Flat Kingdom

You could be forgiven for not having heard of Flat Kingdom, but this independent video game published by Games Starter is notable for its beauty, and its individuality – unlike many other video games, it’s in 2D. Developed in Mexico by Fat Panda Games, Flat Kingdom’s road to success is worth analysing for any budding game or print artist.

In its early stages, the designers fully intended the game to be 3D, but soon came across many factors they hadn’t taken into consideration. Although they wanted to emulate other games in their target market, they didn’t take into account whether they had the budget – or indeed the necessary skills – to carry it off. That initial hurdle proved to be the thing that gave the game its unique look; lacking something – money, equipment, time, or skills – doesn’t need to equal failure.

What the designers then did was the opposite; they looked at what they could do, where they talents lay, and what visual style would work best within those restrictions. The art department had extensive experience both drawing and animating in 2D, and took the decision to step away from a 3D look in favour of playing to their strengths and talents. What they came up with was unique.

Their inspiration came from paper. Other games, such as Paper Mario and Alto’s Adventure, with their flat shapes and stylised characters, served as references, but strong influences also came from origami, paper cuts, and also from mediaeval art, childrens’ pop-up books, and the mathematical beauty of geometry. However, inspiration is the easy part – finding something that is uniquely your own is quite another.

They combined the references to make something new, combining shapes to make new ones, such as with their game villain, Hex. Origami figures and existing artwork served as a reference point, and distilled into new forms and ideas. These 2D inspirations all served to make what is a unique vision for the game.

The other standout achievement of Flat Kingdom was not to lose sight within the game of what was decorative and what was part of gameplay. Character intentions have to be conveyed with animation, so if sketches don’t hit their mark, especially for playing characters, these won’t come across clearly. Where Flat Kingdom won out was with close attention to everything from attack capabilities to weaknesses and strengths, and to aim for clarity in the artwork.

The Fat Panda team’s words of advice for other budding animators are worth filing away for any number of tasks and professions, as they don’t just apply to game makers; look at what other people are don’t, and don’t be afraid to try other styles than your own, as you might surprise yourself and come up with something totally new. Most importantly, enjoy what you do, and don’t be afraid to start from scratch if you need to. You never know what you might achieve.

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