Here is the final instalment of our ‘Back to the Rapture’ breakdown. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was in development for 3 years. There was a huge amount of art created with something close to 10,000 props! Today I’m going to discuss the art and give a brief overview of how the visual style developed and gave Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture its iconic look.
Let’s start with some references. Making the world feel authentically British and realistic was essential to make the environment believable to the audience. The game hangs on aesthetics, narrative and music and are the main focus of the experiences we create at The Chinese Room.
We looked at artistic movements such as romanticism and impressionism to give inspiration for the style of the game and set the emotional tone through how we lit the world.
Caspar David Friedrich offered reference for creating an atmosphere visually through colour and light. The sky is the main focus, adding a lot to the tone.
Helen Allingham, a 19th century Victorian painter, visualises rural English countryside. Her paintings often show character in the cottages overgrown and hidden away.
Other influences included artists John Atkinson and John Everett Millais.
It was important for the aesthetics of the game to harmonise with everything else. This meant that all aspects of the game were iterated concurrently to complement each other. Creating the melancholy atmosphere throughout the game was paramount. And it needed to be an adaptable style that reacted to every emotional beat for each moment in the game. It was something the game would hang on – to make the world believable and give the suspension of disbelief that makes a player invested in the story they’re being told.
Emotion was at the core of every artistic choice. The environment had to be conventionally picturesque to contrast with the darker themes of the game. It was important to balance the visual experience with the harrowing moments subtly so neither was too overwhelming. It wasn’t a horror game we were creating, there was a nuance to the narrative that the visuals had to delicately complement. This was shown through the majority of the environmental storytelling and the changing lighting conditions. Coupled with Jess’ music, this created an elegant harmony to tell the story.
When your game doesn’t have conventional characters, visualising their personalities in the world they’ve left is paramount.
The idyllic apocalypse. What would the world look like if it was to end? A lot of media demonstrates it as nuclear winters and barren landscapes. Desolate and unforgiving. Looking at it through a different lens, that of the people affected in a small rural English town, gave a unique spin on the stereotypical apocalypse. The characters’ lives were at the heart of the world, with the apocalypse as the backdrop to their stories unravelling. The characters’ were the focus that the art direction reacted to. How they were feeling and responding at the moment of their demise and the events leading up to it were scattered throughout their world. Clues left behind for the audience to decipher and analyse who these people were and what was important to them.
A strong understanding of the people and their experiences was used to represent them from the smallest environmental storytelling details, or to the weather and time of day impacting the emotional tone.
The sky and lighting played a huge role in creating the tone of each character’s story. It was essential to make each location visually distinctive and respond to the emotional tone of the events. From a beautiful morning when the player begins in ‘village’ (Jeremy’s chapter), to a deep foreboding sunset of reds and purples in ‘estate’ (Stephen’s chapter).
Here some early concepts for the game exploring using different times of day and how lighting would affect the experience.
The time of day changed a lot throughout development. Variations included the time of day changing dynamically over the course of the day. Another concept was the changing of seasons with crops growing and snow falling. Eventually, the time of day was fixed depending to each area of the game. It helped the art team create vistas depending on each location and character’s story. It also created the emotional arc spanning over the entire game, building to the climax.
Here are some examples of the development process of the time of day in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
The game took a few different directions to get achieve the final look. Here’s a short visual breakdown of screenshots showing the development progress of the game.
And so concludes the art overview of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture!