Delving into the Art Style Behind Stray

Adventure game with a cat protagonist, Stray, immediately caught the attention not just of cat-lovers, but gamers worldwide prior to its successful release in July.

The feline star of the show, as well as the well-crafted story, has been very well-praised as a concept. However, cat and story aside, we have taken a closer look specifically at BlueTwelve’s beautifully put together cyberpunk world, at everything from the environment to the colour palette.

With the help of our Stray-playing team, we’ll share why we think the smart decisions behind Stray’s game art has led to its endearingness that has overwhelmingly captured its players – and no doubt strengthened its popularity.

May contain spoilers.

Vertical Map

Games like Gravity Rush 2 have focused on verticality, i.e. more focus up above. Stray invites players to embrace their inner cat by embedding how huge the world is for our furry friends. 

We’re big fans of enhancing new dimensions for exploration, which this level of verticality reinforces super nicely. A lot of time in Stray is spent looking up at aircon units, roofs and balconies. Furr-miliar climbing zones for cats that immerse players and opens opportunities to solve challenges beyond ground level.

Whilst up is the main focus, down is also a crucial part of gameplay. Squeezing through small gaps is just another element of Stray that reflects a cats natural curiosity, This really strengthens the players feelings of exploration, intrigue and supplying plenty of those satisfying “ah – ha” moments.

Dystopian/Decaying World

Next, let’s talk about the awesome dystopian theme, with cyberpunk influence. Environments like these are incredibly fun to create (they might be our favourite style to work with!).

Through the use of clutter, junk and dirt all under a neon glow, Stray’s long-forgotten city environment cleverly creates a relaxing atmosphere with an element of eeriness. 

The graffiti, murkiness and run down aesthetic creates opportunity for art, lore and insight (not to mention collectibles!). Our 2D Artist, Reese, highlights that the art makes the mysterious world of a post-apocalyptic warm, unsettling and cute all at once.

It’s rustic and filthy-industrial at the same time. It achieves the idea of making you feel nostalgic about places you’ve never been to. It never loses that charm or secret feeling that the city could once have been a place where normal people lived and went about their lives, and were probably happy too (but just probably). That last part is the important one. 

Soft Colours & Lighting

Neon lights, light rays, colour pops and contrasts are huge features in Stray, yet aren’t ever OTT. The gentle palette and colour choices makes it surprisingly comfortable on the eyes. George, our Narrative Designer, commented that the contrasting purple and cold neon blue with the warm, homey orange is definitely one of his favourite combinations.

He went on to say “The visual cues & storytelling is great as well. They use colours in such a David Fincher-esque way that it makes you feel like it’s directly copy-pasted from his theories. (Watch “The Panic Room”, you’ll know what I mean). But hey, it’s public knowledge, so who cares? And David Fincher is masterful with color & contrast.”

The darkness (or what we, the player, presume as an ever-lasting night) is what sells the atmosphere, in George’s opinion. It gives you “the city that never sleeps” vibes. There’s a lot of early 90’s interior & technology design in there too, and certainly has a very subtle but still dystopian aspect to it, with instruments being made out of oil containers and gas canisters and such. It’s these details that round out the experience as something that feels fresh.

The overall feel is also very Blader Runner-esque, which is no surprise as Stray’s design director, Viv revealed was an art inspiration for the game.

Cat Reality

Not strictly game art, but this is something we have to include. BlueTwelve did fantastically well at creating convincing movements (animations), mirroring the recognisable habits of all cats. From the curling up on cushions, to the “big stretch”, those moves have been put together with pure attention to detail.

Notably though, Reese believes that the static mesh for the fur they applied doesn’t 100% compliment the smooth metal world. A fair point, we think.

Some Final Comments about Stray

Overall, it’s clear that BlueTwelve absolutely nailed their art style choices, making it an immersive, explorative, and paw-fect experience for all players – even for people like George who don’t tend to play these types of games:  I’m a big sucker for neatly tucked, tightly packed cityscapes. I found the art and visuals very pleasing and supremely well executed. Gameplay – not my type of game, obviously, but I still played it! and that’s exactly why it’s a great game. In my book, at least, it is.”

Stray made Annina, MLC’s Social Media and Community Manager, overly emotional. She says “the colour and beauty combined with personality of that cat and the robots too was exceptionally easy to connect with. Almost too immersive in some ways, and I certainly needed tissues at the end!”

The beautiful design partnered with a well-crafted story has led to some very happy (and perhaps even emotional) players, and we have no doubt it will continue to do so!

Fan of Stray? Let us know what you enjoy most about the game, and what aspects of the world you love!

Also, please let us know if you’re looking for help with a similar art for your game. Any excuse for us to work with this style…

Thanks to George, Reese and Annina for helping put this blog together!

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