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Exploring the Videogames World Map with Scribblenauts' art director

Anyone ever play a game and wander through its distinct landscapes, wondering where it would fit in our reality? Sure, some of the best games have used real-world locations, but then there are those fantasy lands that lay just along the outskirts of fiction and reality. Think about Columbia, Rapture, or even Monkey Island. Where in our world would these places fit?

Scribblenauts art designer Edison Yan had these questions fly through his head at one point, so he put his artistic talents to work. Yan constructed a full 36x24 world map, jotting down over 100 points of interest from the world of video games. The map first debuted at the 2015 DICE Awards as a way to celebrate gaming culture. Since then, the curators at Iam8bit have collaborated with Yan to put copies of the map up for sale.

Shacknews took some time to speak to Yan about the process of creating the map, his collaboration with Iam8bit, as well as what's lined up for him in the future.

Shacknews: What inspired you to create a map of the world based on the many sights seen in the video game world?

Edison Yan, Scribblenauts art designer: I was approached by Iam8bit's, Jon Gibson. I got an email one day asking if I'd be interested in collaborating on a project for the DICE summit conference. The idea was bringing worlds together. So working back and forth with Jon, we created the map together. It was a great collaboration. I had a blast working with Jon and Amanda, and we ended up with something magical!

Shacknews: How did you determine which sights from which games should be featured? And how did you determine where fictional locations like Donut Plains, Hyrule, and Silent Hill should be placed on the map?

Yan: This was THE challenge! It was a collaborative effort in deciding which worked and which didn't. This was truly a piece for the fans and we had a good set of eyes over at the Iam8bit team helping decide what the fans would love to see. There was quite a few that got axed after analyzing the overall landscape of the map. We wanted the fans to get the location right away but still have it make sense as a unified map. And to include as many different games as we can, but to encompass a variety of terrains to make the world as diverse as possible.

Shacknews: Can you walk us through the process of creating the map? Did you draw a standard world map and go from there? How many drafts did you draw out before reaching the final version?

Yan: The process started with initial list of locations when Jon first approached me. I did some research on videogame maps before doing anything else, and yes there were a few standard maps as part of my reference, but majority were videogame ones. I wanted to do one that was representational to how I drew, yet different to what was already done as a videogame map.

To start, I did a rough of the overall map based on that list on the computer, to establish the large land masses that would make up the world. This process is very loose and unrefined, placing the text on the sketch helps me get a feel for where the spacing of the places should be from one another. As the list grew and changed, the landscape changed. I think I did a total over 10+ iterations on it. I lost count. I added color in the first rough actually when I showed Jon, which is rare in my process, as I tend to work strictly in black and white and making sure I get the layout down before I further it, but the time and interpretation of the map begged for color, for it to make sense.

The initial time Jon gave me I think was 2 weeks. But there was a lot of back and forth that we didn't foresee, thus it took around 4. So in the first pass, I blocked in rough color to block in what are deserts, water bodies, plains, hills, rocks, forests, and locations. By the 5th or 6th iteration, when the list was close to being final, is when I started to tighten up the entire map. I tend to work from solidifying the line work first, starting with the bordering edge of the land masses and working inwards, from the upper left corner, counter clockwise around the map until I finished towards the center. Then I do the same with the color pass, where I decide on a palette and add some basic light and shadows.

Shacknews: Can you explain some of the art techniques used when putting the map together?

Yan: The techniques were digital and done in Photoshop. I tried to work as cleanly as possible, given how large the map is, if the more layers I worked in, the larger the file size, so I really had to challenge myself to keep the layers to a minimum. I did apply a few textures in the end to get the paper quality of an old map, and some stains.

Other than that, it was just a color layer, underneath a clean line drawing, and a text layer with text on top. Any addition changes were just painted on a revision layer, so I can see the back and forth.

Shacknews: You've previously been credited as the art director for Scribblenauts. Are there any artistic elements of those games that we can see in the map?

Yan: The style of Scribblenauts is a lot more flat in comparison... so I wasn't channeling that look per-se. The technique of how I did some of the marketing images for Scribblenauts was similar though, where I do the line drawing, color underneath, and apply a texture in the end to tie it together. I worked on Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter as well, and similarities between that game can be drawn with the DICE map because I designed the in-game level maps in a similar fashion: deciding where the main locations were gonna be, and adding different things around the locations so they blend into the terrain/landscape.

Shacknews: What are some of your favorite parts of the map?

Yan: The Final Fantasy references! I put a little Easter egg, my Edy insignia, right by the chocobo fields.

Shacknews: How did you and iam8bit come together to put the map up for sale?

Yan: Jon Gibson wanted the map to be made available to fans, after it was unveiled at DICE. It just made sense.

Shacknews: Were there any important locations from the world of games you feel you missed? And are you open to creating an even larger-scaled map in the future?

Yan: There's always room for more, but for the most part, all the ones I felt should be in... made it in! I am definitely open to creating an even bigger one in the future!


The Videogames World Map is available now on the Iam8bit store website.

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