Saturday, 6 April 2013

Eric Chahi and The Art of Another World

Just soak that image in for a moment. Now click this link to see it up close. 

Isn't it beautiful?

The above image is of course Eric Chahi's hand painted representation of his ground breaking game Another World. It featured as the game's box art in most territories apart from some versions in America, where it had been given the more Americanised title Out of This World. To this day it stands as one of the most memorable pieces of box art in gaming history.

My first encounter with Another World came a couple of years after I played the Sega Mega Drive classic Flashback. While my brothers and I mainly bought platforms aimed at children, it was my uncle who would always lend us a almost endless supply of adult orientated games. It was by his guiding hand that I experienced games such as Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday, Desert Strike, Corporation, and eventually games such as X-Com and SimCity.

I wasn't very good at most of these games as a child, however Flashback had just the right level of intrigue to  keep me trying each of its levels over and over, in a classic trial-and-error fashion. Once I'd completed it though, my uncle introduced me to Another World, a game he considered too hard for us to enjoy until we'd mastered Flashback.

That's when I saw the box art. 

Eric Chahi's stunning piece of artwork, simply titled The Art of Another World, absorbed me so completely that I've never really been able to escape. Although I've rarely had the chance to have the game out on display, the image of Lester Knight Chaykin embracing that hostile, otherworldly environment is as crisp and clear in my mind as a photograph.

Eric Chahi is clearly a man of great imagination and artistic talent, so it's not too surprising to hear that he often dabbled with the idea of going into fantasy illustration. On his Another World website, Chahi describes how he combined his artistic talent with his drive to make his game.

On several occasions I wanted to become an illustrator and make a living from it. Painting and especially fantasy illustration fascinated me. I nearly gave up video games to dedicate myself to it completely, so it was logical that I take care of the game box art. Illustration to me is the extension of a work. It is the first connection the player makes to your game, and so it has to represent it.

Box art is an incredibly powerful tool that, if used correctly, can instantly capture and communicate the imagination and wonder of the game it represents. Chahi was very much aware of this, but even twenty years later we're still having debates over game developers and publishers cheapening their games by sticking uninspired and generic box art on the front. The importance of box art, specifically that of first person shooters, is a topic I wrote about at great length in my article for Alienware Arena titled "The Role of FPS Box Art".

It goes without saying that Another World was a gaming experience like no other and one that has been fondly remembered ever since its release back in 1991. Another World 20th Anniversary Edition is now available on Steam with full controller support and beautifully enhanced HD graphics and sound.

It's inevitable that I'll be getting this special anniversary edition of Another World at some point in the near future. But what about you? What fond memories do you have of Another World? Write me a comment and let me know.


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