NINA AQUILA: LEGAL EAGLE, SEASON ONE′s out in 2 days, and today we’re celebrating several of the wonderful artists that have helped bring the game to life with their key art & CGs!
NALE, as most fans will know, was made with RPG Maker MV, and uses a great many assets that form part of that program’s libraries of sprites. This was actually one of the reasons why I created the game in MV in the first place. I have some background in industrial graphic design, however, I am not an illustrator, nor an artist, and didn’t believe I could make a compelling VN in the traditional style, as character art is so important in that medium.
MV’s top-down perspective allows the characters to move, to “act”, like characters in a movie or a play, without needing enormous amounts of art – at least to start with. This meant that I would be able to prove out the concept, and artwork would come later.
All of this, ultimately, was to keep costs to a minimum (practically zero). The plan was that NALE’s first chapter would, initially, only have stuff I could source or create myself, with as few commissioned assets as possible; that way, if the game hadn’t really sparked much interest from fans, I could’ve just parked it as a fun curio, and carried on with the project in this manner.
However, the game was an immediate success in terms of itchio traffic, so I decided to “think bigger”, and that put me in touch with NALE’s first and longest-standing artist, @Koahri1 on Twitter.
Koahri was originally commissioned for a couple of pieces of “key art”, and given a brief, largely based on the sprites and a moodboard of relevant images. This produced the first Nina design, which we now refer to as “Legacy Nina”:
This was the design that was used in NALE’s chapter-based releases. I still remember receiving the first versions back, and feeling elated at how much personality they had managed to elicit from the reference. These are actually a revision; very first version of each was much slimmer, leading me to clarify with the artist that Nina was a plus-size character. Time and budget didn’t allow for a second round of illustrations, but Koahri was able to make some changes to make her curvier.
It didn’t quite fit the character perfectly, however, the quality of the work itself was high, and we’d made so many creative compromises in development of NALE that we decided to move forward with what we had, in the hope we might get to revisit this in the future.
This is actually what we mean when we say that Nina was always visualised as plus-sized character. Fortunately, the success of Chapters 1-3 allowed us to come back to this for Season One.
This is the revised version of each of these poses, reworked to give Nina the plus size appearance that was always intended. These are quite similar to the above poses, but are far higher quality (this is a small image, but these images are gigantic, with so many little details – which was important, as they’re often seen in-game in a very zoomed-in fashion).
Koahri also created the images of Nina seen in the racing mode as well as the busts for Nina & Chad which are used in the Season One release:
Again, totally nailed it. We haven’t even revealed all of these in the pre-release material; you’re going to love what some of these expressions look like in-game.
Koahri1 can be found on Twitter
NALE’s development has been a long process, with requirements for art popping up at different times – and, honestly, it hasn’t always been smooth. Many, many times we’ve had to revise what we wanted to do in-game to work around the cost of art, reworking sequences to reduce the amount of bespoke images that we need. Also, this means that when we need art, people’s availability varies, and this lead to us working with multiple artists for the project.
This led to us working with NeoLucky.
Neolucky is a fantastically talented artist from the US, who has produced two very important pieces for NALE.
One of them will be well-known to existing players; the image of Nina which appears on the loading screen in-game:
We were so happy with what they delivered for this. For the “night” image of Nina, we wanted something that showed Nina in her sleeping attire; but at the same time, we wanted the overwhelming concept to be “cute”, not “sexy”, as well as carrying the idea that Nina is a person with which people can hopefully identify. She doesn’t “have it all together”, but she’s doing her best. I really feel they delivered on this, as well as introducing the world to Gordito’s, the Fledge City Setting’s ubiquitous snack.
Neolucky also produced another very important image; however this image forms the final moments of Chapter 3, and as a result, I won’t share it here for spoiler reasons! But we’ve had fans reach out and say it’s one of their favourite moments of the game, and their art plays a huge part in that.
Neolucky has a website
When it came time to produce the busts for Season One, time-constraints forced us to bring on another commissioned artist, Omi B. Gamboa.
Omi B. Gamboa
Omi came along at the perfect time. With the deadline for the Season One release looming, we needed to bring someone in to work on Dylan’s busts, and they did a fantastic job in a very taxing timescale.
Dylan has two costumes (his regular biker attire, and a school uniform outfit), and they did a great job with each. This was difficult, because prior to the creation of these busts, we’d had very few Dylan images made, so Omi had to work off their own interpretation and my not-an-artist input.
Omi has an Instagram.
This is just a sampling of the art featured in NALE. For instance, we commissioned SluggishSnail to produce the end-of-chapter-2 image, which I won’t post here as it’s a massive spoiler – but they did a fantastic job, and we hope new fans will love seeing it when it pops up in-game.
NALE’s art is really important. From the very first pieces, I’ve worked hard to find people I can commission to produce the high-quality assets needed for the characters, and in return, these people have brought their awesome talents to bear in bringing them to life. They’re a huge part of NALE’s success, and I encourage people to check out the links above, and maybe ask for some commissions!
Thanks for reading this!
NINA AQUILA: LEGAL EAGLE, SEASON ONE will be released on Steam on July 9th!
We’re inviting players to WISHLIST the game now; just click here and hit the “Add to my Wishlist” button!
We’re marking the run-up to launch with a range of daily blogposts about many different topics relating to NALE, such as how we achieved certain things in the editor, character bios and even a giveaway, which you can enter now over on Twitter!
Finally, if you’re a fan of the game, make sure you join our newsletter (and get a free pack of high-res NALE backgrounds for desktop displays & mobile devices).
Come back tomorrow for a blogpost about NALE’s “Fledge City setting”, the fictional world in which the game takes place.
And we hope to see you on July 9th over on Steam!