The art of Wondermind

By Phil Stuart, How we did it

Over the last few months we’ve been working with Tate Kids and a clever neuroscientist on a very exciting project, Wondermind. This project infuses the themes within Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, art and the amazing way the brains works. We have created a collection of awesome games all about the mind and the way it works and I’m going to give you a little peek at the artwork for Wondermind. wondermind

I’m Catherine and my job at Preloaded is to draw things and make them move. I created all the art and animations for Wondermind, which shaped the way the game looks and feels.

As soon as I knew I would be working on a game based on Alice in Wonderland, I instantly felt inspired. If anything could spark the imagination, Lewis Carroll’s story (full of bizarre lands, fantastical characters and Rabbit holes) would certainly do the trick. I was also secretly excited about the prospect of animating a rabbit, but I didn’t tell anyone.

The games essentially explore various concepts about how the brain works in a fun way. This ties in really neatly with the themes of Alice in Wonderland and how the story explores surreal concepts in a fun and gamey way. The challenge for me was to create artwork which captured the fun, exploratitive and mysterious feel of the books whilst feeling new and different – there are various familiar versions of Alice in Wonderland and we wanted to create something fresh. It was a lot of fun taking such a well known character and world, and approaching it in my own magical way.

We spent a lot of time looking at storybook illustrations of Alice in Wonderland, particularly those during the Victorian period and this eventually fed quite strongly into our final designs. We wanted the game to be an illustration that came to life, almost as if you we’re looking at a book, but with a fresh new look.

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At first we considered using the science within our early designs, drawing inspiration from Victorian Science Books. We eventually decided it was too complicated and we opted for something simpler, but carried on using Victorian style typography throughout the project.

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Most of the art is quite grounded and isn’t too strange, we wanted the Wonderland to be more mysterious than alien. Similar to the way Alice noticed over time how odd Wonderland was, we wanted the players to find the world “curiouser and curiouser.”

Everything in Wondermind has been kept colourful and light, however because this is Wonderland, the overall game has surreal undertones which show through mostly within some of the characters and atmosphere.

Alice went through a number of changes at first she was a bit cartoonish, but I developed her to look more contemporary and with a bit of an attitude.

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Each game is set in a different part of the Alice in Wonderland story and it was a lot of fun to dream up new ways of portraying these moments. We aimed to give each game it’s own distinct palette of colour, instead of making them all matching (which would have been so boring!) All our approaches to familiar elements like hedge mazes and card soldiers were carefully thought about and I did my best to ensure that nothing looked too obvious. The ‘tea party’ game, for example, includes a steam-punk style table! (I should note that when I was working on that game I made sure people at Preloaded made me regular cups of tea, as this was very important for research.)

The first game we worked on was the game set in the woods. We weren’t entirely sure how the games were going to look at this point, the initial designs we’re experimental and quite loose. Eventually we decided on a style which we used throughout all the games which included detailed backgrounds, quirky animations and swirly looking trees.

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My favourite design has to be the “Wondermind” brain. This is where it all comes together!  When you first come across Wondermind for the first time, so too does Alice. Both of you are about to begin this wacky adventure of discovering not only Wonderland, but your own mind. It’s been a very fun project to work on and hopefully everyone will have as much fun playing as we have had working on it.

Phil is the co-founder and Creative Director of Preloaded. A fanatical gamer and a champion for the power of games which do more than just entertain, he is responsible for the studio’s ‘Games with Purpose’ vision.

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Axon - a game for science