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Discover the inspiration behind The Asskickers. Part 3 : the aesthetics of a 2D cartoon brawler

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Part 3: A 2D cartoon brawler

When designing The Asskickers, gameplay and content was very important to us but so was aesthetics. We had a very strong debate among the team regarding the art style of the game.
Some wanted it to stick to a retro 8-bit pixel aesthetic while some other wanted to try something new. In the end, the "modernist" camp prevailed. We ended up agreeing that an 8-bit style worked great for the classics as well as for some other games but it seemed pointless now to recreate an 8-bit aesthetic just for nostalgia's sake Plus, it conflicted with our ambition of creating a modern take on the beat'em up genre. Using large pixels and an 8-bit retro aesthetic would have made a game a simple tribute and, from our perspective, it would have been playing it safe, artistically speaking.

Therefore, we embarked on a quest for the visual style of your game.
In our minds, it was clear that the game had to be in 2D and use hand-drawn assets and animations to possess a sort of comic book quality that we did not succeed in reproducing using 3D models (we tried with cell-shading but did not like the result). In retrospect, although this choice was artistically pleasing, it led to tremendous difficulties regarding the art pipeline and the sheer amount of assets to produce. To give you an idea: each visual asset in the game had to be hand drawn, then colored and resized before being included in the game with the same process necessary for characters animations. In short, creating the game was almost like creating an interactive animated movie.
Creating all the 2D assets out to be quite a resource and time consuming process but we did our best to make the game as strikingly beautiful as possible. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have French comic book artist Nicolas Sauge working with us (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWG7X_ThGfE) and his expertise and talent in coloring helped us improve greatly the visual style of the game.
For the most part, the general look of the game was inspired by the Belgian and French school of comics which uses lines and colors differently than its American counterpart.
We believe this choice put off some American customers more accustomed to the sharper lines and darker atmosphere but we stand proudly by our "Gallic water colored aesthetic", as Rock, Paper, Shotgun, put it.

When it came to character design, we opted for caricature.
This meant for us that we would start from real characters and exaggerate some part of their anatomy or focus on a detail to create identity or a comic effect. For instance, "fat cat" character was based on some robber baron portraits from the 1920's. Then we outfitted him with a modern suit and emphasized his big belly, later to be used as an attack weapon. For the stockbroker, we chose an Armani-style pin-stripe suit but focus mostly on the annoying grinning and snickering to make the player want to punch him in the face. As for the final boss of the game, President Richard Shepherd, he was created through a mix of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi and American President Ronald Reagan.

Finally, we also paid a great deal of attention to the music of the game.
There again, we did not want to go for the obvious retro-chip tunes choice.
Like we had done with art style, it was important for us to create a modern sound for The Asskickers.
Music and sounds are very important in a beat'em up. The soundtrack from Streets of Rage is a masterpiece and almost music you can dance to and some sound effects are almost a signature such as the screams from the defeated enemies. For the Asskickers, we wanted to do something similar but with a more modern vibe and production.
To do so we had the privilege of working with French sound designer and composer Géry Montet (Rayman, In Memoriam) with whom we crafted a catchy and dynamic soundtrack inspired by modern artists such as Bloody Beetroots or DJ Shadow. If you'd like to hear Géry's work we invite you to download an extract of the soundtrack in the media center.

As you can see, we put a lot of thought and effort into the aesthetics of The Asskickers.
We understand that the choices we made might have put off some players but we find them to be coherent with the beat'em up experience we tried to create.

We hope you have enjoyed this presentation of some of the inspiration behind the game and we invite you to keep in touch for more asskicking news!

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