Rome is a word that encompasses an unending sea of images, ideas and feelings. It has been an active part of most cultures in the world since it rose to prominence. American culture, in particular, has placed Rome and Roman ideals at the center of many aspects of our education, government, entertainment and art. We see the Romans as one of the first cultures to develop city-life that parallels our own, and as the originators of many of the things we experience on a daily basis.
Rome and Roman portrayals in entertainment have been numerous, and we worked hard to develop a art style that incorporates many of those familiar portrayals while adding in the historical and mythological aspects that have been modified or glazed over by previous movies and games. Additionally, I had to make the game feel playable, fun and exciting, while supporting the fiction and game design.
A couple of looks were eliminated immediately. Photo-realism ran the danger of making the game feel blatantly historical, like a national geographic special, and that's not what we wanted. It's also a very difficult look to achieve with the technical limitations of an MMO environment. I wanted to maintain some degree of believability and connection to the history, so a heavily cartoon style was also not an option since it automatically makes the visuals feel modernized and usually silly or light-hearted. However, some degree of comic stylization seemed like it could contribute to the fun and playability without removing the weight and believability that we wanted, especially in today's cultures which have embraced comic styled imagery in more mature themed entertainment. Additionally, a need to incorporate mythological elements and make them feel as at home in the same world as a historical city meant that I needed to create a style which could support both. After several style tests, I ended up with the basics of the style:
The reality is that many games have ended up with a similar type of style. The desire to have the game feel fun but still have some connection to the real world is a common one, and it was highly important with our game. There are a lot of individual elements of the design of Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising with unique character, however. Specifically, the color palettes and intensity combined with more realistic proportions, as well as the specific design and style elements involved in portraying the historical cultures. Ultimately the goal for the design of the look and feel was to make it work internally with the game's design and fiction - not just setting it apart for the sake of setting it apart. From the feedback we have gotten from those who have previewed and played the game, it seems to be achieving that with flying colors.