"I guess you could call this my life's work."
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This is a very difficult project to sum up because I don't see it as a project. What started as a game my best friend Mike and I created back in 1987 when we were 10-years-old, has grown beyond any expectation I could have had as a kid. The characters stayed with me for over 3 decades and have only gotten more powerful over the years.
From my childhood scribbler, to a tabletop game, to an entire digital world...
... this is STARKADE.
Let's go all the way back to 1987... my friend Mike and I are massive wrestling fans so we started creating our own characters. We'd roll dice to have them "fight", keeping track of their record as our federations progressed. We held big tournaments, had champions, rivalries, big storylines that lasted months.
Mike and I were into a lot of stuff when we were kids, like video games, comic books, trading cards, but we never left our characters behind. I enjoyed re-visiting them over the years, and illustrating them.
I have a lot more material than is shown here, but for the sake of brevity here is a glimpse at my characters throughout the years.
Fast forward to 2016, my now-wife Naomi and I are sitting in a pub and I start babbling about my wrestlers. I wanted to do something with them, but knew nobody would care other than myself and Mike. Naomi suggested building a world for them to inhabit, and came up with a bunch of ideas. One of which was "You could make a little game for people to experience your characters the same way you and Mike did."
Light bulbs went off. We'd make a game. But we both knew my characters would have to evolve in order to build something as large as I wanted. Thus began the evolution from wrestlers to "super-powered Megastars".
They might look different... but their soul is still completely intact.
The World of STARKADE
The majority of STARKADE world-building content exists in the stories written by talented lead narrative writer John Hill, but I took the opportunity to create some pieces to visually flesh out the tapestry behind our characters. Our world is big, and there are a lot more areas to explore.
In 2018 a few friends asked me to contribute 6 pages to their anthology zine called 'Highly Dubious', so I took the opportunity to create an introductory STARKADE story. I wrote, penciled, inked and coloured the pages. The narrative backdrop has a changed a bit since then, but a lot of the core ideas are present.
This colour version was published in my art zine, Off The Grid.
STARKADE Legion fighters
The rise of NFTs in 2021 created an opportunity for STARKADE to not only reach a wider audience, but could bring our cast of fighters from 32 to over 7000. It was a monumental task and would move our game up several levels (from tabletop to digital), but it was an endeavour worth pursuing.
I created 328 individual assets in order to create a cast of 7000 Legion fighters.
Items, Power Ups, Vehicles etc.
7000 fighters need powerful toys to undo their opponents. I created a ton of items, power ups, vehicles, weapons and tech goodies to support our colourful cast. I love illustrating this stuff.
Tabletop Card Art
Every card in the STARKADE tabletop game has original mechanics and original art. Seen here is a selection of crazy weapons and moves designed to undo your opponent. Colour-coding the cards based on their mechanics was very important, so you can tell what that card influences at a glance.
I created new imagery to accompany each public STARKADE release or announcement to post on social media. Sometimes I could use pre-existing art, but most of the time I created something new to grab peoples' attention. Seen here is a selection of badges and imagery used on Twitter, Medium, Discord etc.
The tabletop game is a beast in and of itself incorporating illustration, branding, UI design, information architecture, colour-coding and gaming mechanics. Seen here is our gold prototype... a fully functional, original (and very fun) STARKADE tabletop game.
Graphic design and layout by Naomi White, game engine and mechanics designing by Lucas Gardiner.
Pencil and Ink
Drawing has always been my first love, and what's better than drawing your own characters? Presented here is a selection of drawings scanned directly from my sketchbook. No digital manipulation here, just straight pencils and inks.
If you got this far, this section will serve as a little summary. I spoke earlier about my characters "evolving" from wrestlers to super-powered Megastars. Some characters changed a great deal while others are more-or-less the same as they were back in 1987. But all of them maintain the same spirit and personality they've always had.
These characters mean a lot to me, and it's been wild seeing them grow up over the years.
STARKADE Art Book
I produced so much STARKADE artwork that we put together a 214-page art book. We published 15 limited edition copies, but we're hoping to have a wider release with more art, case studies and stories.
Expertly printed by the team at Ripe Digital.
I'm fortunate to still have the vast majority of my childhood drawings dating back to 1982. On the top shelf in the below photo are all my drawings and sketchbooks in chronological order, over 40 years of creativity. Also seen here are my Nintendo Power magazines, trading cards, comic books, Super Nintendo games and other treasures.
All the inspirations for STARKADE are found here. This is my childhood.
STARKADE would not be possible without our amazing team. Naomi White (CEO, brand and UI design), Lucas Gardiner (Chief Gaming Officer), John Hill (Lead Narrative Writer), Dan Millar (Lead Back-end Dev), Patrick Allen (Lead Front-end Dev), Robert Castillo (Lead Community Manager), Jacqueline Poole (Community Consultant), and DeCryptolorian (Community Consultant).
STARKADE brand designed by Naomi White.
For the full impact, visit starkade.com