The Sudden Shift in SO7’s Visual Style

When I joined the project in early 2015 I was to be the character modeler under a simple freelance contract. Eric, our lead dev, would send me the concepts and I would model and texture from them. Shortly after I got my hands on a build of the game.

While Eric had done some amazing work on The Song of Seven thus far it quickly became apparent that he was doing ALL the modeling, sculpting, texturing, rigging, animation, world design, level design, and logic for the game (plus more). While Eric is an amazing 3D artist, he only had time to create assets that were incredibly barebones. So I offered to make him a couple more assets here and there and before anyone knew it I was modeling and texturing a good 90% of the game’s new assets.

Before & after of Kiba's house

As you can imagine the consistency of the visual design was waning at this point. You’d have a very detailed model of an old, rusty barrel sitting next to a tree that was made from a couple cylinders and a mesh that vaguely resembled a clump of leaves. This caused us to completely re-think our approach to how we wanted to present Kiba’s world. After the Kickstarter we decided to completely replace all of the old meshes and textures with newer and more detailed ones.

Everyone else on the team was busy filling their roles for the development process and had no time to send me concepts or descriptions of EVERY asset so Eric gave me pretty much free reign over how I wanted each asset to look. As much as I loved the old art direction, my style was much more visceral and grungy and so I had to make a lot of small visual compromises that brought more realism and detail to the world while still remaining stylized and somewhat whimsical.

 For example, the old model for the fence around Kami Village had rounded tops like a tongue depressor. This didn’t really make sense to me with the village’s inhabitants all being mildly agoraphobic and scared of anything outside the fences. When I redesigned the fence I took this into account and modeled the fences like they were tree trunks that had been whittled to a sharp point at the top.

This instantly but subconsciously conveyed the villager’s irrational fear much more effectively. It’s these tiny changes that add up to make the world a convincing one. While the game’s style is still incredibly colorful and lighthearted, there’s a lot more grime around the edges now. Looking at these old screenshots makes me cringe so to make myself (and I’m sure the team as well) feel better I’m gonna post some updated ones for you guys. We’ve got a long way to go and we can’t wait to show you what we have in store.