Oneof the most difficult tasks that we set for ourselves at the start of the production was the creation of a unique character — a robot that looked nice and fitted well into the plot. Theme Planet of the Eyes is isolation, loneliness, study and overcoming obstacles. Inspired by the stories of Isaac Asimov and arcade games old school 90 years, we have created a game-journey of a lone robot in a world full of perils.
Like most artists, we started with visual binding. Of all the robots and androids we have selected those that seemed more like people (or at least had arms and legs). We wanted the players to associate themselves with the robot, treated him as his younger “brother in mind”. They were filled with compassion, when their character will die, riddled with spikes, or fall to pieces (in the game it happens quite often).
Another idea was to make robot very small, resembling age child who just starts walking. We believed that he will appear even more small in comparison with the hostile environment of the planet where his ship crashed. We have made a number of sketches, focusing on characteristics such as “made of boxes”, “like a toy”, “shell” and “parts camera”. Our choice was purely intuitive.
The prototype for our robot was the Polaroid camera. This design suited us for several reasons. First, we are at the beginning of the game, the main character is a robot researcher, and that the face of the robot resembled a camcorder, is quite consistent with this setup. Secondly, it was a kind of nod to the retro style, which relied on the visual design of the game, namely — colorful sci-Fi drawings Syd Mead, and ed Valigursky.
In our game we used their limited but very saturated color palette — the contrast with the grim plot and disturbing music. And finally, the main proof of the correct selection of the character design was how he was moving. Once we finished the animation cycle, our robot came to life and literally began to radiate to the milot and charm.
Even during the pre-production, we agreed that our robot will be a dumb character. We didnt want the players to interrupt gameplay to scroll through numerous text boxes. The plot of Planet of the Eyes gradually revealed through audio recordings left by Zach — as a night watchman on the crashed ship. At some point the player finds these entries and as you progress through the game listens to the monologues of Zack.
Here we encountered a small problem. How to give a robot personality without any text. And heres how we did it. One solution involves the use of the camera.
In the beginning of the game we deliberately keep it as close as possible to the robot. It helps players to establish and maintain a connection with the character. We are somewhat pessimistic looked at a huge variety of deaths in the game — we thought that this will prevent the player to empathize with the character. But it was funny. We especially liked the scene where the robot pushes the pipe out of the big bug, he struggles, but eventually shatters into pieces.
Subsequent short respawn time helps the player to feel the defeat and encourages him to try again. When we showed the game to beginners, we noticed that they tried to control almost every button. This gave us the idea to make a button that initiates a small robot dance. At this dance there were no goals but to captivate and entertain the player.
But looking at the smiles of the players who found the button, we were convinced that it was a great idea. We now understand that the design of our robot turned out be exactly what we had in mind. It invokes sympathy for the players and at the same time fits well into the games plot. Using cameras and animation we were able to make the players feel responsibility for the little robot and he wanted to bring it to the end of the game.
Coming up with our robot, working with color and creating a space environment, we relied on a science-fiction retro-style 90-ies. On the design of our robot was influenced by the Polaroid camera, giving this character a unique but relevant way, which we loved, and I hope you too.