Bwana and Kito get a letter of warning from the power co.
Me and Henrik have spent the last couple of weeks getting real close and personal with the main cast of characters in The Journey Down. We’re using zoomed in close-ups of the main cast early in the narrative as a key element in helping the player understand what he/she is looking at during the remainder of the game. We don’t want one of those nasty Guybrush reveals where it turns out – after 10 hours of gameplay – that the awesome pile of pixels you’ve been playing with was actually a representation of some douche with a dopey haircut. This is less of a problem now that the game is in HD, but still the predicament haunts us and we’d like to do everything in our power to avoid it.
The inspiration for these ballsy zooms comes from none other than Tim Schafer’s 1995 classic “Full Throttle” which heavily featured shots of the lead character “Ben” spreading his badass face across the entire screen. We’re using a couple of these kinds of closeups during the game and I gotta say they look amazing as well as add a cinematic feel to the atmosphere. They have proven to amount to tons of work though, especially since we insist on having the actual characters do the acting instead of using lame-ass talking portraits.
The end result, however, is ballbustingly sweet and I’m proud we’re taking it all the way.
As you might have figured out by now, the character design in The Journey Down is heavily influenced by tribal African art. Some are loosely based on real life mask designs, some are made up at random with a more generic African vibe to them and others are basically true to their origins with only minor tweaks and simplifications done to better suit the overall setting. Being based on a Makonde lipiko mask, Kito is a prime example of the latter kind.
Apart from the real human hair (gross) and vast scarification found on real-life Mapiko (lipiko mask pl.) masks, Kito’s head is actually a rather faithful replica of genuine Makonde mapiko masks.
Image courtesy of Hamillgallery.com
Art and people
The Makonde are an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique who traditionally, from an artistic standpoint, have focused on carving household items, figures and masks. The lipiko mask that Kito is based on is a traditional helmet mask, used in coming of age or initiation rituals. Aside from these traditional Makonde arts, newer branches of Makonde art have emerged, one of them focusing on awesomely warped animal carvings of so called Shetani spirits, depicting evildoers of the spiritual world. (Yes, there is a cognate connection to the English word “Satan”.)
With exception to the animal carvings, the Makonde art form has recently flipped out and sort of semi-merged into the crazily naive tourist-oriented Tinga Tinga art form, popularized by artists such as George Lilanga during the 90′s.
I bet you wish you looked this cool!
Images from makonde.no.sapo.pt