Designing virtual world games for kids

Our Art & Creative Director Garth Midgley answers some questions about the visual style of Little Space Heroes. He shares an example, illustrating how the process worked with the design of the Hair Salon in the game.

What’s the process to go from idea to finished artwork?

1. Well, the first step is to work out exactly what the space is that you’re trying to create.  This is called the design.  We think about what players will be doing in here and what do they need to do it.  Much like if you were building a house for you and your family, you would plan out how many bedrooms you need, what kind of furniture and appliances will you need, so how many power points you’ll need and where will they go etc.  So in this step you need to think through all of the things players will, or might, want to do and what you need to put in here (or not put in here) to allow them to do it.  And much like building a family home, you might need to expand it one day if another addition to the family comes along, so ensuring there’s also room for the game to grow is a good thing too.

2. The second step is to find some good references, ideally a good combination of words and photo’s or drawings, that help to describe how the space should look.  This helps to get everyone onto the same page and allows the concept artist to also visualise the space.  And it’s also important to give the concept artist all of the information about the design for the space so that they know exactly what they need to account for.

3. The third step is what we call a greybox.  This is just a very basic sketch, sometimes done on napkins or notepad paper, that very basically illustrate how the room should be laid out and where all of the features and items should go.  Though the concept artist always has all of the information on what this space is, so they are always able to offer suggestions on alternate layouts as well.

Little Space Heroes - Greybox SalonGreybox – click to enlarge

4. The fourth step is linework concept art.  This is where things start to really take shape.  The concept artist will sketch up all of the information from the design as well as adding any ideas and special flavours that they’ve thought of.  We love it when everyone adds a piece of their own personality to a room!

Virtual world games for kids - Little Space Heroes - Salon LineworkLinework – click to enlarge

4. The fifth step is shading.  Once we’re happy that is.

Virtual world games for kids - Little Space Heroes - Salon ShadingShading – click to enlarge

5. The sixth step is colouring.  This is the really fun part, getting to add all of the colours to a room to make it jump out from the page.  The colours that you use do a lot to change the mood of a room, so we often do a few passes on this to get it exactly right


Virtual world games for kids - Little Space Heroes - Color SalonColor – click to enlarge

6. And the last step is animation.  Animation is the key that brings art to life, so we come up with as many fun ways to bring animation into the room as we can.  Having engaging environments is especially important in a virtual world for kids. Animations could be things that happen on their own, like candles burning on dinner tables or fish or robots that are hanging about or it could be objects move when you go near them or click them.


What inspirations do you draw from when creating concepts?

We take our inspirations from everywhere. Because we’re building virtual world games for kids we can draw ideas from pretty much anywhere. The ideas that go into our concepts could be things that we’ve found in comics, cartoons, movies, games, traditional art, ideas from friends and families or just funny things that we’ve thought of while catching a bus.


What’s the most challenging part of creating the art in Little Space Heroes?

Knowing when to stop.  We’re always coming up with lots of new ideas for art and animation that we really want to make, but don’t always have the time to.  Hopefully we can keep on making Little Space Heroes for a long time so that we can get the time to make all of the things that we want to!


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