When the Interior/Night design team set about putting As Dusk Falls together, it worked under the guiding principle that every painting can – and should – tell a story. These subtly animated stills guide you through just about every aspect of the Xbox Game Pass game, helping you fill in the blanks on your journey through the detailed story tree. But with so many different branches, the art team had to create 15,000 individual shots for all the outcomes, which in case you’re wondering, is enough to fill the Louvre three times over.
It’s an astronomical amount of work, made even more important by the team’s dedication to portraying As Dusk Falls as a truly human story.
“Quite early on we realised how important facial expressions were in delivering a very complex set of nuanced emotions because these are very mature storylines, with a lot of depth, and an awful lot of choices,” art director Mike Bambury tells The Loadout. “We made a decision fairly early on that we wanted to try to use live action because the actors were just producing these incredible facial expressions.”
Filming the story allowed Interior/Night to truly see the story in motion, but in developing the game’s unique art style – something our As Dusk Falls review highlights – Bambury says he made the unusual decision to dial back the amount of animation on show to focus the attention on the little things that happen in-game and so that the stylisation “didn’t get in the way” of the important story moments.
“We found a sweet spot by experimenting,” Bambury continues. “I think with the actual look of the characters, the ‘every frame a painting’ mantra, that [simplistic art style] is what we wanted to do, but it was a lot of work. It’s been crazy. [We’ve made] more than 15,000 of these paintings and if we’d have known when we started – I mean, who does that?”
Bambury explains they first produced some sample images before deciding to press forward, creating a process fairly quickly where it could be replicated thousands of times without “driving people crazy.” And while it was a lot of work, even with this process, the end product was worth it.
“We tried something new and we’ve had a terrific response,” he says. “It’s always been about serving the story and the gameplay, and once people play it they kind of get into it. And for me, that’s what you want – for people to understand the emotions of the characters. And if they’re thinking about the story, then to me, the art has done its job.”
You can read more about the As Dusk Falls development in our big interview coming later this week. It will talk about the game at length, so if you’ve not worked your way through the As Dusk Falls chapters yet or explored the majority of the As Dusk Falls endings, you’ll need to be quick.