Meeting Coatsink

Today, two of Coatsink’s employees came to give us a talk on how they helped make the new 2.5D platformer game, Shu. It’s a beautiful piece of work, with hand-drawn characters and multiple unique levels. Coatsink worked with Secret Lunch, who came up with the original idea – as a result of the partnership, Coatsink emphasised the potential in the game with more depth, layers, and evolved game aspects.

It was very interesting to see the differences between the screenshots of SecretLunch’s original plans for Shu (from 2013) and what Coatsink did for the final released version. Unfortunately, these images don’t seem to be available online, however there are the videos of Secret Lunch’s original teaser from 2013 and the current Shu trailer.

It was interesting to see the progress that went into the game after Coatsink joined in; while the heart of the game seems to be there, Jonathon and Gary mentioned that nearly everything had an overhaul: there were gameplay revisions, repolished art/graphics, new animations (both character and environment), and the introduction of time trials towards the late stage of game development.

We were told that everything was done in Unity, from the animations to the coding, game design to visual effects. It was important for them to emphasis that game development, such as what went into Shu, is comprised of so many iterations of all disciplines:

  • level design
  • mechanics
  • art
  • animation
  • code – this is the one that will likely never stop (or at least be the last to stop)

I was very interested in what went into the level design of the platformer, taking special note of the process that Jonathon explained in the presentation. He begins with laying out his pipeline, which would include the gameplay breakdown, progressing to level sketches, then white boxing level layouts (implementation), and finally going into testing.

There are some basic level design principles that Jonathon (being a part of the Coatsink team) follows when working on games. It’s important that the game is fun to navigate and doesn’t need to rely heavily on words (either being explicit, implicit, or emergent). Finally, and probably the most important principle in my mind, the player should know what to do, but the game shouldn’t outright tell him/her how to do it. This makes for challenging and entertaining gameplay.

It was also nice to hear Gary mention animation practices we’ve been covering in our animation classes with Matt. The most obvious of these was the 12 principles of animation, which we follow regularly while learning about animating. There was also mention of Thomas and Johnson, who established the 12 principles in written form. Richard Williams came up, being the author of The Animator’s Survival Kit and one of the most respected individuals in the field.

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Perhaps the most important lesson I took away from hearing Gary and Jonathon speak about these practices was that it’s important to be a jack of all trades, even if you have a particular speciality. You may go into the industry thinking you’ll only focus on your one speciality, which you might if you go work for some of the larger game development. However, as Gary explained in his own experience, you might end up working for a smaller company and having your hand in all sorts of areas: animation, rigging, texturing, drawing, etc. You’d also have to be familiar with coding, designing, programming, etc. so that you can adequately communicate with all sort of colleagues. It seems to make for a better working environment and smoother game development.

Overall, I think it was a fantastic experience to hear Gary and Jonathon speak about Shu, but also to know that they’re from a local company. Coatsink seems to be positively viewed by a lot of the gaming community, so I hope they continue to do well with their future releases.

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