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The Voodoo Art Manual: How to Make Effective Game Art in Hyper-casual
Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Voodoo. You can read the original on their blog here.
The brand new Voodoo Art Manual is now available for all partner studios on our Publishing Platform. It contains a concrete and practical guide on how to create effective and engaging game art in hyper-casual. We know that many of the studios we work with don’t always have dedicated game artists in their teams, and that it is often created by developers using the help of existing tools on Unity. Art, however, is an essential element of your game. It makes or breaks both the clarity of your gameplay and the user’s experience. Without effective art, the success of your game lies in the balance.
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The Voodoo Art Manual was created to maximize your chances of success in the prototyping phase. Whether you’re an experienced game artist or a developer with no prior experience in the field, it provides valuable tips and tricks to help you bring out the potential of your hyper-casual prototypes. Antony Oms and Florian Laizet, Game Artists from our in-house Game Ops department, featured in our weekly live stream to introduce the manual. Today, we’re going to share with you a few of their personal top tips from their experience in the industry.
What’s so important about game art?
Let’s start with why exactly game art is so important. What matters the most when creating a hyper-casual game is the core gameplay, and how much newness you bring to the market when prototyping your game. If your core gameplay is engaging, this will naturally translate to the first raw footage that you use to advertise the game. The gameplay really needs to be crystal clear to the ad-viewer in just a few seconds, but to do this, your game art needs to be effective. Without prior knowledge and experience in game art, this can be difficult to execute, which is why the Game Art Manual was created to help you.
It’s important to remember what matters the most when creating a hyper-casual game: the core gameplay, and how much newness you bring to the market when prototyping your game.
The first CPI video from the hit game Cube Surfer by Atinon.
If we look at this clip from Cube Surfer, thanks to well-balanced contrasts and clear, well-shown action, this visual ticks all the right boxes. From just a few seconds, the ad-viewer can project themselves into the game, picking up on the core elements: the character, the obstacles, the objective, and so on. Similarly, the feeling provided by the game, whether satisfying or frustrating, is clear in just a few seconds. From the short clip, the gameplay is super clear, and we can already relate to the satisfying feeling of vertical stacking.
Another thing to consider when looking at game clarity is the effort/impact ratio. With hyper-casual games, you don’t want to spend too much time on this as speed is a key element of success when taking a game from prototype to launch. That’s how the Voodoo Art Manual can help, providing you with clear do’s and don’ts when it comes to game art so that you don’t have to spend too much time on this.
With this in mind, let’s check out the five top tips from our in-house Game Artists Antony Oms and Florian Laizet.
Antony Oms and Florian Laizet, Game Artists at Voodoo
Tip 1: Use proven color patterns
If you’re looking for a color scheme for your game but don’t want to spend an enormous amount of time testing different options, there are tools that you can use to help generate automatic palettes based on other successful games. Adobe Color, for example, allows you to upload a screenshot, select the different colors within the game, and it will automatically generate the color palette. It will also provide the exact color codes that you can use for your game. The important thing here is to identify two parts of your game: the key core gameplay elements (character, obstacles, track, etc) and the background, and the next tip will explain exactly why.
Tip 2: Adjust your contrasts
The most important thing when it comes to Game Art is that your visuals are focused on the core gameplay elements. For this, you need to work on contrasts. The user’s eye will naturally focus on the most contrasting elements in your game, and as your ads need to communicate the core gameplay elements as quickly as possible, they really need to stand out. The lower the level of visual noise from the background, the lower the CPI will be. One thing you can do to test the contrasts of your game is to take a screenshot and put it in grayscale.
This will help you identify which elements stand out the most. You can do this throughout the production process, making sure that each new element doesn’t interfere with the core gameplay. Contrasts are important for every single element of the game, so it’s crucial to get this right! It’s also worth remembering that 7 to 8% of our players are colorblind. Grayscale, as well as obviously shaped obstacles like spikes, will allow you to ensure that your games are accessible and that each player can differentiate between the different gameplay elements.
Tip 3: Use simple, great shaders
To help you get your best results, you need to be using a great shader, but how do you identify which is the best one to use? People tend to go for the Unity Standard Shader, which is great, but super-advanced and perhaps even too advanced for hyper-casual! In this genre, your color really needs to pop and you definitely don’t need the same amount of detail or granularity as you would in a triple-A game, for example.
Avoid all unnecessary details to make sure your game is readable! At Voodoo, we use simple and customisable shaders which are perfect for getting great results, fast. For all partner studios, there’s a link to download a free shader pack in the Voodoo Art Manual itself.
Head to the Voodoo Art Manual on our Publishing Platform to download a free shader pack.
Tip 4: Take care of the UI
Although a good user interface won’t necessarily improve your KPIs, an unreadable or complicated user interface will easily damage them. In hyper-casual, players must be able to play the game quickly and easily with no friction or frustration. As hyper-casual appeals to basically anyone with a smartphone; gamers or non-gamers, small children, older generations and anyone in between, the controls have to be super intuitive.
Although a good user interface won’t necessarily improve your KPIs, an unreadable or complicated user interface will easily damage them.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, a good place to start is the home screen. Buttons should be super clickable, so it’s good to avoid using any unnatural or exotic shapes for this. With the hit game Aquapark.io, for example, a simple swap between two buttons actually managed to double the number of clicks. We also recommend that you take care of the position of your elements on the screen. If you look at the picture below, we’ve found that 80% of players don’t use the red areas, so try to stick to the green zone.
Tip 5: Make it appealing
Our final tip is to make the game look appealing by adding particle effects. From our experience, we’ve found that adding passive environments like water or city skylines in the background can improve the feeling of progression and add context to the game without disturbing the eyes or distracting the player. Another idea is to create an engaging level end where players are rewarded even if they lose, using confetti, fireworks, or any other fancy things to generate player satisfaction. However, once again, it’s super important that these additions do not distract from the core gameplay itself, and there are more tips and tricks on how to do this in the complete Voodoo Art Manual.
Spiral Roll is a great example of a successful level-end that uses appealing game art to reward the player.
So, there are some top tips to help you when creating art for your hyper-casual game. A huge thanks to Antony Oms, Florian Laizet, and the Game Ops team for the creation of the manual! To check out the full live-stream and to download the Voodoo Art Manual, head to our Publishing Platform , available to all partner studios! And if you fancy some more studying, have a read through how Voodoo helped Blue Monkey Studio develop and release hit game Flex Run 3D in just nine months.
Ready to submit your game and start working with Voodoo? Click here .
Before you move on, make sure to check out Voodoo’s top trends for 2021.