We. The Revolution is a historically-inspired titled title loosely based on the French Revolution. This tumultuous event in Europe’s history took place in the late 1700s, and as such we have no photographs or videos to fully experience the revolution. We do, however, have many paintings and other resources depicting war, executions, courtroom brawls, and inspirational figures.
Polyslash’s We. The Revolution features a very interesting medley of the developer’s polygonal style and elements from historical works of art. We discussed the inspirations, challenges, and gameplay impact of the game’s art with Director Dawid Ciślak and Lead Artist Zuzanna Szabłowska.
Finding the Style
You might notice that within the developer’s name is “poly.” That’s fitting, because according to Szabłowska, Polyslash has a soft spot for polygons. “Zuza mentioned our studio’s name,” said Ciślak,” – I often say that it was meant to be, that we were destined to make this game from the start.”
“Visually,” said Szabłowska, “the game blends classic ‘revolutionary’ painting inspirations (i.e. Jacques-Louis David’s works) with modern polygonal art.” The color palette and style reflect David’s paintings; Napoleon Crossing the Alps is one of his most well-known paintings and the resemblance is stark.
Polyslash did start originally with a more pixel art style, but according to Szabłowska, it didn’t fit with the vision of the project. “Our early concepts range from fully abstract to neoclassicist,” said Szabłowska, “but as soon as we tried out polygons, we knew we hit the jackpot.” Still, the research from previous concepts proved useful, since, according to Szabłowska, We. The Revolution is hand-painted with polygons added in as the finishing touch.
“Polygons without a good under-painting,” said Szabłowska, “would be messy and have no appeal to them; an under-painting without polygons wouldn’t fit the game. Together they are more than the sum of their parts.”
Jacques-Louis David wasn’t the limit of Polyslash’s artistic inspirations. There were quite a few different historical works the team used to nail down the style. According to Szabłowska:
Pablo Picasso provided us with the idea to use polygons, but we took cues from many different artists and eras of art history: we looked to the golden age of American illustration for their strong storytelling skills, neoclassicists for their staging and sense of scale, XIXth century artists for their gorgeous, inventive use of color, baroque artists for dramatic lighting… and there are multiple artists active right now whose work has been a huge source of inspiration.
Polyslash also combed through many different historical works such as paintings, diaries, and novels. They even looked at old photographs. While the first known photograph was taken quite a few years after the revolution, they still proved valuable.
As such, you can expect references and depictions of real-world locations in France including Bastille and Palais de Justice. Still, they took some creative liberties. “There are also many locations in the game that weren’t based on a specific building,” said Szabłowska, “but rather on the style and atmosphere of Paris at the time – we gathered a lot of movie stills, paintings, and architectural plans that let us set even small scenes in believable-looking places.”
Gameplay and Art
With We. The Revolution being so narrative-driven, it is important to have a style that complements the gameplay and story. “We wanted to tell a multi-faceted story,” said Szabłowska, “so the multi-faceted style felt like a perfect fit. There are no perfect, even surfaces in our style, and there are no perfect, simple solutions in our story.”
In every scene, the team paid meticulous attention to details, such as lighting and usage of palettes. This allows for a more impactful and emotional experience. Conveying emotions was very important to the Polyslash team due to the nature of the game:
Our story is very character-oriented – so emotions and human foibles are at the core of the plot. It was very important to us that everything reflects the emotions of our characters – lighting, color, music, and cutscene layouts; we didn’t want a “one size fits all” visual representation.
Szabłowska says that the art ties together the gameplay and story and gives it a unifying look. Still, creating art is far from easy on its own, especially when it’s used to portray story and gameplay. According to Szabłowska, the most difficult part of working on We. The Revolution was creating large amount of assets while maintaining its high quality. Every witness and accused individual in the game have individual sprites, and each separate court case has hand-drawn icons.
“It was a huge amount of assets to create,” said Szabłowska, “but we felt it would cheapen the atmosphere if we didn’t treat each element individually.”
Ultimately, We. The Revolution looks evocative and visually appealing. It’s both familiar and fresh. The familiarity stems from its historical inspirations, but the unique polygonal style keeps things interesting. Be sure to check out We. The Revolution when it launches on March 21, 2019 and experience it for yourself.More About This Game