With Early Access coming on April 26th, there's a new dev interview with Dune: Spice Wars’ Jeremy Vitry, the game’s art director, on creating a distinct style for a game using such a well-known IP, as well as how design changed over time from concept to the current form.
During the earlier concept stages, the first art Vitry did was a large-scale overview of Arrakis that also came with a mockup of the overall concept for the Spice Wars gameplay. Later, there were all kinds of changes, but the initial stylized concept art did retain some influence. He details a process that went from let’s keep a stylized look and match Shiro Games’ general feel, but then they incorporated some Art Deco-inspired elements that changed the UI but also added touches to characters and parts of the world, which makes this stand out.
Dune is such a globally-known IP, but the team wanted to create something original within, without relying on other Dune media’s influence. Vitry notes that, “ Another huge part of that challenge was the fact that everyone already has their own vision of what Dune-related things would look like, so the pressure of making something not too crazy and still appealing to the players that fit into this universe was definitely a tough one!”
Working on a well-known IP introduced some constraints on what they could do with the characters or world, but these also provided some guidance and as he says, brought them out of their comfort zone because they had to stick to what was there.
Some of the other challenges were creating interesting environments on what is a well-known desert planet. In addition, the worlds are procedurally-generated when you play, so it's a little more complex to get the worlds to have some variety and feel engaging.