We are so thrilled to finally release Shoulders of Giants! Since we just launched, the whole team here at Moving Pieces are all feeling pretty reflective (as well as slightly terrified/excited in equal measures!), so I thought it might be nice to share a few thoughts on an aspect of the game that we are particularly proud of: its stylized visual graphics. I thought it might be nice to take this opportunity to talk about our inspirations behind the look of the game.
While it’s amazing to see how far photorealistic graphics can be pushed with the latest Xbox hardware, what really excited us was creating something that combined the latest graphics technologies like physically based rendering with a more stylized shading approach like cel shading. This was the basis behind our technical and aesthetic approach to the visuals for Shoulders of Giants.
We started by experimenting with what this might look like by taking early concept art and making basic worlds without any gameplay. Initially we went further into more of a traditional cel shaded look, but found that when we mixed some photoreal rendering techniques with that is where nice details really started to shine.
In terms of setting, we knew that we wanted the game to take place in a sci-fi universe, which meant having a cosmic skybox full of planets, stars and swirly clouds. We were heavily inspired by the style of sci-fi art from the 1970s and loved how it often contained giant planets in the background to help keep the horizon interesting.
The basic story of the game is that the dark and cold forces of Entropy have taken over the Universe, and it’s the players’ job to restore life and balance. One of the game’s main NPCs is an all-powerful Owl from an ancient order, and many of the levels and props found throughout the game are inspired by that of ancient civilizations, like Ancient Egypt and Greece.
We imagined levels with abandoned ruins from an ancient order scattered throughout levels that the player could explore. This was a main inspiration behind the look of the levels and their layout.
Some of the props and levels of the game also take inspiration from surrealist paintings, particularly in the last act of the game. We thought of rumbling clouds, and stairs going off into the horizon.
Taking advantage of a stylized look, we put emphasis on using color to tell the story of Shoulders of Giants. One of the biggest themes in the game is dark versus light.
The player starts every level off with the world covered in darkness and as you progress and eventually beat the level, you restore it with life and light.
Making the “light” version of our landscapes pop with color was straightforward, but making the cold, dark versions of these alien worlds sing with color was not trivial. Our art director and I spent days pouring over palettes, and eventually decided we had to re-evaluate what “dark” really meant. We decided to lean more into darkness as a concept of cold, or lack of life.
Eventually we found colors and lighting combinations that still looked vibrant and eye-catching, but still allowed us to express our themes. We created sandy deserts, white fields of snow, and caustic acid worlds glowing with green.
We can’t wait for players to hop into the world we created!
Shoulders of Giants
Moving Pieces Interactive