Groove & Swagger

Like a new recliner, every city begins with some adjustment time — perfecting the groove for my fat cheeks. Whether Montreal, Edmonton, San Francisco, or Chiang Mai, the process is the same — squirming into new positions to feel more comfortable. The past few days have proven I’ve finally settled into my new seat. Every day: same alarm, same work hours, same coffeeshop, same workout, same dinner time. There’s a satisfaction to finally discovering that groove, and a relief that I can find it, even across the globe. Sure, this weekend I took a bus to the countryside, climbed five hundred steps to a mountain temple, raced a moped through winding forest roads, and even dipped into a hot-spring. But that’s the point — a groove that allows for both adventure and work. A rhythm I can step to.

Last week’s mind-mapping endeavor was fabulously successful. I created complete style guide — documentation for every aspect of my project — with an overarching theme to relate all the parts. With every added feature, I can reference these documents to verify that I’m staying true to my vision. Covering each element in one post would too much time and too many words, but over this year of blogging, I want to analyze every facet with you, sharing my development — and possibly its changing style — during the whole project.

To start, I present my golden principle, the idea that defines the style of my entire game:

Whodunit Structure with Neo-Noir Swagger

Agatha Christie and her Golden Age Whodunits are classics. I love the framework of those mysteries — many suspects, all identified early, with the reader (in my case, the player) challenged to solve alongside the detective. But their popularity has turned them stereotypical. And their age has made them vanilla. The butler, a mansion, a murder in an innocent world. The structure is compelling, but let’s inject some swagger into Christie’s rustic genre. Neo-Noir, a challenge on the tropes of Classic Noir, more stylistic and less formulaic. Hardboiled with a smirk.

Too abstract? Let me use my visual style to show the concrete effects of that principle. After writing the guide, I altered my artwork to adhere more closely with the intended ruleset:

An example of a suspect list. The figures and their descriptions are from a collection of Neo Noir film inspirations, but let’s leave writing style for future dissections.

You can see bold shapes, a limited and muted colour palette, and a printed look — all still present from the Saul Bass style. But there are clear Olly Moss influences as well — clean lines and silhouette minimalism — and even some Dieter Rams in the interface — beauty from simple function. All of these influences are visually striking and could have each monopolized the style. But, by referencing my guide (and thus my golden principle), I can place limits on each designer’s influence. Olly Moss uses bright colours, but those don’t quite fit with the Neo-Noir flavour — let’s take the palette from Bass. Rams’ designs are intentionally simple, but that doesn’t jive with the swagger angle, so let’s use 60s printing techniques to tilt Rams on his head. A 2.40 aspect, like my Neo-Noir influences, fits the clean interface around the messy printing — swagger within structure.

With a complete style guide to reference, I could more easily identify problems and refine the visuals from my prior demo. I’m proud of the above images. I hope the style guide will help make future work equally deliberate and cohesive.

Now, back to my groove.

Background Image of Thomas “Fats” Waller taken by Alan Fisher