In my early career, I worked for some time making Art for slot games for the One Armed Bandit machines. Clients required flashy graphics with gold and glitters everywhere, and color gradients so vivid, I had to put cucumber slices on my eyes, every EOD. Deviating from such extravagantly bright and showy graphics would be a wrong artistic choice because the games have to be eye-catching to attract customers.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Kshiraj Telang at gameartanalysis.com. Kshiraj is a Studio Art Director at Rovio Entertainment Corporation. Disclaimer: The assumptions and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the actual thought process or research followed by the developer.
Fast forward to today, Moon Active’s Coin Master (a social build-battler mobile game employing slot mechanics), with it’s accessible Art style, appeals and delivers to a wide casual audience, making the game the Big Bertha of this genre. Relaxing like a beautifully illustrated storybook, Coin Master’s Art plays a big role in broadening the funnel, increasing the retention, and making the gameplay enjoyable.
The theme world of Coin Master is broad and loose. It works for them too, making the game scaleable to thematically different villages. While the Art style stays consistent across the villages (for the right reasons), the changing themes, as you progress in the game, gives you the experience of switching between different worlds, themed from Supervillains to Jurassic Park to Aliens and what not. Though the gameplay stays the same, the progression reskins the main game board, some reel symbols, and the village you build.
However, the theme still has some origin material: Vikings and pig. The pig is the central character, used as a reel symbol, in the splash, some village items, plus small motifs like the chest lever, etc. And then there’s a Viking themed starting Village, and lightning powered hammer used for Attacks, etc. By the way, Vikings and pigs are not so disconnected. Pigs were common farm animals in the Viking age, and they were Vikings’ favorites for their adaptability to the different environments (changing villages in the game, remember?)
Still do not see a link? Here’s a painting from Norse Mythology showing the connection of a Viking and pig:
Or maybe the pig is there to make us associate it with the piggy bank collecting coins? Moving on…
Coin Master’s Art has a soothing visual development artsy look, which is very accessible. Cartoony 2D graphics that avoid getting dark or muddy anywhere. The game has cheerful well-harmonized color palettes, that delivers a soothing look across all villages and screens. Game Assets are softly painted, staying away from strong direct lights or noticeable rim lights (bounce lights are used wherever applicable). This makes everything blend well together, and stay away from noise-causing details. They avoid excessive use of textures, and every texture appearance is simplified and hand-painted. All Art assets are rendered without outlines, except for the reel symbols, which have tinted outlines to make them stand out. All shapes are organically drawn, which hints at the Artistic touch. Yellow gold in the coins is the color that stands out most, which serves its purpose.
I see the roots of this treatment coming from their previous games Super Sam and Wonderball Heroes, which are no longer available on the App Store.
Each village features a unique background that establishes the environment, with five items to build related to the village’s theme. Items are mostly diagonal in orientation and sometimes frontal (usually the top-most asset). Their diagonal arrangement leads the eyes, distinguishing the upgradable assets from the environment.
A lot of labor has been put in visually progressing each asset that upgrades, ensuring silhouette changes, and functional or decorated improvements every tier. There’s also a unique destroyed state of each item tier, which clearly shows the attention to detail and amount of hard work put in by Moon Active Artists.
Besides some hue shifted reuse of trees or smaller rocks/shrubs, I couldn’t find any big reuse example of items from another village. The well-researched selection of asset choices, and their polished treatment (no shortcuts are taken), makes each village look pinning worthy (and it genuinely hurts, when an attacker uses a hammer).
Village progression map has a classic map styled feel with dotted path and well-illustrated destination stickers. You could scroll and see all the locked future villages map stickers here, confirming a lot of content to new players.
The reel board ties up to the theme of your current village. Everything changes visually, from the Payline marker to borders and decoration around the board. Some reel symbols like the pig and coin pouch also adjust to the theme. Ongoing events add some new symbols to the reel. There are no Multi-lines or Wild symbols in the Game board at present. The board’s interface is easy to understand, with a big call-to-action Spin button. The open sky background helps keep the focus on the center area (the subtle outstretched reel around the Payline helps too). The Artists take no shortcuts here again by reusing any village item to ornate the board and instead flex their muscles by making unique ones.
The animations in the game are a bit of a turn-off for me. They are often too long and do not skip to end when tapped. Oftentimes the linear flow of events feels never-ending (chest unlock leading to progress bar completion leading to reward), and they feel frustrating especially when someone in the meantime raids your village, or when you lose the balloon. Some frames could have been easily cut-down, and animations could end when tapped. When the village is completely shielded, seeing the new shields arrive and get destroyed only to add more spins, feels stretched. I prefer when game animations have easy to understand timings during the FTUE tutorials, but then things speed up between screen transitions for experienced players.
Otherwise, the game consists of Animations wherever needed. Bouncing coin rewards after every spin, subtle animations on the village items, and consistent build, raid, and attack animations are clear to understand. The timing of reel animation before it stops, is also varied, which shows attention to detail.
Viking aspect of the theme reduces by now, but the hammer, daily spins wings, lightning FX before attack and lightning powered spin capsules reminds us of the core theme we started with.
User interface of Coin Master is neat and consistent with the Game’s Art style. Each and every card collection is beautifully illustrated, supporting the depth of their meta. Layouts are easy to understand and information is well communicated. For example, Village shop’s item price is written with the same text style as the Coins counter, making it easy to guess which currency is required, without an extra coin icon next to those prices. Coin Master puts a lot of effort into events, which adds reasons to return to the game.
The only annoying thing with the UI is spammy pop-up windows. They’re just too many, and it sometimes kills their purpose of existence. I hit the close button even before seeing what the prompt offers. There are multiple ways to get more spins (buy, see ads, invite FB friends, etc.) and each option pops one window of its own. Perhaps they should reconsider a single pop-up with options listed as columns.
While the Viking character art on the Splash screen isn’t that great (especially his face and left hand), there are a few things that we can learn from this screen. The game is all about earning coins to build your village, and the huge pile of Gold on which the Viking and pig stands, portray your mission in the highest visual form. They’ve added shield, hammer, and chest, giving clues to the gameplay elements. The background is just a bright sky and clouds, which not only gives us an accessible casual on-boarding but also stays clear of a single ‘world’ because you’re always traveling from one village to another. Lastly, the bouncing coins is another indicator of the gameplay, plus it also adds a sense of movement to the static splash.
The App Store screenshots avoid a lot of text, and one hook word (Raid!, Attack!, Win!, Pets!) supported by a close to actual in-game screenshots, gives a clear message about what to expect. The Art within the game is already so good, they had minimal work to do on their promotional images.
The villages featured in the App Store are open, bright and contain elements from nature (greens, snow, water, sky)
In a nutshell
The Art of Coin Master is a big contributor to the success and retention capabilities of their game. Hundreds of thematically different villages and repackaging of the game board and reel items that resonate with the current village speaks of their craft’s perfection and attention to detail. They’ve nailed a palette and treatment that could be used for the definition of what an approachable casual Art must look like. I hope they make an ‘Art of’ book of it someday.
High production value Art
Amount of visual content
Attention to detail
Lengthy animations that block gameplay
Too many pop-ups screens
Minor inconsistencies with Art at some places