Beau­ti­ful melan­choly


the team used video of paint fall­ing into a bowl of water

Con­rad Roset’s main fo­cus for the poetic plat­former Gris was on cre­at­ing an il­lus­tra­tion that play­ers could get lost in. Roset is an artist and il­lus­tra­tor whose work has been ex­hib­ited in gal­leries, fea­tured in mag­a­zines and books, and com­mis­sioned by brands like Adi­das and Zara. Gris was his op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a world, swap­ping the static for the fluid.

The game un­furls as a tale of loss and sor­row – a dreamy ex­pe­ri­ence that’s more about evok­ing a kind of word­less en­chanted bit­ter­sweet mood than of­fer­ing up a the­sis. As such, the im­agery is the star of the show. Shapes clus­ter into plants, build­ings form out of col­lec­tions of columns, plat­forms and stair­cases. A gi­gan­tic bird shifts be­tween a recog­nis­able sil­hou­ette and an an­i­mated fluid mass.

Gris picks up mo­tifs from Roset’s ex­ist­ing work. There are blooms of wa­ter­colour pig­ment, neat ink out­lines, and a fas­ci­na­tion with the bod­ies of lithe women. His style is spare, us­ing a lot of white space to bal­ance punches of colour. In trans­lat­ing that to a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment, he worked with his part­ners Adrián Cuevas and Roger Men­doza at No­mada Stu­dio to make sure the fil­ters, tex­tures, wa­ter­colour ef­fects and so on would pro­duce the right look.

Bring­ing Roset’s work to life be­gan with hand-drawn sketches, in­clud­ing wa­ter­colours. Once he and No­mada started the game, the art and an­i­ma­tion moved to Pho­to­shop but with an em­pha­sis on main­tain­ing the or­ganic look and feel.

For ex­am­ple, there’s an an­i­ma­tion whereby a cloud of colour blooms across the screen. For this the team used a video of paint fall­ing into a bowl of water and then ad­justed it in Unity so it looked like it was bloom­ing from the right part of the screen. Those floods of colour are nar­ra­tively im­por­tant, too. They hap­pen when a player gains ac­cess to a new part of the colour palette.


As well as Roset’s own work, Eyvind Earle’s Dis­ney art­work is a ref­er­ence point, par­tic­u­larly his con­cept art for Sleep­ing Beauty. Those im­ages use lay­ers to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of depth with­out lin­ear per­spec­tive – a tech­nique that trans­lates well to a 2D plat­former.

Earle’s in­flu­ence is most ev­i­dent in Gris’ for­est sec­tions where squared-off top­i­ary is held aloft by tree trunks so slen­der they’re just ver­ti­cal lines, with other ver­ti­cal lines as branches.

Cu­ri­ously for a game about grief, Gris seems to avoid anger, harsh­ness and ug­li­ness. But this too is an aes­thetic choice. “There are some rougher scenes,” says Roset. “I liked the idea of talk­ing about harsh top­ics from a gor­geous, aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing viewpoint.”

TOP: Flow­ers and trees need to work for plat­form­ing as well as the look of the scene.

RIGHT: Sketches al­low an artist to cap­ture the main shapes of a scene.

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