Artist-led game developer East Side Games recently launched a new version of Dragon UP, the mobile game that is all about hatching and raising dragons in a variety of flavors – including 8-Bit, Pug, and Hippy versions – and sending them on quests to find gold and treasure. Currently available for iOS, Dragon UP features hand-animated visuals created by artists whose resumes include My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Atomic Betty. There's a strong mix of edgy and silly art and animation in the game that's missing in most indie mobile games.
Exhibiting the growing demand for strong art production in the rapidly evolving world of mobile gaming, the artists behind East Side Games – including Creative Director Galan Akin, Animator Kent Reimer, and Art Director Kyle McQueen -- are big believers in crafting a unique art style that isn't a carbon-cut copy of what is seen in other mobile games.
"With the art of Dragon UP, we really wanted to surprise our audience with something new, while at the same time challenging the conventions of art and animation in mobile games,” says McQueen. “While the art team is small, we both come from traditional animation backgrounds and were able to bring that training into this project using the tools that we are familiar with. The bulk of the design was done using Illustrator, and then those assets were imported into flash and animated with all the techniques of traditional 2D animation.”
To successfully create the quantity of unique visuals called for in the game, the artistic team stuck with the restrictions they had assigned themselves from the beginning of the project. “Many other games focus on a customizable avatar, but we felt this would be too limiting for what we had in mind. Instead we chose to focus on making the design of each dragon unique, but similar enough to be able to share the same set of animations,” McQueen explains. “We made some early decisions that ended up paying off. For instance, we left out arms or legs because we could still sell the idea of ‘dragon’ without them. Once we were able to perfect this formula, the doors flew wide open. Anything can be a dragon, and when you have that much freedom it pretty much becomes a dream job for any artist.”
For McQueen, the one of the main challenge with games is the restriction of the devices the team develops for. “It's an interesting challenge to get something that looks great without impacting performance, but we have a great team that committed to the vision and we pulled it off,” he says. “We are all very proud of this project and really excited about the positive response it's been generating especially all the amazing Dragon UP fan art we've received!”
Dragon UP includes a social component as well. Version 1.4 saw the implementation of guilds and gifting so players can have their dragons drop rainbow-colored poop in each other's games to get more treasures. Now at version 1.5, Dragon UP has already seen over one trillion gold coins harvested from dragon vomit.
Source: East Side Games