Desta: The Memories Between
Launch Trailer & In-Game Cinematics

We were approached by Ustwo Games to create a launch trailer and in-game cutscenes for their new turn-based strategy game; Desta: The Memories Between.

We were given the brief to develop the in-game design language into a stripped-back and more minimalist style, which suited our natural inclinations. And naturally, a dodgeball game based around introspection and the value of self-reflection really piqued our interest.

With the action of the game taking place within a dream space, we wanted the trailer to reflect this with surrealism, action, and intrigue within a dynamic and twisting world. Like a wild fever dream, we mixed in-game symbolism, an unexpected but vibrant colour palette, and an infectious score by Mansur Brown to create a frenetic, kaleidoscopic music video-come trailer.

Throughout the game, Desta’s (they/them) antagonists aren’t really enemies, they’re broken relationships. To bring these characters back on their side, they need to successfully win them over by playing dodgeball. We needed the trailer to give insight into the mechanics of the game without becoming too needlessly detailed.

We opted to show Desta being challenged by three increasingly difficult challenges. For the second ’enemy’, The Shield Bearer, we wanted to highlight the teamwork between Desta and their friend, James. Within the game, characters have special abilities and Desta must work with these friends to navigate their way around obstacles within each level and establish the best way to hit the opposing characters.

Impact within the game is conveyed with a prismatic effect. We felt the notion of crystals, shards and shattering would work as a convenient device to travel between the worlds.

It was important for Ustwo that the environments we travel through felt distinctly English. The solution to this was to keep the backgrounds limited but feature key props such as traffic signs, lights, and buildings to scatter throughout the designs.

We worked alongside design talents, Joe Dennis and Manddy Wyckens to create some striking colour concept frames and refine the in-game characters for our trailer.

We felt a traditional 2D pipeline would be most appropriate considering the flat rendering of scenes and characters. Characters were animated in TV Paint and Adobe Animate while compositing was handled all within Adobe After Effects.

For the limbo sequence, after Desta has been hit by a ball but before they’re taken back to reality, we introduced cel-shaded 3D islands to add some extra depth to the camera twist.

Alongside the trailer, we produced two ‘motion-comic’ sequences for in-game. The treatment and style we employed for the characters had to be harmonious with the trailer sequence, however, as these sequences were to reflect Desta’s waking reality, there needed to be an added level of realism above the trailer.

To achieve this the colour palette was limited but toned down to be more muted and earthy, and details were increased to give specificity to the location. It was important that Desta’s childhood home felt set within northern England.

We really wanted to highlight Desta’s colourful personality but it was tricky over a limited number of shots. We deliberated over what to include in their childhood room to enliven Desta’s backstory and settled on an array of jazz posters, music ephemera, and art equipment. Not so different from our own childhood bedrooms!

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