DERP Studios was started as a collaborative company entirely staffed by students from multiple disciplines. By working for the company during our time as students, often as part of the work itself, the DERP team are able to gain the experience of working on a live games project in a far larger team than most Indie companies are able to field.
The members of the DERP Team were based around the county using social media to communicate during the day and meeting twice a week over video chat to discuss the project as the whole. Once per month we met at Pitvil to work closer together.
The Jej project involved designing a top down tablet game with a steampunk aesthetic, the player controls a Mech while battling Mechanical 'Butlers' and the new threat of the alien looking Jej. The Creation of these Jej was my responsibility.
I was tasked in the beginning to create a series of alien creatures that were to have invaded the earth. The invasion would take place during a new Ice Age and that they would need to contrast with the robotic Butlers who were the antagonists in the early game. Through a great deal experimentation we finalised on the Golem as starting point for the Jej, a biomechnical Mech that would be pioleted by the aliens in response to the mechanical Mech used by the player.
Change in Design
Working closely with our writer, the story of the Jej changed from external alien invasive species to an interterrestrial one that evolved long before the carbon based life that exists today. In addition to this the writer introduced psychic conductive crystal from within the earths core. Due to the teams reaction to one of my early drawings based on thier use of them we decided to have the new Jej live symbiotically with the crystals themselves.
By having an organism that went through multiple stages I was able to create the four different Jej organisms needed by the team. By the Jej being a natural organism to the planet I was able to create stages that were more bestial than before. Despite this I wanted to keep them as strange looking as I could as they do not fit into our evolutionary tree. Bellow are a selection of sketches I created during an extended meeting with the rest of the team, as well as more developed digital paintings and a sculpture of the re worked Golem now incorporating the new Crystal growths.
Based on a comment from one of our programmers we decided that rather than the Jej growing into a final state, instead the Infant, Juvenile and Golem, would be a chrysalis for a final adult stage, one that would make use of those crystals that had been growing with it. This also allowed me to have a final Jej stage that was smaller rather than constantly getting bigger as is the trend in many games for 'final bosses'.
Games Design Document
Due to the large size of the DERP team the Games Design Document was incredibly important. I was responsible for maintaining the Jej. In addition to the formal writing, I created a visual expression of the appearance and mechanics of the Jej stages including examples of how the particle effects might be visualised.
From 2D to 3D
Working with the 3D team I created Character Sheets for the various stages of the Jej which were then modeled by Micheal Bird. This was my also my first opportunity to try texturing something that I had worked on as well as being able to see it animated.
3D models created by Micheal Bird
Tasked with creating a small teaser for the release of the Jej, at this point only the Butlers had been shown, I tried to balance revealing just enough that people would be interested, without spoiling the full reveal.
I took this particular painting as another opportunity to combine my traditional and digital skills into a single image. Working digitally on top of traditional textures on top of which I added the traditionally painted Jej Golem.
Iteration on design
The final stage of the Jej, the adult form that has been growing inside the mobile chrysalis of the previous three forms of Jej, needed to stand out from the others to make it's nature clear. The previous design was very humanoid and was not comfortable with its look. Focusing on the psychic abilities created by the Crystals I decided to differentiate the Mature Jej from the Chrysalis stages by making this the key focus of their design.
Bellow are collected sketchbook drawings created during a team meeting to experiment with new shapes. I was especially keen to build upon the second pair of front limbs that are recessive during the chrysalis stages.
Based on feedback from the rest of the DERP team I worked up their favorite aspects of the designs and presented them to the Art Director. It was important that the Adult Jej was both clearly not part of our evolutionary tree, and retained a feeling of having grown within the chrysalis, immuring from the Golem.