The Art Of… Yes, Your Grace: “Pixel art is just another style and it also requires a level of expertise to create good results.”

Yes, Your Grace brought to life a monarchical simulator with some evocative pixel art. We talk to Brave at Night creative director Rafał Bryks about his approach and the lessons learnt along the way

Was the appearance of the game core to its initial concept?

Rafal Bryks, Brave at Night

Pixel art has this connotation of being ‘cheap and fast.’ And we also fell into this trap when starting the project back in 2015, but quickly realised that this is not the case. Pixel art is just another style and it also requires a level of expertise to create good results. It took me around five years of studying and a critical approach to my own work in order to improve.

Art style is a very important part of any game, but it’s not the one that needs to be necessarily done at the beginning of the project. In our current, unannounced title, we’re focusing on gameplay and design first, since we have gained enough experience to know we will be able to ‘dress’ the game appropriately later on, supporting other areas of the project.

What influences (within or beyond games) did you draw from?

I feel like Tim Soret’s The Last Night is a pixel art beacon for many pixel artists and games out there. When I did freelance work, it was often mentioned as an art goal for many games, and it was a big inspiration for Not Tonight’s artstyle, which I worked on simultaneously as I did art for Yes, Your Grace.

As the game is based on Slavic mythology, we wanted to give it a unique look. Particularly, the medieval architecture in Poland was very inspiring, and something we wanted to try and capture. Malbork Castle was a big influence on how the game looks in general and helped make the throne room look familiar, yet unique.

Tell us how the art was created?

The backgrounds and main characters were designed and created by myself. Once I nailed down the style for characters, I showed and explained the premise to my fiance, Alina, who was able to very quickly pick up a drawing tablet and help with character creation. We’re a small team of fast learners, working closely together and often have to wear many hats.

We have decided to have one high-res promotional piece for Yes, Your Grace. We’ve spent a lot of time choosing the right artist for this. Lesly Oliveira did a fantastic job taking the pixelated characters and giving them life in much higher resolution.

ARE YOU ABLE TO put any numbers on the scale of the project?

We have roughly 820 character animation frames, 333 scenery animation pieces, 292 UI elements and 52 inventory items.

What tools/techniques were used to create the game’s look?

I’ve been using Photoshop for years now, so that was an obvious choice for creation of the majority of the artwork. Aseprite was used for animations, and we even dabbled in
Pixel FX Designer for some of the effects. Most particle and fog work was done using Unity’s built in particle effects creator.

I like to take a modern twist on my pixel art, and I’m not afraid to blend colours together, use gradients, or even gaussian blurs! I sometimes use 3D rendering as a base for my work. It helps to test various perspectives, and see early if the shapes work well together.

How did the art evolve with the project?

During the long development process, I’ve gained a lot of experience. The game’s art has evolved multiple times throughout this time, but pixel art was always the main style for the game.

From very simple backgrounds, with flat colour palettes, no contrast and ‘spaghetti’ characters, I have finally arrived at something I’m very proud of.

We don’t have a dedicated concept artist on the team, so the early mock ups look very rough! The castle from the main menu used to be further away from the camera, but it didn’t quite feel grand enough
Wooden GUI – for a very long time, the GUI was made out of paper and wood
The ‘Prototype’ version is what we used to map out all locations in the game. It helped us focus on designing narrative, while having something to walk around very early on. This is inspired by Dave Gilbert’s placeholder art in his games
The game went through a huge metamorphosis over the development cycle

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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