In May 2016, I was hired by Gree International to Art Direct an ambitious mobile title named Guardians of Haven. The game was set in a near-future America in which a plague had turned much of the populace into zombies called ‘Infected,’ but evolved a small fraction of the people into super-heroes, called ‘Evos.’

The game featured three distinct but connected gameplay loops: One was a first-person shooter game. Another mode was Combat Army which featured squads of units and puzzle -solving and combat gameplay. The third mode, City Sim, let you build up a settlement where you managed building and resource production. Tying everything together was a detailed story told through animated comic book pages crafted by several comics-industry veterans.
I oversaw all Art Direction for the title and defined style guides to explain aesthetic principles. I hired up a small internal art team, collaborated with our dev studio in Melbourne Australia, and sourced and guided various outsourcing houses across the globe. I was responsible for in-game assets and development, working with comic book artists who developed the work that would present the game's detailed story to the players, and was also embedded in the Marketing department to ensure that the game's public face would match the work going into the game itself.

Game logo. Unlike many logos on this site, I did not make this one, but I directed it.

Two versions of the game’s app icon, which I directed and recolored (Character art by Ryan David Jones.)

App Store images, which I designed and laid out, cleaned up screenshots for, and commissioned and directed all of the character artwork for.

Our initial design for Foster Locke – aka Rampart – depicted him as a stern military man but was seen as too unmemorable and vanilla for such an important character. I worked with the team to redirect the feel of the character, making him more of a rebellious hard-ass, and using not-very-subtle clues to indicate his super-powers of strength and invulnerability. Here is the initial and final design (again by Ryan David Jones.)

Azara is the super-sniper whom you play as in the Shooting levels. Strong and dispassionate, she wears a poncho scavenged from a train wreck over her skin-suit. Additional detail was needed for the arms, as that’s the only part you see of her when you/she are shooting a rifle.

Kendall Watts (left) is the leader of the hacker group known as FreeHive, which runs the settlement Haven. (render by Concept Art House.) Oskar Quinn (right) is a former army general who has built up his own paramilitary organization to try to take control of America. (Render by Ryan David Jones.)

The game’s story had a large and diverse cast of characters who would appear in short sequences to speak with each other, much like in Japanese Role-Playing Games and visual novels. I oversaw the development of all conversation portraits, making sure that they felt consistent in style despite being produced by many different comic book artists and colorists.

A page from of the style guide that I developed for the engineering team to explain how these characters would appear in-game.

More characters: Case, a good guy and a soldier from Haven (artwork by Carlos Machuca.)

Case’s crew (also by Carlos Machuca.)

Tia Bennett, an enemy sniper (artwork by Carlos Machuca.)

Soldiers from different enemy factions (art by Daz Tibbles.)

In Guardians of Haven, it was really important to us to have the Infected not all look like the same generic model over and over again. We wanted the zombies to reflect the same gender and race diversity of the environment they inhabited (which for much of the game was a post-apocalyptic Baltimore) and to also reflect the diverse make-up of our expected player base.

One of my responsibilities was Art Direction all comic book panels, which we used to tell the story between missions. I needed to make sure that all comic panels conveyed their story with efficiency and clarity (these would be seen on mobile screens!), matched the in-game art from the missions, and that the depiction or all characters was consistent despite contributions from many different pencillers, inkers and colorists.

Comic book story panels. Writing by Josh Elder. Art by various artists. Art Direction by me.

I oversaw the UI development for the entire game, which was produced both through an outsourcing house (Sprung Studios in the UK) and in our Melbourne studio.

Character cards for the Clash-Royale-like battle gameplay modes. Art by various artists, UI by Sprung Studios.

The mission maps were a challenge because they had to map to actual real-world locations (in this case, Baltimore, Maryland) and include clear iconography showing completed and yet-to-be-completed missions, repeatable missions, and show landmarks that appear in the missions themselves. When more traditional maps lacked the personality that we wanted for the game, I painted/illustrated the background myself as a guide for the direction that Sprung should take with the rendering.

We had hundreds of UI elements and icons to produce or the game, including button styles, in-game HUD elements, inventory icons, currency icons, combat abilities, stickers and more. I oversaw the development of all of these. Some were made in-house - mostly by Jonathan Sloan - but many inventory icons were produced several outsourcing companies who I sourced and gave all feedback to.

And of course, a major responsibility was to help define and explain the look and feel for the entire game to artists both internal and external. Here are a few pages from the game’s style guide that I developed and authored. (Note that "MCN" was the project's code-name.) The art on this page was produced by Concept Art House.

On this page of the Style Guide, I provided some major paint-overs of some in-game 3D work to provide a more cohesive direction.

I also contantly worked with the marketing team to make sure that they had the assets they needed to promote the game and was the prime driver for artwork for
app store promotion, acquisition ads, assets for trailers, and more.

Promotional art of Rampart. Character illustration by Ryan David Jones, background by Concept Art House.

Promotional art of Azara. Character illustration by Ryan David Jones, background by Concept Art House.

Promotional art of some Infected. Character illustration by Ryan David Jones, background by Concept Art House.

Gree International was shut down in 2017 and Guardians of Haven was never released.
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