[WIP] AIRHEART - Early Access

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Chreas Polycount Sponsor
Hey Polycounters, I've been working on AIRHEART on and off since early 2016 and it will finally be released later this year. Finally there is some time to share some WIP images with you.

A quick overview about the game; it's a twin stick shooter where player control an airplane and hunt for flying fish. The world of the game is above the clouds, and there are flying rocks everywhere. Storywise the players take the role of Amelia, a young girl who came from the world below and wants to catch the biggest whale to make a better living.

This post will have lots of different things in it because the game just has a lot of variety; fish, airplanes, flying islands... Also, since we're a small studio we've got lots of hats; this led to some of the stuff being concepted directly in 3D (airplanes, character) while other stuff (weapons, fish) had pencil concepts.

So let's get this going! I started with the airplanes since they're the core of the game. We wanted to have a modular system where players can chose their own combination out of chassis, wings, engines (propellers) and weapons. I think with this kind of goal, concepting in 3D gives you the advantage to see many combinations at the same time, with silhouettes in top / side / front perspectives.






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  • Chreas
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    Chreas Polycount Sponsor

    We needed more than just 4 airplanes; we aimed at about 8, so I continued creating concepts. I tried to produce some variation with shapes and wing positioning. At this point I think there was still only one style of propellers. Since propellers are not that visible from above (where the in-game camera is positioned), they were not that important at this point.

    From these 8 concepts, 3 made it into the first prototype (presented 2 months later at GDC 2016), 5 into the first Early Access phase and 7 into the release version. The one on the far right never made it out of concept phase and was scrapped.



  • Chreas
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    Chreas Polycount Sponsor
    The “Rammer” airplane went through an additional concept phase because we were not entirely happy with it. The original concept is the one on the right (preview render). The one we went with is the one on the left (preview render). It has a front which is more pronounced, especially if seen from above.


    I started working on the enemy (pirate) airplanes at that point. They’d have scrappier airplanes, more like welded together. The smaller ones are “Scouts” and the bigger one is a “Fighter”. If I could do these again I’d change the position of the wings on one of the scouts so that they’re easier to discern when seen from above & from some distance. While their chassis are quite different it's just not a big enough difference; the Z position of the wings is probably the part which makes the biggest difference in silhouette.



    These here are another NPC faction; the fishers that come from the same city as the player. The inspiration for these concepts were pick up trucks. 



  • Chreas
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    Chreas Polycount Sponsor
    The propeller shapes were not designed for specific planes at first - I tried out various shapes and then put them on different airplanes to see which form would fit which airplane best. On the second picture you can see the original form on the right side and the one we selected for the "Hunter" airplane on the left.


    While I worked on the airplane concepts, Jeremy Spillmann made concepts for the first batch of weapons. We made 16 for the GDC prototype but as far as I remember, only 6 or so were playable.








  • Chreas
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    Chreas Polycount Sponsor

    Took some time to continue with this (release, holidays), but now I finally found some time to post something again:

    While working on the airplanes I created a first WIP of the flying islands. We wanted to use them modular, so that we could use a small set of plants and rocks to create various islands.



    With the first rough models ready and some WIP textures, we took it into Unity and made a mockup of what the game could look like. At this stage we didn’t have any clouds yet, and the only texture which was kind of ready was the one of the player airplane.

    But for us this mockup was very important because it gave us a feel for what everything looks like if it’s in the same space in-engine.
    This was created roughly one month before we presented AIRHEART publicly for the first time at GDC 2016.


  • Chreas
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    Chreas Polycount Sponsor

    Part of AIRHEART’s world is Granaria, a city on a floating island. This is where the main character, Amelia, lives and where players start their runs and where they bring back the fish they catched.

    Jeremy sketched this concept (and UI proposal) early on, and I based my model of the city on this.


     I mostly stayed close to the concept with my model – two things that I changed were 1. a hangar for airplanes right at the landing strip (because where are all the airplanes parked?) and 2. a pipe from the fish oil factory to the city. Small stuff, but I think those things were really missing.



    For the GDC demo I did a quick texture which was ment to be replaced as soon as I’d get time for the next iteration.



    During preparation for Early Access I got some more time to do the textures and added colors and more details to the buildings. The design was partly inspired by Bioshock Infinite. This is the version (with baked light) which is in the game now:



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