Making Hyper Light Breaker's fizzy 80s anime character designs

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Ian Dean is Editor, Digital Arts & 3D at Creative Bloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and video game titles Play and Official PlayStation Magazine. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World.

Anyone who played Hyper Light Drifter fell in love with its colourful, impressionistic world rendered in tiny pixels. Our minds filled in the gaps and embellished every angular, geometric ruin and colour-washed 8-bit forest. With follow-up Hyper Light Breaker, set in a 3D open world, developer Heart Machine is colouring inside the lines for us.universe, that challenges players to hack and slash their way across its vibrant procedurally generated world.

A character design sheet from Hyper Light Breaker revealing the game's influences. The top left is game creator Axl Preston's original concept art.John shows me a character concept sheet and points to Alx's initial designs and picks out the straight lines and angles that are crucial to the Hyper Light Breaker style.

I can see there's still small curvature in areas of anatomy, like the inner thigh and forearm, to contrast the angles of the design."It's meant to contrast the angles, to add balance to the character," says John who also picks out the"idealised fashion model influence" of the character designs, which feature elongated limbs and shortened torsos.

The solution was to bend the rules."It came down to adding in 'fake lights' at night-time to keep it cel-shaded, that's why it's, like, 'fake cel shading', at night-time," jokes John."And other games do some similar tricks too, like Genshin Impact The sense I get is a need to withdraw when the desire to fill in the gaps occurs, and in many ways achieving the cel-shaded look of Breaker recalls the pixel art style of Drifter, if not directly but in principle. It's a style that can be easily broken, which is why even when painting in the grunge and dirt textures on the characters John urges caution , because"we really want to hit those pillars".

 

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