While working at Backflip Studios, I’ve had the opportunity of working on many titles within the NinJump franchise, from NinJump Rooftops and NinJump Smash as a Concept Artist and UI Artist, to a consulting role with one of our published titles, NinJump Dash.
NinJump Rooftops is a 3D endless runner game for iOS and Android. You play a ninja character who must defeat enemies and dodge obstacles. My biggest accomplishment on the project was developing an overall look and feel for the game, in addition to developing UI skills when I was needed in a pinch.
In-game screenshot of NinJump Rooftops.
Sci-fi space scene – what would Rooftops look like on Mars? I tried to think about what possible enemy types might also inhabit the area. Yes, that’s Purple Tentacle! (an homage to one of my favorite games of all time)
An environment heavily inspired by a mix of Candyland nostalgia and excitement over the scenes in Wreck-It Ralph’s Sugar Rush.
Snowy scene based in rural Japan.
Buildings and facades ideas to give unique pieces of flair to buildings.
I concepted the bee, squirrel, and panda for NinJump Rooftops, which served as enemy types. These are some of my silhouettes and rough sketches next to the final, colored designs. We decided that all enemies would have a blue color scheme to make it extra easy, at a glance, to distinguish the main character from the bad guys. My goal was to make each enemy distinct visually, and reflect in its character design what its attack would be. The bee is a bumbling enemy that flies up and down through the air. The squirrel is quick and nimble, running along the rooftops to attack. The panda has a powerful ground-pound attack, so I gave him large, powerful paws and a solid, strong silhouette.
Some of my favorite NinJump Rooftops costume concepts, with their 3D rendered versions on the side. I was working with technical limitations, as all costumes share the same rig and animation as the original NinJump Rooftops ninja in the interest of saving animation time. Joints had to be in the same spot, for instance, which meant I had to be careful with my designs to make sure they’d with the original ninja animations.
UI Art & Design
Mid-way through the project, I took over the UI design another artist started, learning how to work within the established style. One of the heaviest UI features I worked on was Daily Missions, which included a notification pop up, event calendar, and an in-game toaster. I created Flash animation mockups for our engineer to implement.
User flows showing the Daily Mission’s feature’s access points from different gameplay menus.
UI mock up for distinguishing a costume with a special power-up.
In app purchase and boost icons created for NinJump Rooftop’s storefront. I started with 3D renders, which I then worked into with Photoshop to give each one a consistently rich, painterly quality. I created a visual language for “extra duration” and “extra power” for boost upgrades.
I was responsible for the Concept Art and UI Art/Implementation for NinJump Smash, a mobile title about busting through walls and preconceptions. We had a very short development cycle and a tiny team, and borrowed heavily from NinJump Rooftop’s aesthetics in the interest of staying true to the brand and also saving time. This was one of Backflip’s first titles created in Unity, and I learned a lot about NGUI in the process of implementing the UI.
An ideal screenshot mock up of gameplay. I’m not kidding when I reveal that the Kool-Aid man was the main source of our inspiration – when we gave the ninja a reason to bust through walls (for Ninja training, and to prove that a fat ninja can be an awesome ninja) and began treating this game as a short-but-sweet backstory to NinJump Rooftops, the month-long project became really exciting to work on.
Logo and Icon work
Here are some logos and icons I created for mobile titles NinJump Smash and NinJump Dash. Concept artist Jim Stigall drew the original chubby ninja for NinJump Smash, and I further rendered it out for the icon and created the border-busting treatment to hint at gameplay. I wanted the logo and icon to evoke the feeling that you’d be disruptively busting through a wall. NinJump Dash is a competitive endless runner racing game, and I wanted the logo to reflect the racing component of gameplay, while the icon reflects its competitive aspect.
A bit of iteration to get me to the final NinJump Smash logo. This project had an ultra-short development cycle (4-5 weeks) and a relatively small team (4-6 people total at any given time: 2-3 artists, 1-2 designers, 1 engineer, 1 associate producer), so I hustled on the logos to get them done in time for shipping the game. From concept to final vector asset, the logo took me around three workdays to complete – this is normally something that takes weeks of iteration time, but I was able to condense the process to a much shorter time frame out of necessity.
A simple user flow to show relationships between gameplay screens.
Feedback and Art Direction
NinJump Dash is a competitive endless runner game, developed by a partner studio. The NinJump Rooftops team felt there were important steps to take in unifying the style to fit the brand – I ended up playing a key part in suggesting how to improve the UI and adjust the style to match what had already been created in Rooftops.
Examples of email feedback I provided to the NinJump Dash team to make their UI both more legible and more consistent with the NinJump brand.