Game Studio Spotlight: Freejam Games

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Freejam

Hi, I’m Ric Turner, the Art director and Co-founder of Freejam games based in Portsmouth UK. Freejam is a 5 year old independent Indie game developer that prides itself on creating games focused around User Generated Content. We have a talented multicultural team of over 40 people and 2 games currently available: Robocraft and our new title CardLife.

We love to use Sketchfab as it allows our community of players to really see our art assets up close and personal before they get to try them. We have also run community competitions on sketchfab; I remember some fabulous entries from our Halloween weapon competition a while back. Sketchfab provides our company a unique opportunity to engage with our community, to see some of their 3D skills and involve them much more closely in our own development process. Let me introduce you to some of the art behind our projects:

Robocraft

Robocraft is now in its 5th year of development and we still have a large, growing, community of loyal and super-engaged players fueling the game. Together, we are constantly evolving the game with essentially a series of experiments that seek to improve the game further with community feedback. Remember back in your science lessons when experiments could go wildly wrong and before you knew it you’d have lost your eyebrows in a fireball? Well sometimes this happens in game development too, but most of the time experiments go well and the game ebbs and flows with innovative ideas and content.

For those that have not played Robocraft before here’s a quick summary to give you some context to this spotlight in Sketchfab: Robocraft is a free-to-play action PC/Console game where you can build cool robot machines that drive, hover, walk and fly. Add weapons to your creation and jump in the driving seat to take your creation into battle against thousands of online players!

The building system and creative process is like playing Lego, but without the risk of painfully stepping on a piece. Players can move, shift and rotate components to create an unlimited possible number of machine designs. You can make anything you imagine into reality. For example, check out these creations from a recent prehistoric themed art-bot competition.

When we began development on Robocraft there were just five of us and I was the only artist in the company. A challenge we faced was how to create an artstyle that appealed to players but was fundamentally fast to develop and obviously performance friendly. The ethos behind this visual direction was partially based around producing micro experiments as fast as possible. If we spent weeks concepting a component, building high poly meshes and hand painted textures then our experiments would take a lot longer to complete and thus Robocraft would have evolved super slowly.

Above are some of the components in the game. Your core construction parts are a set of smooth and angular cubes designed to allow players to build fast and logically. Cubes are your robot’s health and your primary method of attaching weapons, movement and modules to your creation. You can see from some of the more complicated components, such as weapons, that the minimalist visual style allows us to keep the polycount low. This is a fundamental part of the optimisations ingame and allows us to throw 20 robots, all with 45,000 (triangulated) polygons, into a fight at good frame rates. The other important decision from a performance perspective was to design all the components with as many shared materials as possible, this allows cubes to be batched together and massively reduces draw calls ingame.

We have put one of our “hero” robots into Sketchfab for you. It represents the end game in terms of having legendary parts and it’s huge with a poly count of about 45,000 tris. This Robot was generated by our inhouse boffins and was built mainly for looks rather than power. Having said that, other players should avoid standing in front of this titan, which I have nicknamed “Kill you in the Face”.

Feel free to spin around the character and look at its chunky chain-guns and construction. If you want to build robots like this or perhaps recreate something from your fav sci-fi show then head to the free2play section on Steam or find us on Xbox too.

CardLife

Freejam has also been busy for the last year developing another experimental game called CardLife, which is best described as Minecraft meets Ark wrapped in a beautiful Cardboard Art Style. CardLife is an online multiplayer survival game set in a cardboard Science Fantasy world – think Dragons, Mechs, Magic, Lasers & Dinosaurs. Play by yourself or with others as you explore a fully editable hand crafted world.

Encounter and battle a host of fantastical creatures and craft your own creations using our unique Connect the Dots crafting system where you can draw customisable 2D cardboard shapes that slot together to create new 3D Tools, Building Prefabs, Weapons, Vehicles, Creature Companions and much much more.

I remember when I was a kid I was always building stuff out of cardboard when a big parcel was delivered home. Now I have a son of my own we spend a lot of time building spaceships and robots he can climb into. Cardboard is such a wonderful and versatile material which is perfect for some timeless fun.

CardLife represents an opportunity to develop a unique looking game with an innovative crafting system. The challenge for the art team is to make crafting as user-friendly as possible while granting players a high level of freedom for customisation, all in the aesthetic of cardboard. Below is a typical example of a character created using the Connect the Dots system. Lots of individuality can be drawn into these characters, you can even draw yourself. Early in the game, once you have mined some rare ores, you can create a brand new suit of armour to protect your character – totally customised, of course.

This is an example of a common creature within the game. This Raptor Dinosaur was first constructed as a solid 3D mesh, then cardboard planes were placed within the volume, then iterated until we had a compromise between the smallest number of unique cardboard sheets and a recognisable Raptor shape. The more planes and joints we add the more complicated it will be to construct using multiple 2D Connect the Dots drawings. We know that producing loads of images for the many joints of one character could take some of the user-friendliness out, so we have tried to reduce the complexity where possible. Having said that, CardLife is being developed with Modding in mind, so those players that want to have extremely complicated and detailed characters have the option to make them. I am looking forward to exhibiting some CardLife artwork as the game develops and encouraging players to post some of their own models and creations for us to see.

CardLife is in a Pre Alpha state so if you play the game please expect it to be rough round the edges. You can join now and buy the game for the early founders price of $6. A good starting price for lifetime access considering all the features we plan to add. Come and see what it’s all about, have a voice, and join in with the development of the game.

Thank you for reading

Ric and the Freejam team

About the author

Michael

Entertainment at Sketchfab.

Simply, I’m a friend to all 3D artists, game creators and filmmakers. If you're working on a 3d project, don't hesitate to reach out to me.


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