Out of Gas.
A brief dip into reference and influence.
Welcome back. Hope you’re all settling into 2023 nicely.
What shall we chat about today? Well, I get asked a lot about my process, and in truth, it’s really not that interesting, as I normally just sketch it in pencil, ink it up, scan it and colour it digitally. However, I thought I’d try and talk you through a specific project and explain how it came to look the way it does.
I did the early environmental concept designs for the game, Flat Eye, released by Raw Fury at the end of last year, and developed by the French studio, Monkey Moon. I was commissioned to do this way back in the first lockdown (games take a while to make apparently), and having not done much of this kind of work, I really enjoyed the experience.
I had to create designs that all made sense within the logic of the world, but also served narrative and gameplay purposes. It felt like the perfect midpoint between my background in architectural design, and my more recent endeavours in graphic fiction writing, having already recognised some similarities in both those to processes before.
Flat Eye takes place in a gas station in Iceland and set in the near future, so much of my work was designing a functional, yet commercial looking architecture. This was exemplified by the modules, which are a key feature of the game, with the player buying and installing them to achieve different results. It was amazing having free reign to explore what they might look like, while only being given the ‘function’ as a start point. Once I’d established a kind of design aesthetic, they almost started to design themselves, with each new module fitting into the set and environment.
I find influence much more interesting than just process, but it’s often very hard to unpick where things come from. As I’m sketching away, it often feels like it’s coming from me, but in fact, I am just the filter of all the things I have consumed over the years, and you almost have to reverse engineer to see where it came from. Of course, it’s impossible to isolate them all, but here’s just a few examples of things and ideas that I think you can see within the drawings I made.
(K67 kiosk, Braun radio, City of London Fire Brigade station, Ed Rucha, Edward Hopper.)
It was fascinating seeing the team at Monkey Moon take these drawings and then create a fully three-dimensional space for the game to play out in, combining it with systems and narratives. Ironically I don’t play a lot of games these days, (although I do keep up to date with what’s happening), but it’s been so nice to see people enjoying it. It recently got a big write up in the French newspaper, Liberation and featured on The Guardian’s list of the video game you may have missed in 2022.
It was a joy to work with team who made it, and I hope I get to do more or this work in the future. The game is out now and available on STEAM if you fancied checking it out.
It seems only right to talk about kiosks, considering where we are, but one of the reasons Monkey Moon got in touch was because of a small personal project I did a few years previously. It was a self-published zine/field guide of modernist kiosk designs from a post-colonial African nation, with a narrative built into the description.
It was born out of a personal interest in this kind of municipal street architecture, informed mainly by the kiosk culture in Lisbon, even though the design sensibility is quite different. And all this is to say, you can keep going down the rabbit hole of refence and influence, and it all starts to unfold, like a vast, interconnected map. Who would have thought a casual interest in a Lisbon newsstand would lead to me getting to design a futuristic, Icelandic, game world? Certainly not me, but it’s strange how things go.
Anyway, I’d better get on, and you’d better get back to dealing with whatever 2023 is handing out to you too. And don’t worry, everyone is feeling like that.
If it all gets a bit much, down tools and have a coffee. The kiosk is always open.
Owen D. Pomery.
Thanks for reading KIOSK! Subscribe for free.