By Ishaan . May 6, 2014 . 1:00pm
Retro Studios have always been known for great artwork in their games, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze generally maintains those high standards. In a recent post to his online portfolio, Retro Studios artist Eric Kozlowsky recently showed off some concept art from the Wii U platformer.
“This is the first level I worked on solo, it was definitely a learning experience,” Kozlowsky wrote, along with the above image of the Horntop Hop stage. “The birch trees were an especially difficult piece to get right, but finally after working with our concept artist Toph Gorham we landed on something that worked.”
He elaborates: “Toph and I also worked on the Brass instruments used throughout the level and I modeled and textured those. Again this level was pieced together by me, but a lot of the assets were created by other talented artists. Such as the awesome owl sculptures, the pine trees, and even the autumn canopy itself. The level creation pipeline at Retro Studios is very collaborative!”
Later in the same post, Kozlowsky provides an example of this collaborative style of art design employed by Retro for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
“I didn’t actually make a level in world 4 but I did work on the template that all levels were based off of,” he writes, along with the image above. “I worked with concept artist Toph Gorham to come up with the look for the ancient civilization seen in the levels. These pieces were then used to great effect by other Retro artists to create some truly incredible levels! I was inspired by the look of ancient japanese jomon dolls for the textures and look of some of the statues.”
In a separate post, Kozlowsky describes Dynamite Dash as one of the most difficult stages he had to work on, sharing that, initially, there was only a loose idea for the level, and that was “plunger based dynamite”.
“I decided to make it a mine of sorts. In my mind this is where the Snomads mined their ice to make their buildings,” Kozlowsky shares. “The level went through a few iterations. I worked with fellow artist Reed Ketcham on some of the ice tunnels. I made the initial block out and he refined them with better textures. Considering the toughness of the level (in terms of creation) I’m glad it turned out as well as it did.”
Finally, Kozlowsky also touches upon the final stage in the game, Meltdown Mayhem.
“This level was a very interesting challenge. How do you merge lava and ice?” he writes. “The idea for this level is that DK shows up and basically ‘restarts’ the Volcano thus causing the Snomads main fortress to start melting. Coming up with the look for the Snomads structures was a blast. I love architecture and making the Ice castles was some of my favorite work.”
“I also got to come up with a look for the cooled lava. Which unfortunately you barely see in the level due to the lighting. The initial turn around for this level was pretty short compared to other levels I worked on, so the pressure was on to deliver something epic for the last level in the game, and in a short period of time.”
Concept art and images courtesy Eric Kozlowsky’s online portfolio.