Designing a video game in Sketch: we talk to the team behind King Rabbit

While Sketch is a powerful tool for designing user interfaces, we’re always amazed by the different uses people find for it. So when we saw a Reddit post about King Rabbit — a game designed entirely in the Mac app — we were intrigued.

To find out more about the creation process for King Rabbit, we spoke to Brian Oppenlander, co-founder of RareSloth and designer on the title. Here’s the story of how he came to use Sketch to create every asset in the game.

Can you tell us a bit about your design history?

I have an MS in human-computer interaction & design from Indiana University, and after I graduated I worked for two years as an interaction designer on the user experience team at a massive healthcare software company. I never really envisioned myself making games.

I made a friend, Austin, who’s a programmer — and he later became my business partner. We decided to make a mobile game, and it took us a year to complete it. After that we started on another game and eventually planned the transition to bootstrapping RareSloth and making games full-time.

At the healthcare software company we used Adobe Fireworks and then later transitioned to using Sketch. So I have at least five years of experience using Sketch for UI design and games.

Using Sketch is definitely unconventional! I’ve never met another person using Sketch for game development. But as you can see, it can be done — and I’m still enjoying it!

For my first game I used Photoshop and a tablet to paint all the assets. That’s definitely more of a ‘normal’ tool for game art. But I still don’t consider myself a very good illustrator or painter, so I’m a lot more comfortable creating minimal vector art.

Sketch was flexible enough for me to create my own ‘Character Creator’ system using Symbols.

On our second game I wanted to use a simple art style so I could be more consistent, faster, and be able to work more within my abilities. I started by making vector art with Illustrator, but then transitioned to Sketch.

For puzzle games like King Rabbit, I think it’s imperative to make the art very clean and readable. A heavily-stylized puzzle game can quickly become visually distracting, which takes away from the puzzle experience and can potentially become overwhelming or frustrating.

How did the process of designing in Sketch compare to using Illustrator, which you used for previous games?

Illustrator felt bloated, and the exporting process was convoluted and slow, which was a huge pain point for me. We have to export assets very frequently.

Artboard and export management is superior in Sketch — it’s really important to be able to manage and export assets quickly and efficiently. Illustrator would also crash randomly, which I have rarely experienced with Sketch.

I found the asset management and export flow with Sketch to be far better than Adobe’s products. Sketch always felt so much lighter to work with, and that made work so much more enjoyable and efficient.

Having the whole art pipeline contained within Sketch really streamlined things. There was less context-switching, and less time fumbling with multiple programs.

How simple was it to translate your Sketch designs into a working game?

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