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The Evolution of Ada, Sparklite’s Charming Hero

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Summary

  • Sharing milestones that marked significant transformations in the game’s look and studio’s maturity
  • We hope you enjoy this insight into how our game and art evolved
  • Sparklite is available now for Xbox One on the Microsoft Store

The gorgeous spritework and animations of Ada, our hero, is one of the most recognizable features of Sparklite. But it hasn’t always been this pretty. We began our studio as three programmers with little pixel art skill so the story of our hero’s aesthetic journey in many ways mirrors the journey of our studio. This article will share hero art, (animated gifs where possible) from the humble beginnings of Sparklite’s prototype to the final stages of development. As the art evolved, so did our studio, so we will also highlight some of the milestones that marked significant transformations in the game’s look and studio’s maturity.

Ada Idle Spin
Ada Attack

The gorgeous spritework and animations of Ada, our hero, is one of the
most recognizable features of Sparklite. But it hasn’t always been this pretty.
We began our studio as three programmers with little pixel art skill so the
story of our hero’s aesthetic journey in many ways mirrors the journey of our
studio. In this article we’ll share art from the humble beginnings of
Sparklite’s prototype to the final stages of development. As the art evolved,
so did our studio, so we will also highlight some of the milestones that marked
significant transformations in both the game’s look and studio’s maturity.

The Prototyping Era

Archer Walk
Archer Swing

Ada began her life as a high fantasy archer and destroyer of slimes.
This was an early prototype we called “Rogue Adventures” where we experimented
with our pixel art style and top down controls. A friend of ours created that
juicy, slimey hopper but otherwise it’s entirely programmer art. At this point
the game played very retro. No combos and only four directions. I don’t think
we ever could have shipped it, but creating it and getting our hands on some
pixel art fundamentals has been helpful throughout the project.

Rogue Adventures

We really liked the theme and direction we were taking it and decided
to build a more gameplay-focused prototype.

This is when Ada regressed to her notorious hotdog form. We really like
grey box prototypes, especially because we aren’t artists. Stripping things
down to their essential shapes allows us to make sure we have the mechanics
down without worrying too much about polish. We took this prototype to a local
convention, Playthrough Games, where we got a lot of positive feedback on the
gameplay.

Hotdog
Mighty Grey Box

One of our big takeaways from those early prototype days was that we
wanted our gameplay to be a good deal more modern. We committed to the hero
being animated in eight directions. We also wanted the combat to feel weightier,
with combos and follow-through between animations. It was time to bring in some
more proficient artists.

Concept to Vertical Slice

The next big milestone for the project was to take our concept and
produce a vertical slice that we could take to potential publishers and
partners. One of the first pieces we wanted to create was a strong main
character in the final style of the game, which also hadn’t been nailed down.
To accomplish this, we first wanted to nail down Ada’s concept and theme for
artists to work off of.

Communicating Ada to our artists marks Ada’s first appearance as a
pilot engineer. Edward Rowe, one of the founding programmers, worked on these
more stylized experiments. They had some charm and promise but never really
clicked so we brought in some old co-workers to help.

Our coworker artist friends Drew Walton and Lianne Cruz each took a
stab at just improving our spritework. They both were also really helpful in
giving guidance with our style in general.

Mechanic
Mechanic Swing

Drew’s Mechanic Sprite and Swing

Mechanic Move

Lianne’s Mechanic Sprite

Their work really helped us bring our concept to life but if we were
going to produce a vertical slice, we needed an art style for the entire game.
We reached out to one of our favorite pixel artists on Twitter, Anders
Gullmsarvik. He gave us a lineup of really expressive and iconic sprites that
we just loved.

Ada Redesign
Ada Spice

From here we were just a couple iterations away from the Ada that
everyone now knows. Anders also provided a few environment mockups that we also
loved so we continued working with Anders until we finished out our vertical
slice.

Vertical Slice to Shipping

That vertical slice got the attention of Merge Games at PAX East. With
their support we were able to bring on more artists. We found our primary
animator Rafael Françoi on Twitter as well. He provided us with some really
great animations like these, as well as animations for most of the other
characters you see in the game.

Ada Attack
Ada Dash
Ada Run

We hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into how our game and art evolved.
We can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to play Sparklite soon!

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Related:
X019: Planet Coaster Rolling to Xbox One in Summer 2020
This Week on Xbox: November 15, 2019
Xbox All Access available to U.S. Xbox Insiders This Weekend

Website: LINK

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