This blog contains some thoughts about about mood and tone. In games, I’m arguing that mood is mostly created by design, whilst tone is created by art. Both have to be interpreted by a player.
For me, RememBear is mostly about mood. The feeling of being in a forest, the feeling of being creeped up on, and the reaction of being attacked. Panic.
The creeping feeling is perhaps the most important. Like creepy old fairytales that seem so sweet but quickly become so sinister. This is the mood that takes the lead.
Faye Simms drew RememBear and had to carry this mood across to tone. She got this spot on. Take a look at her work in action, and then we’ll have a look at how the bears came into being!
To look at the mood to tone journey, let’s take a few steps back and look at the early ptototype. The mood of the game comes through, even with coder art. You probably won’t get the from a screenshot. The game already has a creeping mood, but the antagonist is only menacing after I’ve told the player that they are being hunted by a bear. The tone is pretty much up to the player’s own fantasy.
The mechanic was there, and the feeling of creeping panic came as the game progressed. Adding the art, giving a form to the bears, defining the terror, is what brings the game to life.
Faye sent some early sketches to get a feel for the kind of bears I wanted. The bear needed to look cute and cuddly, but have a vicious side too. The transformation is important to the tone and it reinforces the mood.
Moving from cute and cuddly to big and imposing…
This shape shifting creature fits the mood perfectly. The contrast in the shape outlines is superb. The noses keep the continuity but the creature has transformed. The mood of RememBear is of sweet characters turning sinister. Uncertainty. Fear. Panic.
The tone of these characters matches that.
I’m speaking in general terms, of course. Mood can be set by elements of design outside of the mechanics, but the tone has to come from the art or audio – from the actual assets. This is part of creating a good ‘game feel’, identifying your mood and making sure the tone you are setting fits. I know I’ve made mistakes with this in the past and I’m sure you have too, if you’re honest. I encourage you to look over your project and check that everything – everything is building towards the correct mood.