The Vagrant’s Developers Speak On Their Love Of Vanillaware’s Art Style

By Joel Couture . September 26, 2017 . 2:00pm

The Vagrant draws heavily from the striking artwork of Vanillaware titles, creating a beautiful world for players to fight skeletons, demonic knights, and other beasts in sidescrolling combat. Through doing so, heroine Vivian looks to unveil the truth behind her bloodline and its awful secrets, and players can join her on this journey through the game’s Early Access release.

Siliconera reached out to The Vagrant’s developer to learn more about their homage to the art style, the challenges involved in implementing it, and why they feel so drawn to it for their own title.

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The Vagrant is a gorgeous action game. Can you tell us about some of the work that goes into making the art look so good? That goes into making it all flow together in combat?

Canlin, developer of The Vagrant – Thank you! Frankly speaking, we painted everything using our tablet. We adapted the painting process which can get the closest result to Vanillaware’s art style. For the character animation, we hand-painted every frame of Vivian, plus some secondary animation using a software called Creature. The Process goes from tonal painting first, then overlay several layers of colors on top . It takes full 3 months for main character Vivian alone. We used skeleton animation for the rest of the monsters and NPCs so we can save more time.

So, with the art assets we produced, after some serious study of other action and fighting games, that’s why The Vagrant looks like it does now.

Your work seems to draw similarities to Vanillaware’s style. What drew you to this kind of art style for your game? What does it add to the enjoyment of the action and play?

We are all BIG fans of Vanillaware titles. I still remember the first time I played Odin Sphere and saw the beautifully-painted and detailed character walking on the breath-taking scene – it was completely mind blowing. What attracts me about Vanillaware’s art the most is its heavy and thick oil painting art style – how it just makes everything in the screen so substantial. Yet, their using of colour is just vibrant that when everything goes together, the visual is more saturated than it is if you see every object itself. So, to be honest, we love the art style so much that we intentionally try to reproduce the beautiful visuals Vanillaware created in The Vagrant.

One thing we are trying to achieve for people who play The Vagrant is that they can enjoy the scene and the world we create even without combat and gameplay features. At least, that’s what we experienced in Vanillaware’s games. I guess that is one part of the enjoyment that can be added to the action and play.

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What thoughts went into the game’s offensive skill system? What work did you do to create many different ways for players to fight through the game?

For the combat system, we took Dynasty Warriors (Koei) and the Tales series (Bandai-Namco) aseferences. The combination of light and heavy attacks offers quite comprehensive combos – 2 buttons can cover every combo. Then,with another button for skill attacks (plus directional keys) allows players to assign up to 4 skills to use instantly in the combat.

Additionally, there are double jump, dodges, and such. I think that with these elements for character control, there are quite a lot of ways to fight through the game. For instance, players can make the most out of dodging to minimize the damage and attack when it’s safest for them; or grab couple of blue potions to spam skills for maximum damage output; or simply be a no-brainer and just hack and slash with a bunch of recovery items.

How do you design interesting monsters for players to fight, both visually and mechanically?

We basically took the elements we like from other games, comic/animations, and mix them up, then make them fit in The Vagrant’s universe.

For the mechanics, we always want to add difficulties to the combat, so it’s quite important to give the monsters a bit of teamwork against players. For example, we designed the archer monster with a creepy laughing mask and programmed his AI to always keep distance from the player and shoot arrows. When the player gets close, the archer will either run, jump away, or surprise the player with a dagger attack. When we are doing the level editing and placing monsters, we always place 1 or 2 archers with a close combat type monster to give the player some headache. But as we mentioned earlier, the level of control freedom we provide for the player should make the combat intensive and fun.

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What challenges do you face when trying to tell a story in an action game? How do you tell your story well without having the player out of the action for too long? Tell one with multiple paths?

We try to make the cut scenes as short and simple possible. The main storyline is rather simple and straightforward. I think the main challenge is how much do you want to tell the player of the story, and if it will take more time if you want to give a detailed story, that’s inevitable.

So, what we actually have done is not to let the story or cut scene take a large part of the game. While we haven’t implemented the “skip scene” feature at the moment, unfortunately, most of our cut scenes are really simple – several lines of conversation and maybe some illustrations, and that’s all. If players feel like they missed anything, there is a “journal” feature that briefly tells what happened so they can keep the track.

What sorts of decisions can players make to set themselves on the paths to different endings? How can they control their destiny in The Vagrant?

To avoid spoilers, let’s just say we prepared an optional boss battle and hidden item. What we are trying to do is to subtly underlay the “decision making” while playing, so it will depend on how much player explores the area. Therefore, players who rush to the boss might see one of the different ending.

What drew you to use Early Access? How does it help you, as a developer?

The only reason we use Early Access is we are running out of money – nothing else. We can keep developing with no budget, but then I have no idea if we will ever be able to release the game. So far, Early Access does help us financially – we just received our first payment to cover our overdue rent and 2 months of living cost. But to be honest with you, if there was another option, Early Access is the last thing we would like to do.


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