When you play a game, it's almost always a finished product. Early Access does give consumers a deeper look into the development process, but for the most part, these games are in a presentable and playable state. It's just not often you get to see a game in its prototype phase, let alone AAA titles. With a recent Twitter trend, however, some developers in both the indie and AAA development scene weighed in to show players very early looks at their titles.
The trend is one you may have come across, even outside of video games—it's "how it started" versus "how it's going." As you can see below, there's massive improvements to these games, from the indie strategy title Wargroove to the upcoming and highly anticipated Bugsnax.
How it started: How it's going: pic.twitter.com/QEIoQCR6on— Wildfire 🔥 Out Now 🔥 (@WildfireGame) October 11, 2020
It's pretty safe to say the first image in this tweet is very, very early on in Wildfire's development. Wildfire is a pixel art stealth game by Sneaky Bastards and published by Humble Games. Players use fire and other elemental abilities to progress, but you wouldn't guess that by looking at the prototype. What's surprising is just how different the concept is from the final product.
The spritework in the first image is incredibly mundane and plain. Presumably in place of enemies are simple squares with a small radius to indicate their sight. The square smoke effects billowing from the fire barely resemble anything, but when you put all the pieces together, you can kind of see how you get the final product. It's just incredible to see how the concept on the left turned into the wonderfully rendered game on the right.
how it started: how it's going: pic.twitter.com/aStgtNijG7— Nate Berens (@ludodrome) October 12, 2020
Recently shown off during 3D Realms' Realms Deep 2020 event weeks back, you'll notice that one image is a, well, very rough concept, and the other a fresh new retro-style FPS. It's just hilarious to see the placeholder for Effigy. It seems that no matter how crude or mundane the concept is, you can turn it into your vision with enough work.
The concept has literally nothing to it but the most basic of shapes, like the squares to represent terrain and the oddly cute cylindrical enemy. It almost makes you feel bad that a gun is pointed at it. On the other hand, you have another low-poly but absolutely awesome scene on the right. I'd love to pick the brain of developer Nate Berens to see how his concept aided in creating the dark and ominous retro atmosphere from this concept.
how it started ---------------- how it's going— Bearsus 🐻 (@BearsusGame) October 9, 2020
Play #Bearsus - https://t.co/0oQ9P2H5j7 pic.twitter.com/VTGvTA6vLl
Anime fan that I am, I always appreciate when media can pull off some sick animations. Games like Cuphead show off the incredibly complex process of bringing an animated character to life, but it's a look that you don't get too often. Thankfully, the developers behind bear-fighting game Bearsus show us how they bring their girthy grizzlies to life.
The concept gif shows us a much friendlier bear that is completely hand drawn, so you can see and appreciate the details behind each frame of animation. Looking at the final version of the fighter, El Poderoso, is a really cool scene. The animation is much smoother but resembles its old self a bit, so you can see the leap in quality over time. There's definitely a lot of work going into 2D fighting games!
How it started How it's going— Cacklefish 🧙♀️ (@ChucklefishLTD) October 12, 2020
cc: @WargrooveGame pic.twitter.com/Lxsr2olu1f
Wargroove had its fair share of good doggos, but it seems like the earlier version of this turn-based tactics game has even more animals. In fact, it looks like earlier factions were composed of cats and dogs in military gear and vehicles. As much as I love Wargroove for its diverse factions, I think it's time to include another group into the mix: the cats and dogs faction, like this earlier concept!
Even though I'm only half-joking, you can see that Wargroove has a much cleaner, detailed look now. Developer Chucklefish seemed to have traded the Advance Wars-like modern theme for the medieval fantasy one in the final product, and made the sprites more readable overall. Still, if there's one thing that remained consistent, it's that both games have very good boys.
Sea of Thieves
How it started 🏴☠️ How it's going pic.twitter.com/SvKzcjL1s0— Sea of Thieves (@SeaOfThieves) October 12, 2020
As mentioned before, it's rare that you see early gameplay concept images from AAA developers—developers like Rare, here. Sea of Thieves is a game known for its beautiful and detailed water physics and beautiful scenery. It's also known for its pirates, the characters players control in their seafaring journey. Much like Effigy, we see some very goofy, cylindrical characters as placeholders for the actual sprites.
Hilarious as these pirates are, it's more interesting when you look at the details of the prototype image. On the right side, you can peer into the distance and see some very rough terrain and extremely crude water graphics. There's also a pirate character named "Chris Jr." who is, presumably, not an NPC. Truly, Sea of Thieves has come a long way to look the way it does now. It goes to show that every game, indie or AAA, has to start somewhere.
how it started vs. how it's going pic.twitter.com/HsqNR9C0bA— Bugsnax (YH Games) (@YoungHorses) October 12, 2020
Speaking of really crude, simple characters, take a look at Bugsnax. It's not a game you'd really say has "simple" character design, given the look of its colorful and eclectic cast of characters, but by now we know all games start somewhere. Filbo Fiddlepie, the mayor in Bugsnax, came a long way, but you can see a semblance of his former self in the placeholder image. Both are the same color, and the body proportions are largely the same. The only thing missing is a bigger smile and eyes, a bright red nose, and some fur detail.
One thing is for certain, though—Bugsnax seems to have remained charming and lighthearted from the start of development. One could expect nothing less from developer Young Horses, known for the equally silly Octodad series.
Which of these games surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments below!