Since we just released some DLC and Spacechem is also being offered up as one of the prizes in Steam’s Summer Camp sale, I thought this would be an opportune time to talk about some of the concept art that went into Spacechem, Now I know what you’re thinking, Spacechem isn’t exactly a graphical masterpiece, so why would it need concept art? Well the truth is that one of the things that drew me to spacechem originally was the story, and the opportunity to design a world and characters around that story, which was intended to have a more central role in earlier versions of Spacechem than it did in the final product. For example, the story was going to have conversations between characters with avatars, similar to a standard JRPG. Zach wanted an aesthetic that was different and eye-catching. I’m not sure who suggested it, but I eventually went to early/mid twentieth century sci-fi as my peg for the universe. Stuff like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, etc. I was also influenced by a book on arms and armor in the metropolitan museum, and tried to meld that into the scifi world. Below you can see some of my helmet designs. None of these actually made it to the final game, but there is an echo of design #1 in of of the panels we used to help tell the story in the middle of missions.
While none of these actually made it to the final game, but there is an echo of design #1 in of of the panels we used to help tell the story in the middle of missions. Here investigators are looking into Spacechem documents. I wanted to make the investigators look a little more mysterious, so I enclosed their faces in helmets.
Zach also liked to say that he wanted to make the players feel heroic when they played the game, and so I designed Spacesuits for them that made Reactor Engineers look more like spacefaring heroes in the mold of Han Solo. I took lots of inspiration from all sort of places like Star Wars and even old diving suits, but I think I borrowed most heavily from the design for Captain Harlock.
I liked design# 2 best here, and that image ultimately wound its way into the Story Panels as Bruce Novak’s signature outfit. Below you can see him hacking at foliage in a jungle planet and entering his massive spaceship to embark on an adventure into parts unkown.
While a lot of the concept work behind Spacechem was left out of the game due to time and budget constraints, I think it still helped to flesh out an interesting world (which is part of what attracted me to the game in the first place) that I would love to return to some day.