Kaa the Koala —
Art Direction, Character & Landscape Design, Asset Creation
At the digital prototyping lab Centre for Digital Media, I was the primary designer of five to create a Unity game called Kaa the Koala.
I headed designing and creating all the art assets, including character and landscape concepts, and collaborated with our motion graphics designer and programmer to make them functional.
The essence of the game was simple: as a koala, you explore a trashed landscape, while collecting trash and planting eucalyptus seeds. Since koalas sleep 16-18 hours a day, the game switches between day and night times, requiring the koala to switch between an “awake” and “asleep” state.
We wanted to make the game cute, fun, and accessible — and have a beautiful environment to explore.
We wanted our koala character to be cute, accessible, and, for the ghost, magical. Hence, I used simple, minimal shapes with soft curves.
The awake koala is a normal, cuddly grey koala, whereas the ghost koala has more of a ethereal, glowing presence.
I worked with our animator to create animatable layers, as well as 360 degree perspectives of each koala.
As we were creating a 2.5D game, we were working with an isometric design. We wanted to create a mystical, magical landscape, so I took inspiration from the beautiful Monument Valley, and used contrasting yet soft colours with a geometric landscape.
Here were a few initial concept shots I created to illustrate a day/night effect on the landscape.
Besides the landscape and character art, I also created art for game assets. We had to make sure these fit into the isometric tile.
To be consistent with the cute, accessible style of our game, we went with a more round, bubbly feel. Here, the soft roundness of the objects contrast with the geometric, sharp nature of the landscape: it indicates affordance that the assets are not just part of the landscape, but something similar to the koala character that the player can actually interact with.
As we designed, developed, and tested our game further, we kept iterating on variables to optimize for the best balance of difficulty and fun. We ended up creating more land space, where the player had to explore the land to properly play the game.
We made tree leaves glow to indicate affordance of interacting with them, and added UI elements to indicate the player’s progress in the game.