Crafting the official cover
Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. Not only books, but movies, tv series, music albums, and video games as well. Even people, but that’s a complete different theme beyond our blog purpose. Anyway, I think everyone can agree that the cover is the most important element of a product that gets so little attention. Most people just take a quick look at it. And yet, in many cases, without a good cover a person just snubs the product and moves on. For example, imagine yourself scrolling through the list of point and click adventure games on Steam. Although there are many other important details, in most cases the one element that will lure you to an unknown game is the cover itself. That’s a proven fact, try to test it on yourself. The end point is that a cover can get the needed attention only by beating a fearful competition. It’s a tough and challenging goal.
Keeping in mind the above, at the end of June we’ve started crafting our precious most-important-element-that-will-get-so-little-attention for Saint Kotar. The problem was, and still is, our very slim budget. We couldn’t afford to outsource the work, so we had to do it by ourselves. Specifically, our background artist had to do it with the oversight and suggestions from me and other team members. It was teamwork at its finest and a very nice stress test for the whole team, but mostly for the artist himself. With my admiration towards the first season of True Detective, the concept for the cover was found months before. True Detective’s promo posters used a technique called “double exposition”. They didn’t invent it, of course, but they’ve used it magnificently. What is a double exposition or double exposure technique? There’s a very simple definition on Wikipedia: “...in photography and cinematography, a multiple exposure is the superimposition of two or more exposures to create a single image, and double exposure has a corresponding meaning in respect of two images”. It’s a nice technique that allowed us to expose the protagonists, the setting, and the mood as well - all together in one single image.
The crafting process consisted of the following: the first step was to draw a loose sketch of the cover. After the overall composition was determined, our artist made renders of the protagonists that were used as a reference while painting in order to match the look of the characters on the cover as close as possible to their appearance in-game. Once the characters were done, the game’s setting was painted separately as part of their bodies. At this stage we found the cover looking too “clean”, so we’ve added some heavy grunge textures to make the mood and style of the cover fit with our vision of the game. The grunge textures inspiration came from the poster of Seven, a masterpiece movie with a dark and unease mood so close to the one in Saint Kotar. Once the basic look of the cover was determined, we’ve tried out several different approaches and tweaks, until settling with the one that seemed perfect in our opinion (seen at the end of the post).
It’s debatable whether we’ve managed to design a compelling cover that will stand out, time will tell, but so far reactions from (future) players are good and encouraging. What’s frustrating for us is the time invested in the cover, way more than we initially planned. It slowed down the work on almost every other element of the project as well, but without the possibility to hire someone else we didn’t have a choice. In the meantime a slim budget became even slimmer, but remained still big enough to allow us to continue and finish the playable demo of the game. Saint Kotar: the Awakening (working title for the demo) will be a portion of the full game, free of charge, that will show how the final product will look, sound and play like. Covering the beginning of the full game, it features two playable and five non-playable characters, ten scenes, a few original music themes, a dozen of sound and visual effects, and voice overs for all characters. On average, it will be up to 30 minutes long, dependable on the player’s style of play. Why are we going through all this work on the demo? In order to fund development of the full game on Kickstarter we'll need your help - the help from players. But we have to deserve your support first, we cannot ask you to back us if we don’t show our vision of the game and what we’re capable to do.
The exact release date of the demo is not yet decided, but we’re persistently working hard to make it available as soon as possible. Two important things to keep in mind: first, we won’t release it until a high level of quality is met, keeping an eye on the budget of course. Second, a limited number of newsletter subscribers will get the chance to play a beta version before the official release. So, if you are still not a part of Saint Kotar’s growing community, subscribe now and get the chance to play the demo a few weeks earlier. Cheers!