drive Studio team, has been an absolute delight.
Their can-do positive attitude and technical know-how, has made it a seamless and productive collaboration.

Trusting them with our brand, the music and the artists we represent, proved well-founded. They met all deadlines and over-delivered on many elements within the game.

We have been impressed with their ability to visualise and develop Retro Drive. Also their professional and mature approach along the developmental process, to the point where its being enjoyed by the public and is now receiving rave reviews. Clearly, they have a firm grasp on their craft and are tapped into the pulse of the gaming fraternity.

It really has been an amazing journey from the initial idea, collaboration, development, through to the final released product. We are very proud of Retro Drive and what has been accomplished. Looking forward to the next project!

Simpson, Brett. Outland, July 2020.
Inside Retro Drive, you are able to access all the soundtracks via a Jukebox

Team

In any team based project you have to spend some time doing management and planning to make sure that the work can get done in time. When people would join Retro Drive, one of the first things we needed to know was their commitment and availability. Understanding these two things was very important as it helped up to scope the game. Scope was important to us as we had an “end goal” in mind and also didn’t want to overshoot for features that would take too long. Nethertheless our team honour a mention as they were extremely integral to the success of Retro Drive:

  • Marco – has had over 10 years programming experience/managing teams. He was also working freelance which gave him time to spend on the project.
  • Joe – as a 3D artist for around 5 years he had also had many more years in art and design. On top of that, he has been apart of many different indie projects including multiple game jams and Dare to be Digital 2015.
  • Scott – Programmer  (joined September 2018 – left March 2019)
  • Samus – UI artist and programming (joined April 2019) 
  • Cadan – Narrative designer (joined end of January 2019)
  • Yeseul –  Concept artist (joined end of January 2019)
Concept art/character design by Yeseul Lee

Workflows/WIPs

For the modelling process we used maya to create the props, environments, and cars that you see in Retro Drive. The process to create a car had to follow a specific process, but spent more time and emphasis around the texturing side. We wanted to give this Grid-line effect, so using the UV map as a guide we were able to create this neon grid pattern over the cars.

Car 4 – Night Drive

Obstacles were made using various animation methods. This one was using separate obstacle prefabs that you could move and place anywhere around the map. Due to the way animations work, you can’t move the object with the animation on, so the animation had to be attached to the parent object.

Level 3 Beachside City – The first itteration of single obstacles using a simple up and down transition.

The AI cars were brought to life with a commonly used method, using individual points and pathing. We chose this method because its the cheapest (lower CPU cost) and most flexible option that allowed us to control where the cars can go throughout the levels.

Example from setting up Level 4 Beachside Gate Bridge. Because the road was just straight, the pathing was made from just 2 points on either end (and in each lane).

Level progression was also another important aspect to Retro Drive. Although our main intention was to keep the game fairly simple and easy to play, will still wanted to incorporate some levels that are difficult. The levels are mostly quite easy as the tracks are forgiving with plenty of space for the player to move around. We increased difficulty by adding more obstacles or more AI cars.

Clip from Level 9 – Hardest level in the game.

Trailer, etc.

Here is some of the useful links, promo trailer, and access to the game. Thanks for reading!

IOS Available here

Android Available here

Goodness Gang – Art and Animation

“The Goodness Gang” is a project created by TCC in which involves a universe of vegetable/fruit characters to help promote healthy eating. When we first received this project is was a really basic concept with not much artwork background other than a few plush toys that TCC designed and sold to shops. After a lot of time of reworking the designs and after a second project with TCC to create a version 2 we created what you see in the images and videos.
This latest project was quite fun to work on over the time-slot of a few months. In that time I created the garden environment and all the assets unlock-able as you progress throughout the app. As well as that, I also created various environments for the games within app as you unlock them in store. Also in the game it features 14 different characters, all of which we collectively worked on the design process which helped me to model and animate each of the quirky characters.

Role: Character art, Rig and animation. Environment art, props.

Disneyland Paris – Art and Animation

The Panini sticker album was a campaign created by panini to celebrate 25 years of Disneyland Paris releasing copies of the album in Belgium and France.It was an interesting experience to work with Disney and Panini, growing up as a huge fan of the movies was definitely a big source of motivation as well as being a sticker collector myself. During this campaign the castle image (front page) got scanned over 6 million times, as well as a further 3 million for Mickey and Minnie Mouse (stickers). It was a very successful project that clearly outlines how great Augmented Reality can be for this type of theme, and the stats prove that people truly do react with the inter-actable experiences on such a grand scale.

Role: The environment art of the Castle (textured and geometry), Character art, Rig and animation.

Stats:
Retailer: Carrefour
Countries: Belgium
Total app downloads: 50,142
Launched: March 2017
AR components: Scan collection + 6 stickers + POS + Album Cover
Total AR scans 378,009
Photos taken 196,564 (52%)
Successful sticker recognitions: 6,863,679

Next Page for Winter Wonderland!

Dreamworks: Trolls – Art and Animation

Working for Dreamworks has always been my lifelong dream, so working with them is almost just as special. I have always loved the movies and quality of the animations that the studio can output, such incredible talent that I aspire to be. This project was for the Trolls Movie, our aim to create experiences that relate to that characteristics and emotions of the two main characters Poppy and Branch. We made a few experiences for this IP but the ones that I believe stood out were; “Cheer up Branch!”, and “Paint a Bug”.

My goal was to create the animations for these characters in these experiences in a way that would match them to how they are portrayed within the movie. I payed special attention to making sure that the the emotions and even the slightest subtle glances were as close to the movie versions as possible. And with this in mind we created a story within these worlds where they would interact and be brought to life through the power of Augmented Reality. I also worked on the face tracking “troll hair Feature”. The project did really well and helped massively with bringing the audience’s attention to the Trolls franchise.

Role: Animator, Environment Artist

Shaolin Panda – Art and Animation

The “Shaolin Panda” was part of a character collection and an experimental project in which I created a stylized panda that would be unlocked as a mobile game character. My process of this project was to create a painted style by first baking lighting from maya and then painting over the detail in Zbrush to give it that hand-painted look. The final execution for me was to finalise the detail so that it also mixed with realtime lighting, without loosing the painted aesthetics.

Forest Golem – Art and Animation

This is my forest golem project used for a business card. The result of the character was fully tracked and able to view via an AR code, image below provided. I have also included a link to the sketchfab version of the model to get a good look at the scene. Feel free to scan the image, using the Zappar App on the Android or App store to see the finished results! The process on creating this end product, meant learning the Zapworks Studio software which is used to create the augmented content.

Concept – Originally to be used for a games competition, it was to be a big creature for a top down tactical game with the style of a medieval golem. I like the idea of this big, heavy, forest creature being able to smash up rocks and roams about the jungle as guardian of the forest.

The game didn’t end up making it past the concept stage however I still had strong ambitions for this character so I wanted to make it. Throughout the development process several things had changed to help develop this character’s story. Its features were mainly designed around the sheer bulk and force combined with a cape (originally a forest green style but developed later into a contrast colour) to resemble belonging once to some sort of tribe or community. Its other feature was that of a series of wrist blades which it could use as a weapon, perhaps in combat or in hunting.

Scan code/track: using the Zappar App.

Glow Games Studio: Dungeons and Robots – Art and Animation

“Dungeons & Robots is an Online Action Shooter RPG, where players team up to battle various enemies, collect resources and dominate territories. Features include, fast-paced combat; elaborate crafting and inventory system; customisable characters, weapons, armour, powers and skills; procedurally generated environments and items; solo missions, 1-4 player co-op, and guilds. Explore these futuristic dungeons to fight, conquer and dominate.” – Glow Games Studio

DNR’s dark ascetics, beautiful lighting, and mass customisation defines the game through and through. Along with the fun multiplayer modes, hundreds of weapons to choose from, its a project that I can say I was truly proud to be apart of.

Roles and responsibilities: Originally as the animator for the team I spent most of the early months all the way up until the Steam early access creating all the animations within the game, ranging from the players avatar to the enemies that roam around the dungeon. After this period came a time where we needed to create new levels, so I swapped over to creating environment assets and level design features. This can all be see in action in the trailer below.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/386650/Dungeons_and_Robots/