Today I had the great opportunity to sit in on a talk given by local developers. Two employees from Coatsink came into the college to give a presentation on their latest release ‘Shu’ available on PS4 and Steam. As reps they sent Jonathan, a level designer and Gary, an animator. The game was made in conjunction with a secondary company called Secret Lunch, who gave birth to the original idea before Coatsink got involved and massively evolved the project.
In the presentation they showed two videos. The first video below is the original teaser from Secret Lunch in 2013 (pre Coatsink) and the second video is its actual launch trailer from October 2016.
It was cool to see how much of a visual shift the game had under Coatsink’s direction, it became much more fixed perspective than the previous incarnation. I also loved the style shift for the storm, originally it was a moving cloud (apparently procedural) and from what you can see in the trailer didn’t really strike me as menacing. The re-design is a little more anthropomorphic giving the storm a mouth and teeth, which in my opinion makes it far more menacing. Turns out once Coatsink got a hold of the assets nearly everything was given an overhaul, gameplay, new art (3D and sprite) and all new animations. I must admit being an old school gamer, I love the fact that platformers like Shu are making a popularity comeback.
The big draw for us as students is that the studio uses Unity for everything. It’s great to see the tools we’re learning being used in industry to develop commercial material with some good looking content. While this isn’t the first time I’ve seen big titles being developed in Unity, it’s the first time I’ve seen one being produced by local talent.
Both Jonathan and Gary drove home how often iterations will happen in develop, with every aspect of production. Level designs will frequently change, mechanics will constantly be tweaked and art & animation will be tweaked, possibly in response to gameplay changes. The biggest discipline of all that’ll see the most iterations is code, the example being given is post launch patching & fixes which the studio is still currently doing, along with their porting and optimisation for PSVita.
Jonathan told tales of his time doing level development. When the project started he was the only staff member responsible for overseeing the games 25 levels, a daunting task for a recent graduate. Eventually he settled into a pipline of gameplay mechanic breakdown, level sketch, white boxing a layout in Unity and then testing. Rinse repeat until the results you’re looking for. He pushed the importance of flow and fun in level design and that it shouldn’t rely on prompts to hand hold the player through an environment.
Gary then took the focus to talk about his time animating. Another recent graduate who had originally seen his dream job ONLY as a character animator. Since joining Coatsink he was responsible for environment animations, character animations, special effect animations and the list could go on. He would return to discuss being a jack of all trades but not before discussing Muybridge, Thomas and Johnson and Rich Williams, all of whom we know through Matt and our animation module. Legends that obviously inspire every generation of animator.
Gary would come back to discuss that larger companies will hire you and then pigeon hole you, so in that case he would have become ONLY a character animator and taken on a specialised skill set. Whereas Coatsink being a smaller indie developer, he had to take on multiple roles to assist development, on reflection he seemed pleased he’d had this opportunity to learn a bit of everything in his first job in industry. Jonathan also piped in that this allows you to communicate effectively with other teams as you may understand a small part of their job. The classic poking fun example of this, is artists and programmers having no idea how to communicate with one another.
It was lovely having the guys in, taking time out of their schedules to come along and talk about their experiences. With any luck we may see them again during our two years of education.