Can You Dig It? – Thoughts On Our Retro Art Style

Given the recent interest in our more art focused posts, we thought it’d be a good idea to talk briefly (and fill them eyeballs with pleasant pictures) about how we went about choosing our art style.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


Over the course of multiple evenings at coffee shops and around beers in someone’s apartment, we began to define what we wanted the visuals of the game to say about its universe. While we wanted certain aspects to remain mysterious and open to interpretation, there were some ideas that became important to us:

  • A scattered race that have been disconnected from their peaceful past for a long time
  • An obligation to settle in an unknown area of space as it serves as the only ‘neutral’ area where they don’t make themselves an immediate target
  • Technological scarcity resulting in a pragmatic survivalist attitude
  • An exotic yet familiar feel to everything

As such, things would likely feel dated but adapted to modern use and well-worn and recycled from other pieces of equipment. People would tend to value durability and usefulness over beauty. With these ideas in mind, we proceeded to scour the Internet for reference material to start building up an idea of the look.

All Hail Lord Google

Armed with years of good memories of all sorts of sci-fi material from books, TV and film, we filled folders with hundreds of reference pictures. Then, we sat down together and flipped through them, pointing out things that we liked and were excited about, trying desperately not to derail our meetings with conversations of favourite episodes of Star Trek or who would win a fight between [Insert Alien Here] and [Insert Robot Here].

Most modern sci-fi imagery was too glossy and clean to fit what we were going for. Luckily, the Internet lacks nothing for variety in pictures and paintings of space stations and that is when we stumbled upon some 70’s Atari box art.

These covers sparked our imaginations and spoke of all sorts of gameplay possibilities. While the actual games never compared to what we would think up, this gave Dave an idea:

“What if our game was about delivering on the promise of one of those games’ box art? Given modern game development technology, what would such a game look like?”

What would an extrapolation of future technology in our game’s setting look like to someone from the 70’s? To the drawing board we went.

Concept this!

The first wave of concept art relating to the Astrobase itself immediately sold us on the direction and renewed our excitement about the project. It felt charming and familiar while also being somewhat exotic and naive. It also felt cobbled together but still sophisticated.



While we were drawing from a different decade, we also noticed some small parallels with the Fallout series in our concept look and feel. This was very encouraging because we love the Fallout games and they stand as great examples of games that build a strong identity around their visual style and tell something about the universe through it.

Our exploration also led us to some more interesting discoveries that informed our choices for the game’s interface. But that, my friends, is a story for another blog post.

What iconic 70’s items stick out in your mind as things that would augment the feel we’re going for in the game? We’d love to hear your suggestions for everything from furniture to uniforms to wonderful expressions to be used by our crew members!

Also, remember to help us get the word out through Twitter and having people Like our Facebook Fan Page! We’re a small team with no marketing budget, so Internet word-of-mouth is where it’s at!

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At Face Value: Character Portraits!
Meta: Art Imitates Life
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