Pets, Puzzles, and Mighty Bear Polish
How a hybrid art style shaped the world of Mighty Pets & Puzzles
Mighty Bear’s 2019 title Mighty Pets & Puzzles was a match-3 mobile adventure with an immersive 3D visual style. We achieved this unique look with a mix of 2D plane cutouts and 3D models. In this article, I hope to share a few insights into how we conceived and developed this look so that the finished product felt polished and inviting!
When we want to define a new game’s look and feel, we always start with an overarching concept. With Mighty Pets & Puzzles, we wanted the player’s surroundings to evoke a childlike wonder: a world revealing a lost civilisation filled with magic, where good triumphs over evil. To anchor this feeling we decided to go with a medieval aesthetic, and this concept would inform the more specific choices we would go on to make: for example, using a lot of earthy colours and tones. It also led us to the decision that the game would look chunky and have a bit of stylised, hand-painted cartoon shading to bring out those childlike qualities. We wanted the environment to tell the story, before the use of any text.
Using these ideas, our very talented concept artist Venty designed a first pass of how the game might look, and once that was approved we produced a first pass of the 3D model.
3D Model Treatment
We decided to keep the painted textures as much as possible and to cut out some images against a background plane based on the drawing. Not every in-game object needed cutting out: if we had cut out some of the larger ones, we would have risked losing the 3D feel of the game. We needed to retain a 3D look while making the whole background like hand-painted artwork.
Following some trial and error, we decided to make all vegetation and small props 2D; the more prominent objects would be rendered in 3D. These 3D models were then given a paint-like texture. When we needed to paint shadows, we would only make it so that these models faced a single specific direction. As you can see from the image below, the plants were all just part of a flat plane.
The 3D props were given painted shadows and some texture treatment. For example, we might paint some leaves on a model to add highlight or moss onto the tree bark to give it a more earthy look.
We generally painted the shadows as generically as possible, so that they would look good no matter how the camera is oriented. The shadows of the model were only be painted at the bottom, with the model’s top made brighter for highlight. We also avoided using and black paint, as it proved mostly to dull our work. Consequently, the shadows were painted be the same colour as, but one shade darker than, the original object.
Painting Style: An Example
So, we combined props from clusters to populate the world, and because it was all hand-painted textures this made the world very colourful, giving the impression of 2D artwork. We clustered the props to integrate them more quickly into the environment, and so that we could re-use the same planes instead remodelling new pieces to further populate the world.
Once the necessary pieces were in place, populating a new world proved fast and easy!
I hope this guide shed some light on the visual direction of Mighty Pets & Puzzles, and showed how mixing disciplines and technical approaches can help build a world with a distinctive and original look and feel!
If you have any questions or input you’d like to share, please feel free to let me know in the comments!