Obviously, the art direction is a very important part of Monochrome, and we take our rubber hose heroes seriously! Monochrome’s art style, like any style, has changed over its development, and you’ll clearly be able to tell the difference when you check out the differences between our playable demo and the art on this page. You can find all you need about how we deal with the art pipeline below!

Art Specs

Table of Contents

Art Theme

Monochrome RPG is a 1920s cartoon-style narrative experience. The game follows Otto, a solitary rabbit-like creature with dreams of making it big in the comedy world. Monochrome RPG’s artistic theme stems from its reference to “rubber hose” animation, which was standardized in the 1920s, and more specifically with its pun-based humor and distinct environmental elements. Each environment is composed of assets, and each asset falls into a specific position within the composed locations. These positions are described as the background, midground, or foreground. Each position determines both the style and level of detail for each asset.

In Monochrome RPG, all of the background elements appear natural and realistic. Background elements include the ground, walls, and specialty flooring. For example, a wood floor would look like one with cartoonish stylings. In the game, background elements are seen from a top-down perspective.

Midground elements, such as countertops, sofas, and tables, are slightly more silly. Midground elements blend realism with basic cartoonish components. Midground furniture may have faces or idle animations, but are still easily discernible to be furniture. All midground elements are seen from a 3/4ths perspective during gameplay.

Foreground elements are the wackiest out of the three types of assets. Foreground elements are all pun-based and heavily influenced by the fantastical story of Monochrome RPG and the outrageousness of “rubber hose” animation. Foreground elements include anything that can be directly picked up by Otto, and decor (such as plates, books, or food). For example, a pineapple upside down cake would transform into a side-side down cake, and its asset would reflect this. Foreground elements are seen from a one-point perspective.

“Rubber hose” animation is a very distinct style of art that has become the basis of Monochrome RPG’s visual design. As art assets are created, classic and modern renditions of the style, such as Steamboat WIllie, Cuphead, Felix the Cat, and Epic Mickey, have become essential references for Monochrome RPG. Each reference utilizes traditional “rubber hose” characteristics in a unique way, providing a baseline for Monochrome RPG’s own style to formulate.

When playing Monochrome RPG, the audience should feel nostalgic for the animation and art style. Players should feel as though they have been transported back into the roaring 20’s, watching the mature narrative unfold. In addition to this, the utilization of pun-based assets should push the humor and storyline of Otto’s escapades. Each environment and asset should accentuate the theme and style of Monochrome RPG to achieve this.

Art Style

Monochrome RPG follows the story of Otto, a rabbit-like creature with dreams of becoming a comedian. The art style of the game stems from the classic “rubber hose” animation of the 1920s and 1930s. Rubber hose animation describes the first standard of animated cartoons, where characters had limbs that moved in a similar fashion as a “rubber hose”. Animations were exclusively in black in white when they first became a staple in the entertainment business. Some important examples of “rubber hose” animations include Steamboat Willie, Skeleton Dance, and Betty Boop’s Snow White (linked below under “Animation References”). Each animation embodies the style that Monochrome RPG is trying to achieve.

Artists are to never draw from memory.

Artists in the workshop are given a number of guides to reference for making art consistent with Monochrome’s image:

  • Perspective Shape
  • Texture
  • General Style
  • Asset Quality Guide RPG
  • Creating Vaudevillian Art
  • Monochrome Character Style

Simplicity is our friend!

“Rubber hose” animation is identifiable by the use of simple characters with limited features and round, solid shapes for other assets. These basic principles are translated into the unique style of Monochrome RPG. Characters within Monochrome RPG are black and white, with only a handful of exaggerated details to define them. The same goes for environmental assets. In addition to this, most “rubber hose” characters are made of solid and round shapes, like circles and cylinders.

Within Monochrome RPG, each asset is a combination of general shapes, highlights, shadows, and outlines. All assets use a grayscale palette. Highlights and shadows add detail to environmental assets, but are used sparingly to keep objects simple and refined.

Static v. Animated Assets

Assets classified as static are typically environmental elements. Static assets are separated into three different types: background, midground, and foreground.

Background

Examples:
  • Grass
  • Cobblestone
  • Walls

Background assets are large, tileable pieces that are used to create the background of Monochrome RPG. Examples of background assets include grass, stone floors, and room walls. They are based on realism and accuracy, while still maintaining the 1920s style of the game.

Midground

Examples:
  • Buildings
  • Trees
  • General Decoration

Midground elements are used to create the world of Monochrome RPG. These elements include things like furniture, bushes, and certain structures in the game. Midground elements are based on real-world items, but have a bit more “pun” in them than background items (they are more toon-like and silly!)

Foreground

Examples:
  • Inventory-focused items
  • Interactable objects
  • Motor oil can

Foreground assets consist of inventory items and decor. These are the “punniest” of the assets, where the design of each asset is based on a pun.

Art References

Monochrome RPG follows the story of Otto, a rabbit-like creature with dreams of becoming a comedian. The artistic style of Monochrome RPG is based on popular 1920s “rubber hose” animation. The animation style is shown through the utilization of simple, black and white characters with limbs that would stretch and bend excessively. As art assets are created, references from the 1920s and even modern-day creations are used to set a baseline for the style.

Steamboat Willie

Steamboat WIllie was a pioneering animation from Walt Disney. Using slapstick humor and synchronized sound, it became increasingly popular. The style of animation was a blueprint for following “rubber hose” animations, using simple, round characters with bending limbs to tell the story.

Cuphead

Cuphead is a “run and shoot” game with a modern take on “rubber hose” animation. Its art style is heavily influenced by the classic Disney and Fleischer animation of the 1920s. With fantastical environments and expressive animations. Cuphead uses the basic principles of 1920s animations, adding a contemporary twist to create a modern and interactable piece of art.

Epic Mickey

Epic Mickey is a Disney game that references the origins of the animation studio through a world of “retired” animation characters. Many of the levels and characters are re-imagined for the game, but retain the historic style of the original animations.

The Swords of Ditto

The Swords of Ditto is a modern RPG where players control a generated character to fight enemies. The game uses a unique top-down perspective, where certain elements are shown from a 3/4ths view. This type of gameplay perspective is similarly used in Monochrome RPG. Assets in The Swords of Ditto are split between two different perspectives, allowing elements to be portrayed as 3D in a 2D space.

Paper Mario

In Paper Mario, characters are all 2D, and some environment assets are in 3D, blending the two perspectives together. In addition to this, Mario can battle enemies on a stage with turn-based attacks. The combination of combined perspectives and a stage-based battle system are both referenced in Monochrome RPG. During battles, Otto and his foe’s are transported to a stage, where they can either fight or practice jokes. The use of a stage plays on the idea of Otto being an entertainer, and Paper Mario’s use of a stage is a good point of reference.

Animation References

Monochrome RPG follows the story of Otto, a rabbit-like creature with dreams of becoming a comedian. The animation style of the game stems from the classic “rubber hose” animation of the 1920s and 1930s. Rubber hose animation describes the first standard of animated cartoons, where characters had limbs that moved in a similar fashion as a “rubber hose”. Animations were exclusively in black in white when they first became a staple in the entertainment business. Some important examples of “rubber hose” animations include Steamboat Willie, Skeleton Dance, and Betty Boop’s Snow White. Each animation embodies the style that Monochrome RPG is trying to achieve.

Steamboat Willie

The Skeleton Dance

Betty Boop’s Snow White

Within Monochrome, there are distinct sub-styles of animation for the characters. Each sub-style branches from the structure of rubber hose animation. Each distinct style depends on the type of character and its relation to the 12 principles of animation.

  1. Squash and Stretch
  2. Timing and Motion
  3. Anticipation
  4. Staging
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  6. Straight ahead and Pose-to-Pose Action
  7. Slow In and Out
  8. Arcs
  9. Exaggeration
  10. Secondary Action
  11. Solid Drawing
  12. Appeal

Character Animation Examples

Otto

The player character, Otto, has a very relaxed animation. Otto’s character design stems from the greyscale style of the 1920s, with exaggerated ears and simple shapes making up his body. His animation utilizes anticipation and proper timing with his motion. In the gif above, the motion of Otto’s ears shows anticipation as they rise and fall of his body. This surmounts to a good pace of movement which has been translated to other animated characters.

Trotter

Trotter is an adorable character you can meet in the world of the RPG. Its animation style focuses on the squash and stretch principle as well as the slow in and out pacing, which accentuates its cute features and size. In terms of “rubber hose” animation.

Bee Girl

The Bee Girl is a friendly character that you can interact with around the RPG. In both of her animations, her movements are simple and refined, with perfect motion and timing. Her overall design refers to the 1920s, while her animation is much more realistic. This makes her movements feel authentic for the RPG and as a reference to the overall artistic theme.

Dragonfly

This dragonfly is a small character that floats around the areas of Greyshade Valley. To make it appear as though it is flying, a third wing appears in between its two “real” wings, differentiating between the two stages of flight. This demonstrates overlapping action and follow through, creating the feeling of natural motion.

Flighty Squawk

Similar to the Dragonfly is the Flighty Squawk, a kind of flying bird creature in the RPG. As the bird’s wings reach their peak, they slow down in anticipation before they move downward. This allows the motion to appear smooth as they glide around the area.

Character Design RPG

We have a step-by-step pipeline for all our artists in charge of character design! This ensures as little confusion as possible during the design process and lets us focus communication on the specifics needed for the character instead of on the logistics of submissions.

Pipeline Process

  • Design Character Based on Monochrome Statistics

  • Submit Character Design via Character Design Form

    • If Rejected, you will be notified with why

    • If Accepted, pipeline continues

  • Contract to provide “Character Deeper Design” form

  • Add Character Deeper Design form to database

  • Animator will be Assigned to Character

    • Animator’s contract will include:

      • Silhouette

      • Base design

      • Turn arounds

      • Emotes

      • Overworld animations

      • Battle animations

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Adjusting Styles RPG

When asked about advice to adjust one’s art style to the demands of Monochrome, we refer artists to the following video!

Environmental Design

It’s critical for artists to understand Monochrome’s Core Art Theme and Style before they can begin work on creating environments. As such, please make sure you’ve reviewed the Art Theme and Art Style sections of this page before continuing.