POLISHING THE PATH TO A KINGDOM for blue byte's "settlers 7"
by by Tobias Mannewitz, KARAKTER’s creative director. He was brought in to help with the polishing phase of “The Settlers 7”, which eventually won a Red Dot Design award for visual excellence.
All images © Ubisoft Entertainment. All rights reserved.
The game was nearing completion in 2010. Karakter got called for a three day workshop. Figuratively speaking, the path to the kingdom needed polish before King Customer the 1.st was to walk it. And Barkawitz wanted us to point out the corners on the road ahead which would benefit from some extra sheen.
2: Atmospheric effectsThe inspirational concepts tended towards pastel colors – pink, emerald, pool. However, those colors weren’t too present in the near- final graphics, which were, at that stage of production, still lit very neutrally. The resulting brown or greyish look did not transport the magic kingdom feeling everyone wanted to see. So we suggested to first adjust the colors of the atmosphere in the game, like the colors of mist and the sunrays.
3: Light and shadowsNext on the list were the shadows: They were achieved by simply darkening the unlit parts, but this produced a rather grim, even dirty, desolate feel at times. Instead, we suggested to change the calculation of shadows, so that they were tending towards a saturated cold color scheme, whereas the lit parts of the buildings would be bathed in warm colors. By infusing color into the dark spots, we could lose most of the grimness.
3: Building detailsThe buildings were the final – and biggest – chunk during the three day workshop. Most of them could be improved by simply modifying the texture maps, so that the contrasts were more appealing and increased the readability if a building. We could also punch up the vividness of some wall colors, and add a few details here and there. The biggest suggested change though was the modification of some of the geometry.
This was not only driven by a wish for sheer beautification and visual brand-building, but by the desire to visually support gameplay. The idea was, that a settler living in a central house would go to work in adjacent workshop buildings. Thus, a range of compound types could be created. There were mundane industry compounds, woodland industries and so forth.
This hadn’t been the case until then. To bring the point across, all buildings were individually overpainted, while one big city scene was overpainted to show how an alteration of the contrasts would quickly improve the readability and overall appeal.
3: To Victory!The polished game was released in March 2010. Blue Byte’s visual and stylistic masterpiece won the prestigious “red dot: communication design” award 2010 with a “best of the best” entry.
So appealing the look & feel was, that the online version of “Die Siedler” was eventually based on the style of “Settlers 7”. It continues to thrive in 2013.