The art in A Case of Distrust is created with a technique called rotoscope. This involves selectively painting over frames of a filmed sequence, creating a style that mixes incredibly realistic animation with fantastical lines and colors.
A Case of Distrust isn’t the first game to do this (Prince of Persia is the most famous example, and the upcoming Desert Child by akuparagames also uses rotoscope) but, for the past few decades, the technique has mostly stayed within film. This helps give my game a unique flavor when compared to other contemporary titles.
So how do you rotoscope? Everyone’s approach is different, and depends on subject matter and desired style. For me, I had actors — mostly volunteers from the Toronto stage scene — perform various emotions (angry, sad, smile, shock, etc.) while reading from the game’s script. As you can see from Fanny Green’s actor, costume shapes were more important than colors.
From that footage, my next step was to define each character’s look. I grabbed one still-frame that I thought embodied that character’s personality, and then I painted over that frame until I found the appropriate lines. You’ll notice the silhouettes are quite stylized, so this step took a while.
After that, I selected individual frames to create a complete emotion (around 5-7 per animation). Rinse and repeat for every emotion, and then for every character, and I had an array of emotions that I could drop in wherever I wanted in my game.
Because of the massive number of frames required, I eventually enlisted the help of my friend Taylor Pereira to create some of the art. And Virginia Woodall, owner of Toronto-based production company DV8 Productions, was invaluable in coordinating the actors and filming a lot of their scenes.
Of course, the filming itself led to some hilarity — stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes soon!