Today’s devlog is a mix of an art process for two of the backgrounds in Canvas Menagerie as well as a look into the design process for the setting (and why it’s in the Southern US).
Canvas Menagerie is set in Atlanta, Georgia, which is very much a real city in the heart of the Peach State and home to almost half a million people, as of 2020. There’s quite a few reasons for why the game is set in the South.
Being a lifelong Southerner myself, I’ve always wanted to set one of my works in the South. There’s a preconception that queer people don’t exist in the South or are so few and far between that it’s impossible to find them. I’ve seen this stigma from both Southerners and non-Southern people alike, despite it not being true.
With the filming industry growing ever-larger by the year, studios have cropped up in non-California locations over the past few decades to provide not only cheaper alternatives for filming but also new locations and variety. Some places—like Georgia—even offer tax incentives for productions to film there, which has led to several major studios popping up in Atlanta. Nowadays, a lot of blockbuster films, TV shows, commercials and more are filmed in Atlanta which has given it the nickname of the Hollywood of the South.
Lastly, I want Canvas Menagerie to be a breath of fresh air for people—a comfy slice of life story about queer people that happen to live in the south experiencing life together. …So it’s an alternate universe of our world.
The real clicking point for what started the game was after I moved to Georgia for a few months, right outside of Atlanta. I was wrapping up Asterism at the time and facing a lot of relief—as Asterism had been a 4 1/2 year long project—and burnout. The idea of Canvas Menagerie was something that came to me around that time, almost a story within a story where character actions and emotions were reflected in something else—namely, their on-screen TV characters.
I like the idea of a swapping narrative, where each chapter swaps perspective- this is something you can most notably see in Crimson Waves on the Emerald Sea, the project I made after Asterism, where each new chapter swaps between one of the two main characters. The original idea was to have the TV show be one chapter—and possibly relate to or hint at future things to come in the actors’ lives—and then go to the actors’ lives, swapping between the two. While this is certainly not how the project has come out, it was the basis for making it about actors. And with Atlanta so close, it seemed like the perfect storm.
To put it simply, Atlanta is a prime filming location nowadays and I wanted to set a story in the South!
…This was all a long explanation, but I hope it helps shed some light on the early development of the game and why the location is important! Now that that’s out of the way, let’s actually look at the locations.
It’s hard to describe metropolitan cities in the South to people from up North. There’s skyscrapers, sure, but they’re not nearly as tall or as plentiful as some Northern cities. Here in Memphis, our skyline of the Mississippi river is dotted with a few office and hotel skyscrapers, St. Jude, and our beloved pyramid. This is all to say that you can’t get the essence of a Southern city with just a regular asphalt street and some tall buildings on each side.
To help me with this, Arctic Fox created some sketches / mockups of some (fake) downtown locations in Atlanta.
To me, these help capture the essence of larger Southern cities! Small, open shops and boutiques with walking areas out front; trees and foliage cropping up everywhere; some large buildings around the area but definitely not enough to blot out the sky; etc.
I especially love the brick in this first background- it helps give it an older look to the city.
While you’ll only see one of these backgrounds in the extended demo, they’ll be locations seen more frequently in the full game.
I hope you enjoy visiting Atlanta and the rest of the locations in Canvas Menagerie!