Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Boom Beach Evolution

I love looking at old designs. Abandoned concepts. Cut content. More than playing videogames, sometimes I like just seeing into creators brains. I've talked about the interesting light that concept art can shed on a game in my cut content blog entries for Bioshock and I absolutely adored the Fuck Yeah Beta Pokemon. Most of these ideas are cut for a reason. Some reasons are sad--it's too expensive, there's not enough time. Some reasons make sense--this design is confusing, beta testers hated this. And sometimes things get cut because they finally hired an actual artist and they can make things pretty, and the artist isn't even the lead dev's cousin Gary who's just a scared, unemployed kid with Photoshop, you guys. He doesn't know anything and it's not his fault.

Anyway, app games are a great place to look at cut content! Because they're usually being developed and beta tested on a live audience, games that survive a long time will occasionally go through new design phases, getting completely new design art as the company finds itself flush with cash and a product that isn't yet famous enough for new designs to risk brand alienation but established enough that a complete overhaul isn't a total waste of money. Boom Beach is one such game--at some point in early 2014 it got a visual overhaul, making it look so, so much polished and visually distinct than it had at launch. I tried to grab a couple of these images, although I by no means got everything.

The iconic Rifleman. On the left is the beta version I found on the Internet Wayback Machine, the one on the right is the current version as of May 26th, 2015.

Here we see the progression of the Tank. The first is from the Boom Beach Wiki. The second, an image labelled "New Tank" added to the current wiki in April, 2014.  The final is the current version (again, as of May 2015). The progression from blonde, jumpsuit-wearing man to grease-monkey lady to the final design (whom I call "Tank Ace" for her resemblance in cocky attitude to american flyboy aces) is interesting--to see the shift not just in demographic representation, but also character attitude.

With the warrior, we see a fairly dramatic design shift, as his skin color and facial shape changes. Higher cheekbones, thinner lips, and a sharper, aquiline nose shift the character's appearance from "nonspecific New World island native" to "European in a loincloth". This is an interesting design choice--is it to distance the game from the game's apparent colonialist imagery?

This is a really interesting conversation to have, actually. See, my instinct is to say that the Kual are treated as noble savages and to describe their technology as primitive. After all, they use wind-driven outrigger canoes to transport the tribute goods they pay you for "rescuing" them, when all other boats in the game appear to be modern, steel-hulled vessels. Where most of the game's buildings resemble WW2-era American military hardware, the Kual live in grass huts. They construct large stone statues, but these appear to be religious artifacts only. They march into battle against machine guns and rocket launchers dressed in loin clothes and wielding hammers, like suicidal nudist Gallaghers.

But then I started thinking about it. Their single-person crewed outrigger canoes appear to haul resources equal to the huge cargo vessels that deliver your Ops Rewards (depending on how you parse that imagery, of course). Their large stone structures, while appearing to be magical religious artifacts, are a kind of technology (as a corollary of Clark's Third Law) that apparently can influence a number of factors, such as increase the efficiency of ore extraction in iron mines, bolster the effectiveness of your troops' weaponry, or even make buildings more resistant to bullets. Their hammers, while seeming like blunt, primitive instruments, are (again, Clark's Third Law) powerful technological devices, healing bullet damage and burn wounds with every swing. I assume this stuff is primitive, when in fact it's quite technologically advanced, and perhaps it is my assumption that is racist. Albeit, I think I'm thinking about this way harder than most people do, and it's entirely possible that the actual design decision isn't for Power Crystals to be seen as mysterious technology but mystical mumbo jumbo.

That about wraps up this blog post. Stay tuned next week for another update, where I discuss the evolution of building designs a little bit, or at very least just show you guys pictures so you can go "Wow! Neat!" and then we all high five.

No comments:

Post a Comment