Astro Bot Rescue Mission: Inside the Art and Animation of Japan Studio’s PS VR Hit

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Astro Bot Rescue Mission: Inside the Art and Animation of Japan Studio’s PS VR Hit

When traditional animation techniques didn't cut it for virtual reality, Asobi Team went back to the drawing board.

Hello VR friends!

Let’s talk visuals today! We sat down with Sebastian Brueckner and Jamie Alexander Smith, Art Director and Animation Lead on Astro Bot Rescue Mission, respectively, to give you a bit of insight on how the game’s visual style came to life.

Starting with environments, the stages were first created by game designers in a very rough format, using plain blocks to establish gameplay. Once we had a solid, fun base, the art team would remake the platforms from scratch at high quality and made them reuseable at different angles (like toy blocks that could connect in various ways). This technique gave us flexibility for building levels and allowed us to reduce the burden on the system.

At times, the gameplay prototype created by the designers had to be changed quite drastically. For example, the Dragon boss prototype became a Gorilla to be more in line with the pop culture thematic we were shooting for and fit the urban style of the level.

To dress up each level, the choice of materials was particularly critical for the Art Director, Sebastian. He and the team tried various styles to find the best match for VR. Through continuous research characters, enemies, vegetation (right down to the rocks) created a super-tangible feeling. We injected each object with a digital DNA, such as printed circuits board patterns and LED faceplates. This gave the game a unique playful, digital identity.

Another big area is character animation as we sought to bring a believable world to life. The game features a big cast of fun characters, friends and foes to support the gameplay and make the game a fun, interactive diorama. Nearly every object in the game reacts to touching or punching it, which cements the player’s presence in the world, while turning it into an interactive sandbox.

Prototyping became crucial for Jamie and the animation team. For example, they found out exaggerated animations, similar to classic cartoons, did not bode well in VR. Timings had to be adjusted for animations to translate well and this took some iterations.

They played a lot on the duality of characters. For the bots, they balanced the cuteness with mischievous undertones: The Bots end of level celebrations are a good example of this sweet, yet edgy style. For Bosses, they followed a similar approach. The battle would start with a scary, intimidating arrival, then, as the player hits back, the bosses’ weakness would start appearing, making them look vulnerable and a little bit silly. This contrast not only empowered the player in their effort but also served as a ramp towards a humorous outcome.

We hope this gave you a little bit of insight on how we created Astro Bot Rescue Mission. To thank you for your astronomical support over the past weeks, we would like to give a little gift: Here are some animated clips from the game. So get your dancing boots and get sharing! Let us know which one is your favorite. :)

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  • Love this game. You know what I also love about it? That sexy ass Dual Shock 4 that’s in game. Can you please make them for purchase in real life. I would buy two. Also you guys should do a cross over with LBP and have Sack Boy run a few levels. Or vice versa.

  • The game is a creative masterpiece. Considering the devs didnt have much to pull from in regards to how to do a 3rd person vr platformer, they not only NAILED IT, but raised the bar and set a gold standard.

    One of my favorite levels is still world 1-3 with all the neon dancing mushrooms. The atmosphere, visuals and music combine to create an awesome experience.

    The full game really unleashes creative gameplay mechanics and ingenious level designs. Every level is vastly different from the last and gameplay mechanics never over stay their welcome. There’s also challenge levels that you can unlock for each level, that will put your speed running platforming skills to the test.

    Now I’m patiently waiting for Astro Bot 2, Astro Karts, Super smash bots, Astros Haunted mansion, Astro Party, Astro 3d Paint, Astro sports, etc.!

  • One of the best games I’ve tried this year! Hope to see more like this,

  • This game was really fantastic!! Japan Studio should absolutely make another VR game!

  • Astro Bot Rescue Mission was an amazing experience to play through. Anybody platforming game fan that hasn’t played it for themselves yet, needs to give this one a try. Not just the best platforming VR game, one of the best platforming games made to date in any format or console.

  • Please sell Atro Bot action figures as shiny and as cute as their VR version!

  • Brilliant game, loving playing. Got the VR for Christmas and although I am 57 the VR and Astrobot have reignited my gaming joy. The on screen controller is brilliant and its a great use of the touch pad.

  • The plain block levels would have been a fun unlockable if they were hidden and included as playable.

  • I love this game so much and it’s easily one of the best platformers of all time. I really hope the team can build on this and bring us another great game like it. We need more Astro.

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