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Ugly Sketchbooks: Designing on paper for Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

by Matt Hammill on 03/04/14 03:37:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.



Whenever I buy a new “Art Of” book, no matter how great the concept paintings are, I often wish I could also see the earlier, rougher, uglier stuff that must exist from when the designers were still batting around ideas and trying to figure out what they were making.

On that note, here are some sketchbook pages from the past year-and-a-half of Lovers development. Working on paper, without an undo, helps to focus on the broad decision-making stuff and avoid getting bogged down in details. My sketchbook drawings have gotten rougher over the years as I’ve moved more mid-stage work to the computer, so with that warning, let’s dive in…


For this game, enemy design is always a balance between keeping the geometric style of the game and still trying for interesting creatures. We’re also trying to hint at the gameplay of a specific enemy through their appearance, and keep enemies appropriately themed throughout the levels (which admittedly you can’t tell from this sampling). matt_chara2

matt_chara5 matt_chara1 matt_chara6 matt_chara8 matt_chara7

Player characters

The players started out looking more human and more gendered, but that wasn’t really where we wanted to go so we tried to simplify them and make them more universal as we went on. matt_chara10 matt_chara9

Weapon design

Designing weapons brings out the 10-year-old in me. It takes a bunch of iteration after this, though, to figure out what’s doable, let alone what’s fun to play. matt_weapons4 matt_weapons3 matt_weapons1

Level design

Our current level tool looks like this, so for me it’s basically impossible to use creatively unless I go in already having an idea on paper of how the level should feel. matt_levels2 matt_levels1

Planning work

Even for non-visual work, I can’t function without a sketchbook beside me to help organize my messy brain. matt_planning2 matt_planning1

The other guys

Jamie Tucker keeps a sketchbook as well, although since he also does more coding, he ends up with lots of mathy diagrams. jamie3 jamie2 jamie1

Our main programmer Adam Winkels keeps a notebook too, though his artwork can be quite, uh, minimalist. winkels1 winkels2

Matt Hammill (@matthammill) is an artist/designer/co-founder at Asteroid Base. This article was originally posted at

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