Wonderlings started out as Dragon Adventures. It was a breed & collect simulation game developed for the mobile market. It was soft-launched in April 2017 but wasn’t showing desired results and thus pulled from the stores.

Wonderlings was a team effort and it was a pleasure to work with so many talented people, to learn from them and with them along the way. So before going into my own role and involvement I want to thank all of the people involved. Some have only been involved for parts of the way, many of them have since found other companies to work for or have – like myself – been freelancing from the start. Wherever you guys are now, it was a pleasure working with you. Thank you all:

Matt Roberts (Head of studio), Paul Virapen (Head of studio), Nick Martinelli (Head of art), Mette Tabel (Project Lead), Adam Telfer (Project Lead), Fred St. Amour (Creative Director), Daniel Doubleday (Lead software engineer), Remi Tjon Ajong (Lead animator & animation outsourcing management), Jack Gilson (Lead artist, 3D art), Hanna Brady (writer), Guilherme Belotti (Game designer), Jason Lee (Game designer), Brian Davis (Game designer), Hubert Paré-Morency (Software engineer), Linda Fritsche (Frontend Developer), Lucas Marguet (Frontend developer), Svend Dutz (Software engineer), Philipp Müller-Armbruster (Producer for art & outsourcing), Armin Feistenauer (Producer for game design & development), Nadia Enis (Visual development concept artist), Svenja Hohn (Concept artist, 2D & 3D gameart, asset integration), Léa Dabssi (Concept artist), Christoph Kaplan (Concept artist), Andrea Casartelli (Concept artist, game art, marketing art), Juan P. Verni (Animation vis-dev artist), Sai Kiran Anasingaraju (Animation intern), Niels Alexi Johansen (Tech artist, animation), Damon Rayner (Tech artist, tools), Anil Reddy (Tech artist, asset integration), Holger Wurst (UX, UI-artist), Crystal Rogers (UI-artist), Victor van Schagen (Concept artist, game art, asset integration), Annya Widyaputri (Animation intern), Adelya Tumasyeva (UI intern), Philip Unger (Tech artist, asset integration), Simon Petillon (Concept artist, game art), Abhishek Kesarkar (Concept artist, game art), Sebastian Schoellhammer (Tech artist), Igor Chernakov (Tech artist), Rocksalt (Game art & animation-studio), Dhruva (Game art & animation-studio)

My involvement began in june 2015 during prototyping and I left in april 2017 immediately after the game’s soft-launch but before it’s closure.
I started out as the first artist on the project and was the fourth member to the team. Initially I was contracted for some quick and short-term visual development. We extended my engagement and I became the Art lead. It was my responsibility to create and maintain the artistic vision as well as set up the project for it’s upcoming pre-production as well as production.
During a prolonged period of company-wide resource scarcity I stepped down from this partially managerial position, the idea was to make myself available fully for increasing production needs. At that point Jack joined the team as Lead artist.
I stayed with the project until it’s soft-launch, my responsibility became to do whatever I could.
This included:

  • Development of the visual identity of the project and respecting documentation (Art vision document, …)
  • Project scoping for the art side of the project
  • Reviewing, hiring and onboarding of artists
  • Assessing outsourcing partners, representing the project and company to the outsourcing studios while visiting them for meet & greet on location in India
  • Providing feedback to outsourcing partners on 2D-assets as well as limited feedback on animation-assets
  • Creating concept art, game art, marketing art of characters, structures, environment blocks, decorations
  • Creating the marketing vision for the project
  • Together with developers, technical artists and animators developing scalable systems for our assets; as well as documenting them in guidelines, templates and best-practices ideally
  • Providing continued art direction througout the project’s development for parts of the project
  • Storyboarding sequences for vfx development

And finally some images (which were saved along the way. The last build of the game was broken so I never captured some final screenshots).

The game in action (not-final versions): 


Early style exploration (UI elements sourced from competitor title screenshots):  Explaining style composition for non-artists as well as mapping of competitors styles as well as our intended approach (I redacted the map-part for this post):  Visualizing approaches to rarity progression:
First keyvisual sketches and painting for internal use only: A quickly thrown together visual target (includes bits and pieces of art from the team for the island and wonderlings concepts):

Documentation and systems development: 

One iteration of the art vision document: Drawing a range of expressions, then figuring out a break up into pieces to make production efficient, after consultation with GameDesign on required expressions figuring out the final break up and naming convention together with tech artist Damon Rayner:
A wonderling concept by the team put into the brief-template which we provided for each wonderling to the outsourcing partner:One 2D game art asset by Dhruva: Balancing the line between unique content and production efficiency we in the very beginning decided to only to quadrupeds for the initial soft-launch/launch. To maintain some uniqueness we established principals/archetypes of rigs. All wonderlings within a family could more or less easily share animations. This sped up the animation production immensely since base animations had only to be tweaked. Each wonderling though had a few unique animations.

Initially I had concepted a much more organic and interesting approach to collection islands (which basically were habitats off the main island), but since the team struggled immensely with following my initial design approach and because the schedule was getting tighter, I revisited the whole set up and made it easier and less complex.  Habitats were simply divided into a stage and decoration area with only 1 square height to minimize overlap and thus visual and user input confusion. (Habitat concepts by the team, game art render by Simon, Svenja & myself)

Proof of concept paintings. I used distorted renders of the isometric 3D collection islands, rearranged the objects a little bit, added simple foreground elements for depth and better parallaxing visuals to show a time-saving way to create backgrounds for the feeding-scenes on these islands.

Asset production:

Funnily enough while I did supervise the internal and external Wonderling 2D-production from beginning to my departure, except from the early artworks done for building the system and proof of concept stuff this concept is the only Wonderling I designed myself for the whole game (if I remember correctly).  One wip-state of the main island (group effort) and some renders of some of the structures (Christoph did concept art for an earlier version of the breeding tree). I did many iterations of debris and to get the team on-board that a simulation game isn’t complete without the option to customize your island I did a bunch of decorations.
Interaction with some of the structures led you to new screens, I concepted & painted these with layers set up for additional animation & parallax.
To feed your Wonderling you needed to transition into a “feeding scene”, which required backgrounds for all habitats. Similar setup as with the collection island backgrounds, these were painted by me and the others (not shown) were done by Simon. Efficiency was paramount.


Marketing art:

For marketing I sketched and painted a variety of icons in various stages, some of which were tested internally and/or externally. The final render was a collaboration with Andrea. 

I knew from early on during the project that I wanted to market the game based off of personalities instead of generic but nice looking dragons. The marketing team looked at all of our assets and decided on a couple of characters to represent the game. For this selection Andrea and I did a couple of sketches of individual, cropped poses to be used in banners, facebook ads, community posts etc. . Additionally we did a couple of character-interaction sketches. You can see a few of Andrea’s sketches in the interaction-sketches comp, I excluded his individual character sketches though. They are awesome but i don’t want to take credit for them.
Based off of our sketches the marketing team decided on poses they liked and provided additional feedback, then Andrea and I painted them collaboratively. The plan was to provide the marketing team with a multitude of assets per character to use, it never went that far though.
Additionally I comp’ed images for the storefronts and for audience-testing. 

This is it for this post. Wonderlings was a 22months project for myself, a unique experience so far and a jouney on which I met great people and some new close friends. Thanks again to all of the team for having me contribute to this project. There’s some really cool stuff that happened on Wonderlings, some really funny animations and of course even more great ideas which never happened.