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The Art Development of JUSTICE SUCKS — Top Tips for Junior Video Game Artists

Our wacky, stealth/action vacuum cleaner adventure, JUSTICE SUCKS, has been in the works since January of 2020, and with the game’s release creeping closer, it’s the perfect time to give you all a sneaky behind-the-scenes look! I had a chat with our resident art superstars, Callum Williams and Cyrian Guillaume, to gather some of their precious professional insight, and I’m gonna share it with you all today. Whether you’re a hopeful artist looking to enter the video game industry, or just an obsessed Dusty McClean megafan, prepare to be enlightened.

Like every teen who claims they were born in the wrong generation, JUSTICE SUCKS was heavily influenced by the 90’s. Our artists were inspired by “pop culture, clothing, music and movies” in their pursuit to capture the iconic elements of the decade, and inspiration was found everywhere. Callum cited anime as a subconscious influence, as it wasn’t explicitly discussed within the team, but clearly helped shape the “visual aesthetic, special effects and camera angles” in the game. This is a testament to the importance of consuming media broadly; you never know what might come back as a potential point of inspiration in the future, enriching what you create.

JUSTICE SUCKS is the spiritual successor to our 2019 game Roombo: First Blood, and Cyrian expressed the team’s desire to “recapture the general themes'' of the first title, while still finding ways to “add [their] own chaotic, memorable vibes to the aesthetic”. Being the youngest member of the team, I don’t have such a nostalgic place in my own heart for the “outrageous, rave-inspired outfits, pastel colours and transparent plastic” of the decade, but JUSTICE SUCKS has given me a vibrant highlight reel of the time.

As well as the iconic 90’s aesthetic, Callum took inspiration from Team Fortress 2 when working on the game’s character designs, utilising references from TF2 to help him achieve the “colour blocking and shape language” that convey a character’s role and personality.

('Gunner' Character Model - 2020)

('Gunner' Character Model - 2022)

If you’re familiar with JUSTICE SUCKS, you’ll know that the game is bursting with chaotic energy, but there’s a method to the madness. Cyrian reported that the early stages of development for all the team’s projects begin with “a lot of brainstorming and refining ideas by talking about them first”. Then comes the “Pinterest binge”, a stage where the art team endeavours to remain unbiased and allow inspiration from all sources. “After a while we pick a direction that feels original or interesting in some way and refine it”, which can take “many iterations to land on something really special”. While this creative process is “mostly collaborative”, Cyrian noted the importance of splitting up the group at first, as “everyone will come up with completely different takes on an idea”. 

Tackling obstacles and making mistakes is a surefire way to learn the juicy lessons that will help you in the future, but that doesn’t mean you can’t steal some wisdom from us first! (Then you’ll go on to mess things up in your own special way, and impart the knowledge you’ve gained. Ahhh, the beautiful circle of life.)

When asked about the art team’s biggest challenge, Callum mentioned how “initially, the assets for the game were very detailed”, but due to a major change in the game’s camera positioning, much of the art team’s work was going unnoticed in-game. As Cyrian puts it, the devs “pulled the camera back by probably around double, and all of these details were barely visible”. As with most creative pursuits, progress is not always linear, and unexpected complications like this will test your problem-solving skills. Adaptability and resilience are key. 

 In Callum’s case, the necessity of taking time at the beginning of a project to nail down the direction was one of the most valuable lessons learned over the course of the game’s development. “I feel like initially it was a bit slow, but once we established how we wanted to do things, we were able to maintain a really good, consistent output”, which benefited the game overall; “the most valuable thing we learned was not putting all our eggs in one basket”. This slow burn approach meant that “a lot of the initial art was reused from the first game”, until the team had decided on the unique direction of JUSTICE SUCKS.

('Delivery' Mode - 2020)

('Delivery' Mode - 2022)

Overall, Cyrian found it challenging to condense the many iconic elements of the 90’s into one game, and claimed that utilising the team’s favourite aspects of the decade enabled them to “keep the general vibe while limiting the complete chaos of the various diverging aesthetics of the time”. On a more technical level, he referred to the hacking mechanics of the game as a particular artistic struggle: “We really wanted to capture the Home Alone comedy vibe, and we had all these traps that could be broken with custom meshes. We realised halfway through that this wasn’t going to scale up, so we had to find a generic way to make everything look broken without doing it all by hand”.

I asked Callum and Cyrian about the specific challenges of the development process, but we can’t gloss over the fact that creating a game of this scope with only two artists is a massive feat to begin with, and they deserve massive congratulations for their work. (1 wishlist = 1 pat on the back for our artists)

('Nightclub' Level - 2021)

('Nightclub' Level - 2022)

In their infinite wisdom and generosity, Callum and Cyrian also put together their top tips for scoring a job as an artist in the video game industry. First up, let’s talk about your portfolio. Once you’re out of uni, you need to polish it up. According to Cyrian, “your student work might be good, but stepping up your game will improve your chances of landing a job”, and your portfolio should “reflect the job you want”, so include work that suits the kind of position you’re striving for. 

Callum encourages junior artists to “make sure [they’re] finishing the things [they] start; every time you finish something, you’ll get better”. Even if you have a day job, a little bit of work every day can lead to you finishing a project and adding it to your portfolio. Additionally, don’t be afraid to remove work from your portfolio as you improve your skills and start developing more polished projects. As Callum puts it, “your older work can actually hold you back as you get better”. 

Cyrian also suggests that you don’t wait for your dream job: “this is a very competitive industry with limited jobs, and sometimes getting what you can is enough to get your foot through the door”. This could mean looking for “adjacent work like 3D rendering or modelling for advertisement, architecture and graphic design”, or developing your teamwork and efficiency under pressure in a different field. As Cyrian explained, “the skillset you get from a retail job is also applicable to game development”. When applying for games industry jobs, make sure to “showcase the skills most relevant to the job you're trying to get”.

Last but not least, it’s vital to “have a positive, driven attitude; people will have a much easier time remembering you if you’re nice to them”. On the flip side of that, it’s even easier to become memorable for the wrong reasons, so it’s imperative to be as respectful and considerate as possible. Be kind, always. (That’s just a rule for life.)

If you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the artistic development of JUSTICE SUCKS, you can follow our socials for more! And if you’re already following all our socials, you have our eternal love and affection. What more could you want?!

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