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The 5 art periods in Rock of Ages

Posted by Edmundo Bordeu, Dec 22 2010, 01:41 PM in Development

For Rock of Ages we chose to have different levels of the game represent different art periods of western art. The first thing I did was take out a notebook I had from an art history class, search the Internet for references of every period, and put it all in a big collage ordered like a timeline.

We wish we could have made a level for each and every important period, but that was just too difficult, so we needed to narrow down the list to five periods we really wanted to use, which were distinct from each other but would still work well with the game's theme and the type of units we have: towers, catapults, airships, etc. You can see in the collage below which periods we took from:

I did not cross out Postmodernism because even though we didn't make a "Postmodernism level", the game itself IS postmodern by appropriating past art

What really made us choose ancient Greek for the beginning of the game was the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was the king who was punished and forced to roll a huge rock up a steep hill in Tartarus. However, before he could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down forcing him to begin again. The story in Rock of Ages begins when Sisyphus gets tired of rolling the rock for no reason at all, and thinks about using his giant rock to roll it downhill to crush the gates of hell and escape.

All the characters we use are taken from real historical artwork. Sisyphus (and later Leonidas and Agamemnon) are from black-figure vases.

Our Medieval period is actually a mix of Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic. Medieval art is the first one we made, and it is what comes to mind when you imagine castles under siege, towers, giant boulders and all the things we have in the game. We tried many different approaches for the Medieval style at the concept stage of development. Below are a few sample exercises:

More specifically, the Italian Renaissance. The Sistine chapel, Plato and Aristotle by Raphael... for every period there is a theme or an idea as well as a look, and the theme for our Renaissance is man's intelligence conquering all. Everything is illuminated! Great constructions!

A few of our units are modelled after Da Vinci's war machine designs (which apparently were not practical and were never used in real wars, but they still work fine in the universe of Rock of Ages).

Da Vinci, The Architect (...and painter, scientist, engineer, inventor, sculptor, philosopher, etc.)

And more specifically French Rococo, where the style was much more exaggerated. Originally we were thinking of a Baroque+Rococo combination, but we went with Rococo only because it has a very different "spirit." The theme here is escapism, levity, and beauty above everything else; Fragonard's The Swing was our main reference painting.

The contrast of noblemen having fun in pretty gardens with angels on the one hand, and war machines and a giant boulder coming to crush them on the other, is kind of funny.

Hope the gates of Versailles are pretty sturdy.

I know Goya is a painter and not a period, but we chose the Romanticism period almost entirely because of Goya's paintings. The black paintings, the disasters of war--Goya's work is still imaginative while dealing with darker topics, but this period will contrast very much with the previous one.

It is very common for the last world in video games to be a bit scarier & more dangerous-looking. We wanted to do that too, so I am glad we chose Goya. (I promise the final level will not happen inside of a volcano!)


Hope everyone enjoyed the read! Stay tuned for future posts where we will elaborate more about the development choices that have shaped Rock of Ages.


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