Concept Art for UnEarth Initiative!

Hey Guys, I’m Janice Chu and I’m the concept artist for UnEarth Initiative! It’s been a real honor to work with such awesome and inspiring people. I started designing the look of UnEarth Initiative back in April, which was quite daunting at first because I basically had to come up with a very unique and overall style to the game. Then I thought, well wait, technically I can do whatever style I wanted and I had a lot of creative freedom, which was great because usually concept artists are given a style to follow. So having this creative freedom, I started with a few creatures in a style that I thought that would be fitting to the game. I was so happy to hear that everyone liked that style and that’s when I was able to move on to the task of creating the overall look for the game.

First pass for the style I wanted:


I watch a lot of cartoons and played lot of video games, more than I’d like to admit. But, I’m in the gaming industry so it’s a great excuse; it also actually helps me when I do want to create concepts because I can pull inspiration from all these different sources, which is awesome! When I was trying to figure out the overall look for UnEarth Initiative, I wanted it to look different from other crafting games and avoid the pixelated block look. Looking through all the art books and games that I own, I was inspired by Mass Effect, Insomniac Games’ Ratchet and Clank and Wakfu (a cartoon made in France)! I was thinking, what if I combined all these great styles into one look? What if Mass effect looked cartoon-y like Wakfu but with a bit of wacky-ness from Insomniac Game’s Ratchet and Clank?  And that was when the light bulb went on – the style of UnEarth Initiative was born! Once I established what I wanted the colors to be, it was somewhat smooth sailing with the way I wanted the environments to look like. Since players spend numerous hours playing a game, I want everything from the environment down to the tools for mining to look awesome and eye-catching. If the resources or tools look bland, then I feel the players will not be attracted to continue playing.


Much of the living area was inspired by the Mass Effect’s color scheme on the Normandy as well as some modern contemporary houses. Nothing spells out futuristic than nice simple and clean white and black walls and shiny sleek floors!  I designed various floor tiles; some with simple designs or materials, others with cool glass tiling or tile lights for those who want to live it up in space!


Our current design has randomly generated caves, with glowing plants and crystals. I painted the caves pretty dark so that the crystals and plants would stand out. Their glow would provide some low lighting in the cave. I like the glow from the crystals; it gives the cave area a sense of ambiance but still seems very alien. My references on the cave plants have led me to discover that some succulents are actually quite alien looking. And whenever I get the chance to, I like to mix science and art together.  So here was my chance to make these succulents bioluminescent! Every alien planet needs glowing plants, it’s like the number one rule! After that, I started concepting plants like mad and I started mixing different shapes and colors together to make interesting silhouettes. Using complementary colors for the flowers made them pop out more and made them look interesting. Actually, a lot of exotic plants and animals have a lot of contrasting colors that really makes them unique.


Mock up of the environment and tile sets:


I also wasn’t kidding with the succulents – hard to imagine that these are real!


Concepts of some of the plant life in UnEarth Initiative!


Colonists, Creatures and Aliens, Oh my! 

Designing the colonists for UnEarth Initiative was a fun, fulfilling challenge.  The colonists can have a number of different jobs so that meant each job has a different outfit. The challenging part of this task was that I had to keep in mind that the silhouette of each colonist must be recognizable at a distance. For example, the explorer colonist has a backpack that must be obvious in the silhouette. The backpack would symbolize exploration. Meanwhile, the engineering colonists have a large bolt on their chest that represents building or inventing.



There are also creatures that inhabit the planet and this was super fun to design! I was able to use inspiration from Ratchet and Clank because they have a wild variety of creatures! There were three kinds of creatures I had to design. Live stock, surface dwelling creatures and cave creatures. For the live stock creatures, I wanted to take common farm animals that everyone was familiar with and then give each an alien twist. So for example, I took a regular sheep and added three eyes instead of two because two would be too common. Four eyes would be too much to be seen at a distance. I took away the feet and John thought it would be cool if the sheep hovered. As for the underground creatures, I wanted all of them to be smaller bug like creatures. (G, H,J, K, L) A lot of the eyes for the underground creatures glow because they need to be able to see in the dark like the aqua colored crab (G) and the blue scorpion (L) with fluorescent eyes. Again, I took inspiration from science, using deep-sea creatures as inspiration such as anglerfish. With the surface dwelling creatures, I designed a variety of creatures with a lot more range in silhouettes and colors because I wanted some them to look more dangerous than others and that it could be encountered in different ways.  For example I was playing with color and how I made some creatures more vibrant and saturated with color to feel more dangerous such as the red looking creature (I) versus to the muted green slime (F) that would probably cause less harm to the colony.


Along with creature designs, I had to design a number of Alien races. A lot of my inspiration comes from 2 artists that I look up to when doing character design – Greg Baldwin and Dave Guertin also known as Creature Box. Differentiating Aliens from Creatures was tough at first but then I thought that Aliens can be treated the same as human silhouettes but just with more exaggerated forms. It also helps with Lesley’s descriptions on the different distinct behaviors such as peaceful, aggressive, sly etc. which definitely help in the silhouette design. If I haven’t said so enough yet, silhouettes are extremely important especially in these alien designs because I need to be able to show their personality just by the shape of their body and maybe their body language.

Here are some preliminary rough sketches for the Aliens:


And just for fun, here are: Extra Sketches!



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