Rhopunzel in the house

Posted December 10th, 2013 by Tynan Sylvester

I’m happy to announce that we’ve got eminent pixel and game artist Rhopunzel working on the in-game art for RimWorld!

Rho has worked on several awesome indie games. The most recent was Starbound, with pieces like this scary skeltal dragon or this crunchy mech. Before that, Rho did pretty much everything for Gnomoria.

Some people have asked how much the final art will change. Up until now, I’ve done all the art in a simple, iconic style. Rho will be working in a similar style (though at a much higher level of ability).  We’re sticking with the vector look because it satisfies RimWorld’s design constraints very well. The goal with this art isn’t just to look good – it must satisfy a specific set of design goals as well.

First, it has to convey a lot of complex gameplay information in a really intuitive way, even when compressed to a tiny space on-screen. For example, looking at a character will tell you:

  • Their identity (who, exactly, is it?)
  • Their team (raider, colonist, trader, etc)
  • Their general category they fall into (fighter, worker, researcher, farmer, etc)
  • Their facing
  • Their apparel (possibly several layers)
  • What they’re doing
  • Maybe, in the future, their current equipment or weapon

Packing that all into a space as small as 32×32 pixels and making it look good is tough!

Second, it has to balance abstraction with specificity. If it’s too abstract, people can’t intuitively understand what’s going on. If it’s too specific, it fills in too many gaps so players have no room to subconsciously interpret what’s happening. We need to leave room for players to interpret, because player intepretation is the real engine of game-driven story generation.

Third, it has to be lightweight in content, so it runs and loads quickly, can be iterated quickly, can be modded easily, and can be expanded to a wide variety of objects and characters. We’d rather have 100 kinds of characters with 3 frames of animation each than 3 characters with a hundred frames each. Because what matters is the final experience of the game, which in the case of RimWorld is best served by variety, not detail.

I’m happy to say Rho has been rising to the challenge. We’ve already been passing pieces back and forth and watching the style develop. Here are a couple shots of random colonists in various mixed outfits. Yes, one of them may be naked.

ss (2013-12-10 at 06.21.03) ss (2013-12-10 at 06.22.34)

25 Responses to “Rhopunzel in the house”

  1. Czar

    That is very exciting news. The new characters look like a great development. I can’t wait to see how this games ends up.



  2. james

    I think terraria and starbound look really generic. If it will look anything like starbound I rather have tynan’s art instead

  3. Mason

    I love Starbound! This is great news. I’ve already sunk 80+ hours in to that game, just as I have with RimWorld. Can’t wait to see what happens.

  4. Lew

    This is excellent! Love what I see so far.

  5. Dozier

    Good to see Rho get this job. As a seasoned 2d/3d animator and gamer, i was afraid it was going to be stuck in icon style forever.

  6. Jax

    Looks good except I don’t like how the bald people look.

  7. Flux Wildly

    Stupendous news! Really love Rimworld so far and bringing out your space colonists personalities is a great idea!

  8. luckz

    Love the game, but can’t say I liked the new art :<

  9. lazerlight

    Awesome news! 🙂
    You should see if you could convince Eirik Suhrke or Ben Prunty to write some tunes …

  10. Alger Finch

    This new saddens me. The game is very promising, but I don’t like vecto (pale copy of Prison Architect) …

    My fanboy heart is crumbled. é_è

  11. ecto

    all respect to rho who is a skilled artist, but not feeling these new characters at all..
    tbh they look like something from a web avatar generator.
    i’d much rather have something in classic pixelart style..

  12. Funny how divided people are about this.

    Anyway, I’m confident this is the best style for the game. In a dream world I think Rho and I would both go for a realistic style. But given the real and very severe design constraints (discussed in the article), there really is no alternative to making characters very abstracted. And given that you can zoom in and out, making it in pixel art isn’t an option either.

  13. James T

    I’m glad you are sticking to your decisions.
    From what i’ve played so far I respect your game design ability and while keeping track of feedback is important, it’s your game first and foremost so don’t let the community compromise your vision.

  14. Jax

    I’m not saying that I disagree with the new artwork and design all that I really see that (I feel that should be changed) would be baldness. The characters with no hair look (sorry for this but) terrible.

  15. The hair’s not done. It’ll come.

  16. Horza

    Hello there.

    First of all it’s a great game now, and i’m playing it for some time trying out different storytellers and such.

    Regarding the art, I kind of want to chime in on the subject of keeping a consistent perspective in the game.
    Everything is top-down (and looks gorgeous btw, especially when dusk light creates those long shadows like that) and the characters are not. – please, pretty please, make the characters top down too and don’t think about forcing some skewed perspective on the rest of the game’s models.

    There, it’s out now! 😀

  17. Galaxy

    I really dont want to sound mean, but the art literally reminds me of the style of art really noob flash animation artists used in early 2006.

  18. Don Mega

    This is all promising news but I would say that the art style needs to be darker and more adult for the characters, it doesn’t seem befitting of the scope of the project as it is.
    I’m cool with vectors, it’s just a bit too cutesy for me to feel properly immersed

  19. Final Boss

    Sorry, but those characters are just plain awful. Simplicity of Prison Architect is way more pleasing to the eye, even though I’d prefer really nice retro pixel art as well.
    But those… are just plain bad. They look very much like avatars in some crappy kids’ interactive IRC chatroom.

    Minimalism (no limbs) and overdetailed faces DO NOT mix. Please don’t ruin your game like this.

  20. Hoglob

    know its kind of late but as others in the comments said it does look like these characters where put threw a flash game generator to make them. Sorry but prefer the other style more.

  21. kristian1625

    Well, I reckon the characters are fine!


  22. Deggial

    As much as I love Rho’s work in Gnomoria (really cute gnomes!), I have to admit that I am not overwhelmed with what I see in this previews.
    It is definitely NOT due to the icon style, which I am sort of a fan of.
    It is more a question of consistency. More precisely: The line thickness and small details.

    The general game art right now does not feature those very thin lines, Rho uses inside the characters. Instead, it uses thicker lines with only gradually lighter/darker colours. Therefore, the new characters do not fit very well into the whole picture.
    I am aware the fact, that this “whole picture” will most likely change as well and consistency will be reached again.

    But even then, these very thin “inner borders” and small elements are not the best choice, in my opinion. They are too detailed, too slender, giving the whole character a flimsy look. Additionally, they look out of place in comparison with the rest of the character, which IS very iconographic. Icons and thin lines do not fit together very well.

    I would prefer a little bit thicker inner lines, maybe not black, but lightened up a little bit to soften the contrast. And I would suggest some colour differentiation (for example in the coats lapels) in addition to these thicker lines.

    Want to keep the icon style? Brilliant! But then, please go the whole way and do not try to unify two antithetic design approaches!

    I hope, I do not sound too harsh in my comment! I just learned about this game and really love what I have seen so far. I am looking forward to its full launch with high expectations! 🙂

    (And please forgive my crude English. I hope, it does not distract too much from what I try to state…)

  23. Junko

    Hate it, still looks like Prison Architect and old 1999 flash movies from Newgrounds.

  24. Beaker

    it really looks like prison architect

  25. RWorldAlain

    I loved the graphic of BlueByte’s “Albion”. I imagine someone making a graphic-mod to make Rimworld look just like that.