Style and Art direction research

After deconstructing ‘The Murdered cousin’ I came to formulate an idea of a story. The story follows the Twins from a head family that go playing in the woods, they venture too deeply and are discovered and attacked by a demon/forest spirit, a taboo legend within the village. One of the twins are eaten by the demon but is revived by the demon through their soul possessing a mask, given from one of the masks on its nine tails under the condition to return the ‘lost’ twin to a body within a month or their entire existence, family and heritage is wiped from history.

This story would operate as a character heavy exploration puzzle mystery game with horror aspects taken from a mixture of eastern legends and myths which i will re imagine and interpret through a fantasy blend of different cultures to create an entirely new setting and sense of history. A main mechanic of this game would be through the accessibility of an alternate reality/dead zone through wearing the mask of the lost twin, the player would be able to interact with two different realities/realms with different characters, puzzles and mysteries to solve which would progress the story and would work interlocked, IE solve a puzzle in the real work and gain access to a new aspect of the deadzone/spirit realm and vise verse, there could be puzzles that operate in both realities such as looking for clues in the spirit realm to solve a physical puzzle in reality, etc.


EDIT 18/12/2016 – The new NITW trailer is released showing off new music and aspects of gameplay not shown before. Different game modes and minigames are utilised to advance the story and diversify the gameplay to make up for fairly simplistic core gameplay… Off impression of the ‘Lost constellation’ teaser game released in advance of NITW – there is no traditional combat only puzzles which are at risk of becoming stale as a sole gameplay mechanic.


I immediately thought of LISA, catlady, stray cat crossing and Night in the woods as a style of gameplay that executes this character/story heavy narrative well so i will approach this game idea in its initial concept as a side scroller with point and click aspects with possible traditional RPG/JRPG influences as these games exist as evidence of effectiveness.

coraline moodboard.pngdave mckean coraline.png

One source of media i felt resonated with the tone and themes in my story was ‘Coraline’, a story in which the main character (coraline) discovers an alternate dimension through a tiny door in her room which connects her to the ‘other’ world, in which she is greeted by her ‘other mother’ and extended family and friends in which everything is better but only at surface level, hiding the much darker intentions of the other mother to trap children in that reality… This is useful in research for my story as the movie is stylistically heavy and whimsical however with darker sinister undertones which plays well into creating a sense of atmosphere and mood, I also included a mood board of illustrations from ‘Dave Mckean’ as it effectively reflects the tone of the movie/book but in a different medium and could be useful in style development later on…

miyazaki.pngFrom Coraline I thought looking at children’s media would be a good foundation for style influence and art direction as ultimately the game is centralized on the perspective of a child, initially i though of Miyazaki as films such as princess monoke and spirited away have strong individual stylistic themes and influences which keep them from fading into obscurity. As well as this, both films exist in fabricated fantasy lands which have each their own sense of culture, history and lore and this is something i will attempt to emulate in my own game and referencing media that has done this successfully will help direct my efforts…

Off of observing Miyazaki themes and art direction i wanted to find an example of children’s media that simply communicates a mature theme whilst staying engaging and without getting convoluted as im concerned my story may be too elaborate and thus become unstructured and boring as fantasy/horror tropes are extremely common in games and an excess of detail can have a negative impact on narrative… This reminded me of ‘Chirin no Suzu’ a short Sanrio childrens movie from 1978 which became infamous online for its dark melancholic themes.


I rewatched the movie and screenshot what i thought to be key points in the narrative, looking at character interactions and key story telling points both visually through ques and observations by the narrator i can think on how to apply these techniques to visual storytelling and later with character interactions.

The story follows the lamb Chirin, carefree and innocent. His mother warns him of the Wolf that lives in the mountains and that he attacks sheep and is to be feared… Chirin is oblivious and doesn’t heed her warning… Later in the night, the wolf appears and in attempt to save Chirin from the Wolf his mother is killed. In a need to avenge his mother Chirin decided to defeat the wolf he must become one. However through becoming one he realizes he can never fully become one and can never return to his previous life as a sheep and is left alone and with no purpose after the wolf is dead, a legacy of loneliness as the price of revenge.

A point i found from this ‘Chirin no Suzu’ review spurred an idea which could be used in my own game with character design and development especially as i will be using myth and cultural history to shape my characters. As quoted from the blog ‘He looks vaguely like the mythological kirin, except where the kirin is an auspicious sign associated with wisdom or leadership, Chirin is a bad omen, representing amorality and predation.  But, in trying to be both sheep and wolf at once, Chirin winds up being neither, a strange abomination unable to fill his ideal mold and unable to return to his original form.’

This concept of flipping the original meaning on its’ head or reinterpretation could be extremely interesting in developing characters based on multiple cultural myths and legends or simply children story character tropes, especially as the setting will be one of fantasy inspired by these backgrounds, looking to history and cultural legends and reinterpreting them into this fantasy setting could bring a depth of story and lore which would otherwise be incredibly difficult to cultivate. The use of metaphors is a very common and effective form of story telling in children’s media and implementing this into my game’s art direction could do a lot to enrich the visual narrative from the perspective of a child especially through the alternative reality of a spirit realm/dead realm.

Artist Inspiration                            –                            Cultural influences