Asset Brainstorm #3 — AuCrowne Expressions

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


It’s a new month and that means it’s time to look at this again with a sneaky secret oh hey what if this winds up being part of the actual project this month followup, eh?

First of all, let’s source our material. I got these over on Itch, from Au Crowne. And note as well in this case that while there are three models to work with, two are only available for noncommercial products through Creative Commons Non-Attribution 4.0. What does that mean? It means that, as the storefront allows, I can’t use those products in a commercial product. Is that a big deal?

Well, kinda: I like making sure that my projects are made with an eye to further development. If I use a particular art asset a lot and it turns out that I can’t use it later, I have to go back and redo work. This applies to all assets – backgrounds, key assets, but also to fonts. Making sure I keep things clean throughout the process means that I don’t have to worry about licensing or changing things later.

I contacted the creator in this case, and asked her, and she said that the other models were not likely to ever be made available for a non-Creative Commons Non-Attribution 4.0 license. And that’s it. I’m not in the business of annoying artists if I can help it.

In this case, the original game idea was built around the idea that I’d have three different sets of portraits to work with, and therefore, three different game boards. And I really did want to work with these assets, because they’re really good and also they’re probably made for a genre that honestly, doesn’t get a lot of attention outside of smooch month and also also it’s an art asset that says ‘Do One Thing With Me’ and I like the challenge of stepping outside that most obvious option. Games are manifold and complicated and contain multitudes, and I want to see if I can come up with something to do with art assets clearly made for a visual novel.

Okay, so pop open the set and what we get is this.

This adorable character, called Lala, is made for a visual novel. The art assets boil down into a few pieces – five basic facial expressions if you use just the preset ones in the packet, but if you want to tailor each eyebrow and eye combination you could use this art asset to generate about seven thousand combinations and of those combinations, most of them are just slightly different mouth-eyebrow compositions and don’t necessarily click.

Whatever, moving on.

We don’t get to move the arm, we don’t get to change the outfit, we don’t get to change the hair. And the point of using premade art assets is to minimise need for changing things, so in this case we’re going to be looking at what we can do with these pieces in a way that involves not needing to change them immensely, and which uses what they already are well.

These are pictures of a girl, and pictures of her experiencing a variety of moods.

My first idea here is to make this game somehow use tiles which feature her expression. What can I do with that? Okay, let’s mock up a basic idea:

A square tile that lives on the face space of this card creates the illusion of a character who shifts through moods. The coloured bar is just a given element to represent game mechanical information, but we’ll deal with that later. Okay, so we have a thing, and now we can do something with these tiles – the tile that changes changes her mood:

Get a load of that, isn’t that cute and interesting.

But okay, that’s a basic mechanical component right? A card, or a player tableau with a set of tiles on it, and those tiles can reflect a person’s changing moods. The idea this gives me is worker placement game.

You flip the tiles over so you’re looking at a blank back. You place them in slots to represent which worker tasks you want to do. If every player has one of these boards, and a set of these tiles, then now you have a mechanic where you do a thing, and as the tiles come back, you get a mood.

So the idea is that these tiles represent your energy levels, and you can set them out on the board where your player actions show up. Then you can pick up the tiles, and each one you pick up gives you a mood, which determines or influences the results of your subsequent actions. So maybe if you’re Hopeful, a task may give better rewards, or if you’re Upset, it won’t. This can be a simple 1-4 value, like how good a result you get, or it could be that they have specific responses to one another.

This could also be useful for a game system like the ordered tiles in Kingdomino, where highly valuable payoff cards put you in the back of the queue for the next turn.

This is the basic engine, but also, this is a centralising, focal aesthetic. If the game is built around a cute girl from a visual novel style space, and her mood impacts what she’s doing, then we’re probably designing a game idea that’s about tasks such a girl can do in a day. This pushes me towards a game design where you’re trying to run a cute anime girl through her day and maybe optimise the way that day works out. If the game fiction wants to be really stable and consistent then there’s stuff like school or after-school clubs the character can invest in.

This gives you a stable set of slots the game can interact with and unreliable results. And what’s more, this has a play pattern where you choose the things you’re going to do, but then the order you pick up the tiles and get results is based on the last game action you took.

There, that’s the idea. A worker placement game about cute anime girls doing cute anime things, making choices about how their days go, and maybe even recording a history of how stressed or sad or bummed they were. I got that idea from looking at a game asset made for a totally different system, then seeing what I could come up with.

This might want to be a gamecrafter game though. Those tiles really want a board to be placed on… unless it’s about building a deck of cards as your result, possibly.

Hm!

That there’s a brainstorm! We took an asset I liked the look at, then got to do a bit of an investigation into rights and opportunities for usage, and then into what we could do with the scale of the game we had. And we got a pretty cool little game idea out of it, too. I like this idea, maybe we’ll explore further. And maybe we won’t be able to use this asset for it (but don’t worry, I did pay for it), because I want more variety, but that’s okay: Exploring the asset and brainstorming is part of the process of playing with ideas.

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