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As we continue towards this Fall, we wanted to spotlight various members of the Sunset Overdrive team with some questions you hopefully haven’t seen answered elsewhere. Get to know the Sunset Overdrive team. This week we talk to Art Director Jacinda Chew.

jacindacHow did you come to be an Art Director at Insomniac Games?

I started here as an environment modeler back in 2003 and worked my way to art director.

What were the major influences for the art style of Sunset Overdrive?

I looked at a ton of reference when we were researching the game. I looked at Havana and Shinjuku when we were building the environment. I looked at Phil Hale, Jamie Hewlett, and Jean Paul Gaultier when we were designing the characters and fashion. The Scott Pilgrim movie is a huge influence for our FX. There is an irreverence or attitude that I liked about each of these artists and architectural styles.

How long did it take to find the “style?”

I think it took almost two years to get some solid target renders. If you’re wondering why it took so long, it’s because it was a game that started as a huge pile of disparate ideas that I spent two years distilling into an art style. One of our biggest challenges was figuring out the building style. Since the buildings are closely tied to the game traversal, we had to work hand-in-hand with Design to make buildings that were traversal-friendly so it was an organic process. We probably rebuilt the original prototype city eleven times as we re-adjusted our metrics and building designs to meet the needs of gameplay. The character style went through some iteration as well. I wanted to design characters who were believable as underdogs, but also aspirational and capable of performing our parkour moves. There is remarkably little concept art for this game because so many things were dependent on the modelers working collaboratively with design and creative.

Why all the color?

Sunset Overdrive is all about fun in the end times and I wanted to reflect that in the art style. I was inspired by some colorful buildings in Havana and I loved how the peeling paint and plaster would often reveal other colors underneath. This eventually made it into our game as brushstrokes that are splashed onto the asphalt, buildings, and even clothes. Not only did I want the world to be a happy place full of vibrant color, but a place where you didn’t have to follow any rules. This is why we didn’t bother to paint within the lines. It’s controlled chaos.

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If an animation studio made a movie out of Sunset Overdrive – who would you want it to be and why?

Actually, I’d want Edgar Wright to direct the Sunset movie because the irreverence and humor in his movies would fit really well with our game.

Do you have a guide when it comes to what vanity to put in the game for character customization?

I find a lot of vanity systems to be rather limiting because there are a lot of options, but most games don’t really spend a lot of time considering the design of each individual piece. I want you to be able to be who you want to be, but I also want you to look cool.  I’m really interested in fashion and wanted to design clothes that people would actually want to wear in real life.  I tried to pick a wide range of garments that would appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The Insomniacs were the ultimate guinea pigs because we would drop new vanity items on a weekly basis and see what people would gravitate towards. It was really gratifying to see even the most conservative players creating outlandish costumes. Sure, you have the option to wear blue jeans and a t-shirt, but why would you want to?

You can be one of the character we showed off in the E3 Chas Squad demo. Who do you choose?

I’d be Bunny Girl all the way.

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Other interviews with Game Director Drew Murray and Creative Director Marcus Smith.

Ahoy ahoy, humans! Lisa here. Thanks again for everyone who stopped by last week’s dev stream. If you missed it and want to see some audio work and art streaming, you can watch the highlights on our twitch page, here: http://www.twitch.tv/insomniacgames/profile

We’ll be back to our normal Friday 2pm PDT schedule this week. Lillian will be doing a programming stream, so if you have interest in programming in C# in Unity, be sure to stop by! She will be coding the Bull Catcher and we will show off some more gameplay.

Name Changes

As I mentioned on the first stream, often circumstances show up in game development where you have to change the names of things for a variety of reasons. Normally players don’t see any of that and just get the final name when the game is released. But the purpose of this project is to show you all the behind the scenes madness, so here’s your first taste! Pretty quickly after we announced the project, we found out that we won’t be able to use the name “Axel” for the bull, so our beloved bull has gone back to being nameless. Don’t worry, though, we will name him together, but to help you should all get to know him first (so be sure to come by the streams!)

Playtesting

This week I’m off traveling to visit family, which is the perfect opportunity to observe fresh new playtesters for Slow Down, Bull. Most of our playtesters so far have been other Insomniacs. While there are many wonderful insights to be had from other developers playtesting your games, it’s also very important to get people to try it who don’t have a developer background, or even a typical gaming background. In this week’s stream I’ll discuss my findings.

Fan Art

We got our first piece of fan art for Slow Down, Bull! Check out Mattias’s rendering of our beloved bull hero:

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Check out more variants and wallpaper sizes here: Flickr Album

Construct 2

Last week I had some people ask about the original Construct 2 prototype for the game and how I approached various things. We have a Game Jams group here at Insomniac where we occasionally get together and teach one another new toolsets, and I gave one for Construct 2 that was recorded for some of our North Carolina members. I’ve uploaded the video if anyone wants to watch the session (about an hour long). It covers some basic overviews for beginners and also a handful of features that I found were really helpful but not necessarily intuitive from tutorials. You can see how I did some of the events and things for the Slow Down, Bull prototype.

See you all in the stream on Friday!
-Lisa

Hey everyone,

This past weekend we were in Austin, Texas showing off some of Sunset Overdrive to all of the amazing Rooster Teeth fans at the Rooster Teeth Expo (RTX).

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Some of you may have caught presentations from our own Community Lead James Stevenson and Sunset TV host and Community Manager Brandon Winfrey from the RTX Center Stage live on Twitch.

While on stage we presented some of our inspiration for the game, and set up the story while showing some work-in-progress versions of some of the opening story cinematics from the game. As always, the character you see in these will be YOUR character!

Friday Presentation w/ Rooster Teeth’s Ashley Jenkins:
http://www.twitch.tv/rtxlive/b/544450667?t=34m13s

Saturday’s presentation (if you want to see us mess up the presentation and demo in completely different ways!)
http://www.twitch.tv/rtxlive/b/544450667?t=21h27m26s

If you have questions or comments, you can post them here! Thanks to everyone who came out to see us at RTX or watched live online. It was great to meet and talk to you. Special thanks to the Rooster Teeth crew for making us feel so welcome!

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We’ll be presenting Sunset Overdrive on the center stage at 12:00pm CDT on July 4th, and 9:00am CDT on July 5th. Hear all about the game directly from Insomniac’s James Stevenson and Brandon Winfrey. See a live gameplay demo from the single-player campaign and the never-publicly seen footage from the game.

Be sure to follow @SunsetOverdrive, @JamesStevenson and @BWinfrey on Twitter for a chance to find them during the Expo and score a limited edition Sunset Overdrive T-shirt.

This week on Sunset TV we go in-depth on two specific mission types you’ll see in our co-op mode Chaos Squad. Plus, we chat about weapon leveling and everyone’s favorite topic – dedicated servers! It is truly a thrilling time to be alive.

SUBSCRIBE! for weekly shows: http://bit.ly/SOYouTube

Be sure to send your questions or comments to sunsettv@insomniacgames.com to join in on the fun!

You heard a lot during E3 about Chaos Squad, Sunset Overdrive’s 8-player co-operative experience. Now you can hear all about it from us! Check out this video with brand new footage from Chaos Squad:

Make sure to tune into Sunset TV tomorrow, where Brandon will be answering your questions about Chaos Squad, and hitting giving you some more depth on context about some of the missions you might take on.

As always, we love to get your feedback, thoughts and questions, so leave them in the comment section here on the blog!

Greetings, humans! Lisa here. Welcome to the first of what will be many dev blogs on Slow Down, Bull. First of all I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by our first dev stream last week, and especially thank you all for being so nice and asking such great questions! It’s wonderful to already have such a positive community for these streams. If you missed it, you can check out the archived video on our twitch page.

During the stream, the team was discussing the stress bar, and how to solve the fact that it is the most important piece of information on the screen but also the most temp, uninteresting thing to look at. The resulting attempt at a solution is using a shader to fill up the actual bull sprite rather than having a separate piece of UI representing our bull’s stress.

I’m currently playtesting this to see how well it reads (no seriously, I’m writing this post while I wait for my next playtester to come over). One thing I’m doing is having the tester hold down the button and then release JUST before they think he’s about to tantrum, then comparing how close that stress value is to the actual tantrum threshold. That will help us figure out if people are undershooting too much, and if we need additional feedback to convey what the “limit” of the meter is (there was a lot of great suggestions in the stream for ways to convey his stress!)

We have to mix up the streaming schedule for this week since the Insomniacs are off on holiday on Friday, so tune in Thursday, July 3 at 2pm PST for our weekly dev stream. This week will show Alex working on sound stuff and Dave working on more art. We’ll be back to Fridays the following week. Hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, here are some lingering questions from the chat that we didn’t get to last time.

Sonyrumors: If you’re targeting PC, any chance of this coming to mobile? Especially tablets?

Since this is a big experiment for us, we wanted to target one platform to start to keep things lean and mean.. However, if it is well-received, I would love to put Slow Down, Bull on other platforms someday, since its simple controls are conducive to many different input schemes. It’s just a cost/risk balance at this point, as we are a small team on a tight timeline.

Necksnap: How many Larpers are there at Insomniac?

Do the Fargarths count in this tally? If yes, I’d say at least 15.

Kmickelz: I just began creating content for an FPS Horror Survival game, hoping to have a kick starter campaign next year, but my question is what are must haves before starting up the campaign? Working mechanics? Just Content? Cutscenes? etc..

Having never run a kickstarter, I do not feel qualified to give good advice on this question, but I know there are a toooon of articles, post-mortems, and “best practices” stuff out there that would probably be a big help. Check Gamasutra for sure.

Jeyzer: What’s your favorite aspect of unity and what would you change in it?

From Lilian: I actually have 2 things that I really like about unity. I like how everything is component based. It makes my scripts a lot easier to read, debug, and I can reuse their functionality. Second, is that there is a growing community that is super helpful for all levels of unty-iers.
Things I would change about Unity. Originally it would be the GUI/UI system, but they are working on that. The next one would be the Input Manager. I wish you can modify the input manager in script. Currently, you can only gain access to controller data if they are connected before you launch unity (and you’ve mapped them before hand). You also can’t remap controls in game, unless you write your own system. It’s not fun.

Edlago: Can we play in the future the first prototype of Slow Down, Bull? The one in construct 2.

Currently the html5 prototype is kind of in a super-busted state, so I couldn’t really put it up without some work done on it. Since I’m pretty much completely absorbed in working on the unity version at the moment, I could only do this if the universe grants me a decent swath of free time, which may or may not happen. However, something I CAN do – a bit ago I did a Construct 2 tutorial for our Game Jams group at work and recorded it. It had a lot of examples from the Slow Down Bull prototype, so I could post that video somewhere for folks who just want to learn more about Construct 2!

As we continue towards this Fall, we wanted to spotlight various members of the Sunset Overdrive team with some questions you hopefully haven’t seen answered elsewhere. Get to know the Sunset Overdrive team. This week we talk to Game Director Drew Murray.

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There is a rumor that you were standing on top of a chair when pitching Sunset Overdrive to Microsoft, can you confirm or deny?

Confirmed. I was telling the story of what we thought would be a typical experience in the game, and as I reached the culmination of the story, I was building up the performance, talking louder and gesticulating more. At the end, I jumped up on my chair, switched to yelling, and acted out the last 45 seconds or so. I’d actually been practicing jumping up on a conference table, but the table at Microsoft seemed a bit flimsy so I decided to go with the chair, not really considering the fact that jumping up on a swivel chair maybe wasn’t the best idea. Thankfully, Noah Mussler at Microsoft snatched his arm out and held the chair for the rest of my performance so I wouldn’t flip over.

Describe your ideally dressed Sunset Overdrive character?

As part of our pitch, I described what I pictured me and Marcus looking like in-game. My character was wearing nothing but a Speedo, a kangaroo codpiece, and sneakers. Add a black-eye or a bloody nose, and I’m good to go!

What were some of your first design rules for Sunset Overdrive?

After seven years of Resistance, “no rubble, no grey” was our first rule!

Our best rule, though, was “Less talk, more rock!” (which we totally ripped off from a Superbrothers article based around a Jordan Mechner quote). The core idea is that most developers spend a ton of time talking and talking and talking about how to translate their basic, essential inspiration into a game, and then start working on it, but the best way is to go directly from inspiration to making, or “rocking.” As the article said, “Don’t think it through. Don’t talk about it. Don’t plan it. Dive in and start making it happen.” As soon as something is playable, you find consensus much quicker, even if it’s to go a completely different route, and you also get people focused on improving a feature instead of arguing against it as a theoretical concept.

All game designers should read this: http://boingboing.net/features/morerock.html

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Sunset Overdrive inspiration concepts

What’s the hallmark of a well-designed game for you?

I think it’s how well a game reflects its inspiration and intent. “Fantasy-based melee game” could be used to describe both God of War and Dark Souls, but those games have completely different inspirations and intents. One is to make you feel like a total badass the moment you pick up the controller, the other is to oppress you and make you work for every inch of ground you gain. And they’re both fantastically successful at evoking the feeling that they intended.

You’re a stickler for terrific controls, can you talk about the process? How do you know you nailed it?

The process really just comes down to tons of iteration. We do a rough pass to get the overall experience feeling vaguely correct, and then drill into the details. We’ll look at a particular thing like camera turn speed and really drill into top speed, acceleration and deceleration, how the stick-input-angle relates to different speeds, how the turn speed is affected by zooming, and tons of other details. Details like whether acceleration to top speed is going to take 5 frames or 6 frames are huge decisions, and there are heated debates about them.

Then we start playing the game and looking for cases where the controls don’t feel right, and we decide whether to adjust the core controls or set up special-case adjustments.

Along the way, we’re doing constant usability tests – first internally and then bringing in outsiders who have never seen the game – and seeing how players handle the controls. We get a lot of feedback from players telling us what they like and don’t like, but we’re also watching them play and will pick up on a lot of details that players may not consciously realize but that they’re having problems with. We take all we’ve learned, adjust what we need to, and run more people through it.

It’s a balance, though – your intent for the game has to stand firm. A game like Dark Souls could be considered non-responsive by a lot of players in a usability test, but those delays and slow, heavy animations and losing control after a big hit from an enemy are what make that game great at realizing its intent and inspiration. For Sunset Overdrive’s high-action, immediate responsiveness is what we aimed for, and so making sure that the controls are fast and tight was our goal.

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The One-Handed Dragon from the E3 2014 trailer. Drew’s favorite Sunset Overdrive weapon.

What’s your favorite video game of all time?

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. I already loved Ratchet – the colors, the weapons, the combat, the tight controls, the humor, the minigames, the variety of mechanics, the different planets – and Up Your Arsenal took everything that was already great about the franchise and made it so much better. It cemented my desire to come to Insomniac to figure out how they made such great games. We’ve described Sunset Overdrive as “the game for adults who grew up loving Spyro and Ratchet,” because that’s who we are.

If your city was overrun by mutants who had drank Overcharge, how would you survive?

I’d steal an ice cream truck, cover it with pinwheels and roman candles, and blast T. Rex from the truck’s speakers while cruising around the city in order to gather a group of like-minded survivors. Then we’d drive to the Santa Monica Pier while eating ice cream novelties and create a post-apocalyptic pagan nudist colony in the amusement park there, surviving on funnel cakes and beer while we watched the sun set into the Pacific from the top of the Ferris Wheel.

Your Sunset Overdrive Weapon of Choice?

The One-Handed Dragon. I love the whistle-sounds of the fireworks, I love the risk-reward of the delayed-explosion, I love the dragon fireworks effects, and I love the gun model itself. I also spent a lot of time defending its early implementation, so I think the One-Handed Dragon and I bonded over other people’s mutual disdain for us.

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Drew and Conan O’Brien at E3.

What was it like demoing to Conan O’Brien?

It was fun. I knew in the back of my mind that I might look like an idiot on national TV, but I’m the guy who was jumping around on tables and chairs when presenting the game and asking concept artists to tweak the ears of the in-game kangaroo codpiece for the fifth time so it would look just right; it’s not like I have a lot of shame. I know how lucky we are to have people interested in the game, so I’m just trying to enjoy all the cool and unique experiences that are coming up, and this definitely fit the bill. Conan and his crew were very cool and, despite the appearance on TV, they all seemed to really dig Sunset Overdrive. As a bonus, my mom now thinks I’m famous.

Other interviews with Art Director Jacinda Chew and Creative Director Marcus Smith.

This week on Sunset TV we answer a big-ole-bag-o questions. What’s the inspiration behind the name? Does it use rumble triggers? What’s the biggest secret we can’t tell you. Find out all this and more on another installment of: HEROES OF SUNSET TV: THE STEEL-BOUND SINNER!

SUBSCRIBE! for weekly shows: http://bit.ly/SOYouTube

Be sure to send your questions or comments to sunsettv@insomniacgames.com to join in on the fun!