After sinking my teeth into the preview for Out of Line, Nerd Monkey’s newest 2D puzzle-platformer, I was captivated by the art style, intrigued by the story, and challenged by the gameplay. Since then, I was fortunate enough to virtually sit down with Lead Art Designer Francisco Santos to get the inside scoop on the game’s development process.
Out of Line initially caught my eye with its beautiful hand-drawn graphics. What was the inspiration behind that art style?
Thanks for the compliment! The art style takes inspiration from a lot of different media, all the way from movies, short animated films, to modern painting movements. And it is in the impressionist movement of the XX century that the game found the main inspiration for its style. Going for a similar painting esthetic, embracing the brush strokes and the colours found in a lot of impressionist and expressionist paintings, but bringing it to the gaming media.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of creating the game’s art style? How does it differ from other games you’ve worked on in the past?
After looking and gathering a lot of different references, we immediately started making a lot of mockups and paintings to find a good balance between art style and gameplay. Because it was very important to us to make the player fully understand the gameplay and paths that he could take in the game, and not get lost in the screen and in the art style.
The main difference between this art style and the others done in the past, I think, is the complexity of colours and layers that are presented in the final game. Despite being a more “fluid” style, it needs a lot more attention and iterations of the assets while assembling them in the final level. Nevertheless, it is a very fun process between the level design and the art style to find the perfect balance between both.
Out of Line has a very different feel from Nerd Monkey’s previous projects. What inspired the more somber and mysterious ambience?
Out of Line started out as a project from me specifically, so it has more of my personal style reflected in it. Only later did Nerd Monkeys welcome the project to help the talented team finish their project. Still, why would we go for something so different from our previous games? The answer lies in our curious nature. First of all, we fell in love with the project. Each of our original IPs have the distinct signature of their creator. Also, by working on client projects as well, we broadened our adaptability and skills to work on different things. There’s beauty in diversity and we want to reflect the variety that the gaming world has to offer.
2D puzzle-platformers are somewhat oversaturated in the past few years. What makes Out of Line stand out from the pack?
Out of Line embraces the classical feel of a 2D puzzle-platformer that players know and love, but it gives it a new look and feel with a unique art style and environment, a unique gameplay mechanic surrounding the character’s magical spear that he must use as a tool to navigate its surroundings, and it’s all wrapped in a challenging story full of meaning and interpretation.
San is an adorable hero, but he seems to have quite a few identical twins in the factory; some of which seem to be malfunctioning. Can you tell us anything about his background? Or is that up to the player to interpret?
In this voiceless/textless narrative that we created, almost everything is left to the player to analyze and interpret. This point also makes this game accessible to anyone, regardless of the language they speak. The multiple Sans fit with our original script idea, but we’ve seen many different ways to give meaning to this and many other aspects of the game. It’s so much fun to watch how each person puts the pieces together to build the overall story. That’s also an important part of Out of Line’s experience.
The cliffhanger at the end of the preview is pretty shocking — what sorts of surprises can players expect in the rest of the game?
There’s still much to come as you progress through the game. We hope you can get that same “Oh!” feeling in various moments throughout. Not just story-wise, but hopefully whenever a player finds the solution to a more challenging puzzle as well. It is expected that the players experience different emotions throughout their journey: surprise, relief, a sense of urgency, a moment when it all seems confusing, and eventually when it all clicks together. If we manage that, we know we’ve succeeded in our goals.
What do you want players to remember from their experience with Out of Line?
We hope people can keep San and his magic alive in their hearts, such a curious, innocent, and determined creature. A lot like in an impressionist painting, it’s more about the emotion that the player is left with than anything else.
Out of Line will be released on June 23rd on PC, Switch, PS, and XB. After chatting with Francisco, I’m even more excited to see what surprises this gorgeous new indie has in store!