One week until launch - How the 'Kinmoku Shark' came to be
With one week to go until VIDEOVERSE launches on August 7th, I thought it would be fun to share the design process of the fictional video game console 'Kinmoku Shark' – where the online social network 'Videoverse' takes place!
To weave the game’s story, I needed a gaming system which would release around the time of the millennium; where video game consoles were beginning to meet The Internet
Naming the console
The name ‘Kinmoku’ is my own developer name. After initially trying a few fake company names, I finally rested on Kinmoku as, because of the evil, corporate connotations later in VIDEOVERSE, it felt best to make fun of myself!
The name ‘Shark’ is inspired by the codename ‘Dolphin’ for GameCube; a name I was fondly attached to as a young teenager. Kinmoku Dolphin even makes an appearance in VIDEOVERSE as a successor to the Shark.
The history of the Shark
Even though it’s a fictional gaming system, the Kinmoku Shark needed realistic specs and a release history. It sports a 1-bit pixel art aesthetic, unusual in our real world gaming timeline, but perhaps not so strange for a portable console focusing less on graphical fidelity and more on functionality.
Since the internet became popular in homes around 1995, and the Sega Dreamcast (the first console to include a built-in modem for internet support) released in 1998, I decided 1998 would also be a good year for Kinmoku to launch the Shark.
Although the Shark was quite modern for its time (being portable with a rechargeable battery), I figured it would connect to the internet via ethernet cable, similar to old-school chunky laptops. However, this was something I only realised a little later, as my earlier designs were a lot like Nintendo handhelds with wi-fi functionality.
To match the 1-bit graphics the system supports, it needed to look older, chunkier and more unique, perhaps even taking 'Shark' literally in its design.
Inspired by the Vectrex, Sega Pico, Commodore and other retro machines, I tried many different designs incorporating a shark fin or sea motif.
The console needed to have a cartridge slot, touchpad, stylus, built-in screen, ethernet port and 2 controller ports. It also needed a webcam for the video chats the characters have in-game, but after a few sketches, I realised this should be a peripheral to match the era.
However, I still preferred the simplicity of the original handheld design, so I tried sketching a few variations of it with a webcam peripheral. I was super keen on the cartridge slot being on the front since that somehow feels more retro to me…but, in the end, I didn't think it made much sense alongside the two controller ports, so it got moved to the back.
But what about the controllers? I hadn't given them much thought up until this point (as can be seen by the rough sketches!). Whilst the Shark was designed with built-in buttons and touch screen, more complicated games would be better experienced on controller.
So, should they have a shark/ sea motif, or match the latest console design? I tried a few ideas out:
The word "chonk" certainly comes up a lot in my sketches! I had a lot of fun designing these, but it was very important for me to remember that the controller would need to be drawn several times throughout the game…so a simpler, more practical design would be a better choice. Plus, it's important for it to feel like a genuine controller, too, which is why I went with the design “console", which was similar in shape to the Kinmoku Shark.
Above is the final design with the chosen controller plugged in. However, I still hadn't come up with a design for webcam peripheral. I was still super keen on using the shark fin motif somewhere in the design…so I subtly added it to the webcam's grip on the back of the console! You can only see it from a side-on angle.
And, with that, the Kinmoku Shark console came into being! You can check it out yourself right now with the VIDEOVERSE demo...but this will only be playable for one more week until the full game's launch on Monday 7th August at 12pm CEST.
I hope you enjoyed reading this design journey of a fiction video game console. I would absolutely love to make a real Kinmoku Shark with a Raspberry Pi one day, though! For now, I'll leave you with this Y2K magazine advert – Would you have bought a Kinmoku Shark in 1998?
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