‘If you go down to the house today, be sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the house today, find a good place to hide.
For every doll that ever there was,
Will perish there for certain because,
Today’s the day the juggernaut crashes their picnic.’
When bunny rabbit Jane Doe’s tea party is interrupted by an unrelenting action figure, it is up to you to guide her to safety.
Navigate a dollhouse, whose twisting halls hold your doom. Complete tasks for your allies to work towards your escape. Fend off your pursuer by throwing things at him, be it lampshades or your old friends. As Jane’s world of tea and scones is transformed into a doll-eat-doll world, it’s time she learns that only the ruthless will survive.
Survival of the Cutest is a dark comedy love letter to the old school survival horror genre. Produced by Away From Home, a team of third-year game development students, it is forged from a mutual love of horror and a morbid fascination with the ‘cruelty is the only option’ trope. Explore our adorable game full of classic survival horror mechanics, and do what it takes to survive! We’ll see you on the other side, soldier.
by Charis Faulkner
Survival of the Cutest, being set in a doll's house provided a challenge to determine the art style and direction we wanted to head in. Because of the miniature scale, having a hyper realistic doll's house (for example a Victorian style doll's house) would make it difficult for players to discern their environment.
To combat this, concepts with the look of chunky, plasticky furniture with large bevelled edges were suggested. This immediately makes the small scale more obvious, which can be enhanced by scaled up wood grain or fabric textures.
This chunky low poly style also suits the 'girly' pastel hues that reflect the narrative of our game, a little girl's doll house which will be invaded by her brother's evil action man. Having the villain, Sargent Shredder, be completely contrasting to the dollhouse environment was also key to the development of style. The Sargent immediately looks out of place and imposing, with a contrasting 'stereotypically boyish' red and blue colour scheme and sharper more brutal features. This is juxtaposed with the calm pastel hues and round soft qualities of the dolls and their surroundings.
Through playtesting it was evident this direction worked well in highlighting our narrative to the player, and made it easy for players to detect that they were in a doll's house.
by Charis Faulkner and Naomi Lakin
Some early character concepts. Our villain began quite action-man themed, and progressed to be more sleek, sharp and robotic. A key aspect to his design has been the screws attached to his shoulder pads, this reflects the narrative that the villain has been altered by the brother, and has been made intentionally dangerous and violent towards the sister's dolls.
A 3D environment concept, using blocky, chunky modelling to get an idea of the 3D art style we wanted to head in. Key features are the large handles, thick bevels and chunky countertops which all help to mimic wooden dollhouse furniture.
Jane's toy car concepts, in the narrative Jane must find batteries for the toy car in order to fight back Sargent Shredder. Inspired by Mario Kart designs, these concepts focus on the girly pink colour pallet, which represent Jane and contrast Sargent Shredder. We followed through with the design that still has those soft, edges and a cute design, but is sleek and ready for Jane's revenge!
Environment Art - 3D Stylised
By Oliver Britland
The stylised environment art expands upon the original concept art scene and pushes it further into different areas of the doll's house. Applying the soft pastel colour scheme and scaled up textures to the 3D style from the concept art, different furnishings for spaces such as bathrooms, bedrooms and a library were made with a clear and distinct art style that looks and feels cohesive.
Environment Art - 2D Textures and Decals
By Charis Faulkner, Naomi Lakin and Oliver Britland
Here are the 2D textures used for paintings and wall decorations. The paintings are in different styles ranging from simple to detailed, the simple painting being quite abstract and childlike. The paintings keep to our doll house art direction, which is the same for the simple decals which also add variety to the walls whilst keeping to the theme.
The decals are references to stickers that are commonly used in modern doll houses to add depth or wall furniture decorations like plant pots, clocks or lamps.
Environment Art - 3D Realistic
By Oana Pascari
To strengthen the game environment feeling like a doll's house, we wanted to add some realistic items that wouldn't feel too out of place in a child's doll's house. Within the narrative, the child playing with the dolls would include these everyday objects within their play.
Having these items be hyper realistic in comparison to the stylised environment consolidates the perception of the doll's house scale and narrative.
Some of these items also have use for the player through mechanics such as flashing the villain with the Christmas light to escape or collecting batteries for the toy car.
Character Art - 3D
By Elan Cholerton
Throughout this project I worked with one of our concept artists, Charis, to design and model the characters for our game. Charis created all of the initial designs for the characters then we bounced ideas off each other as I went through the process of converting them into 3D.
All of the characters were made in ZBrush, the hard-surface pieces were just made using ZModeller from very low poly pieces that I used Dynamic Subdivide on. I then messed with the creasing to create nice bevels on the edges to give a more plasticky feel.
The dolls weren't too hard to make once I'd managed to get the faces looking like the concept art as their limbs and clothes are fairly simple and modular. I designed them to be able to be taken apart completely, with sockets on the torso that connect to the limbs, head, neck etc as we have a death animation of the doll friends having their heads taken off.
The villain is the character I spent the most time on as I'd never really attempted making a robotic/all hard surface character to this extent before. Like with the dolls I modelled the separate pieces of the Villain to be completely dismantlable with different hinges and ball joints to make it work like an actual action figure.
The wolf was not too difficult to make although the stylised fur was something I hadn't done before either so that was a bit challenging to try and get right. The armour just used the same techniques that I used on the villain and the stickers are planes with opacity masks and textures made by Charis on them.
Character Art - Decal Textures
By Charis Faulkner
Here are some simple sticker decals to be used on the 'Major' model, the army dog/wolf character from the same set as our villain 'Sargent Shredder'. Since Major has become a resident of the doll's house, he is decorated with some stereotypical girly stickers. These stickers create visual storytelling for the player, and also tie into the humorous elements of Survival of the Cutest.
By Charis Faulkner and Naomi Lakin
We wanted to include some visual elements within the journal UI, which will help guide the player during quests. These little doodles keep the art style cohesive and playful, as they have a sticker-esque feel to them, and remain childlike and cute.
By Charis Faulkner
This promo art using 3D to 2D workflow, became a key part of our art direction and the 3D assets were also used to blockout early levels in development.
Our itch.io page and passport page created for Falmouth GA Expo.
Our brochure page, to be used at Falmouth GA Expo for information at our booth.
We had custom T-Shirts created for the team, with our team logo on the front and main villain on the back. Wearing these when presenting our game made us identifiable and unified as a team.
Falmouth Games Academy Expo
Some photos of our wearable replica of our villain's helmet for our Expo booth that I created. This side project was really rewarding as it sparked conversation between people attending Expo, especially those from the games industry. It generated a lot of excitement for our game when wearing it around Expo, and it was also great at promoting our game through social media photos!
We presented Survival of the Cutest this year at Falmouth University's Games Academy Expo for the general public and some game industry creatives.
We decorated our booth with promotional art panels, our brochure, and villain cardboard cut-out. We also had our custom stamp to stamp expo passports, villain helmet replica and little dolls. We also made sure to wear our custom T-shirts when manning the booth.
All of this consolidated our brand identity during our expo presentation, creating a fun atmosphere for first time players, and encouraging others to give Survival of the Cutest a try.