Industry veterans Rick Davidson & Tim Ruswick* are joined by our very own Blender guru Grant Abbitt to talk about art style, gameplay and level design.

Grant first started learning Blender back in the late 90’s. He ran a small film company and found the software ideal for some motion graphics work he needed.

He went into teaching as a backup option for when the film work was not so regular. The teaching gradually took over, and he's now been teaching for around 15 years. He moved into teaching game design 6 years ago, which rekindled his excitement for 3D animation. He then began to pick up freelance work and created his YouTube channel Gabbitt Media.

Now he's here with the team making courses, and sharing his passion with the community.

(*Rick has more than 14 years experience in the game dev industry, working on IP's that include Mario, Transformers, Captain America and Mortal Kombat. He's done it all, from Game Designer, Producer, Creative Director and Executive Producer to's very own Instructor extraordinaire. Tim Ruswick is a successful YouTuber and indie dev, who's created more than 30 games in the last 5 years (wow!), and joined as our marketing monster).

Listen to the whole chat here:

Our 'AHA' moments

  • We’re with our Blender guru Grant Abbitt!
  • Cel Shaded art style provides a unique visual experience
  • Use colours to indicate dangers, for example, have the screen blink red when the player is taking damage
  • Colours can indicate the level of item rarity
Image from Steam

What is Cel Shading? (1:21 - 5:01)

Cel Shading’s a unique art style that gives a cartoon look. This is achieved by creating a silhouetted outline around characters, enemies and the environment, using single colours and clever use of lighting. The shape is defined really easily with this style.

Examples of Cel Shaded games include Jet Set Radio, XIII, Fear Effect, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Okami.

The Most Important Ingredient in Developing a Desired Atmosphere for Maps/Environments (14:19 - 16:02)

This depends on the kind of environment/map you’re trying to achieve. The atmosphere is dependent on the gameplay. When you start designing a level, you first need to think about the gameplay and how it’ll all interact with each other, rather than what looks good.

The environment has to be functional. Use the environment to guide the player. It could be signs and lighting that lead a player to certain parts of the map or a cleverly designed choke point that utilises the environment. Big shapes/small shapes and lighting are all very helpful ways to guide the player.

The distance that a player is able to view also plays an important role in the environment design. Would you rather the player not be able to see outside of the playable area or would there be added environment detail beyond the playable area?

How Important is Localisation? Can it be an Afterthought? (1:08:57 - 1:10:37)

How important it is depends on how many people you want to market the game to. If it’s just in English you are leaving out a large portion of the world.

Localisation should not be an afterthought, once the game is near completion you will then need to go back and hard code all the new languages and that will be a nightmare.

A better way is to put all your text in a database and reference it from the database. Every time you have blurb on the screen that should include some text, reference it from the database. You could name the files English.json, Spanish.json, Chinese.json Korean.json, Japanese.json and etc. You would be calling the desired language for that version of the game. Localisation is then super easy.

We hope this game design deep dive helps you get a better idea for art style, gameplay and environments in video games.

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Remember, we host live develogy livecasts every Tuesday at 10pm BST on our YouTube channel. You can catch all the recordings, including this episode, in the Devology Livecast course - it's free to join, and also on our YouTube Channel.

Until next time, happy dev'ing!