Roger Dean's unique worlds have graced the covers of albums and video games, but now his paintings have finally found a new home — as part of a game itself. With the help of development studio Moshen, Dean recently launched the mobile game Dragon's Dream on iPhone and iPad, letting fans interact with his work in a new way. It's a light, casual experience that lets you explore two beautiful fantasy landscapes while also trying to rack up a high score.
During the 1970s and 80s Dean created now iconic album covers for bands like Yes and Asia, and he also designed the famous owl logo and many of the game covers for the now-defunct game studio Psygnosis, best known for the Wipeout series (and later known as Studio Liverpool). But Dragon's Dream is the first time his work has actually appeared in a game. It's a fairly simple and easy to pick up experience — Dragon's Dream plays much like an automatic runner, except you're controlling a flying dragon. There's a game mode that tasks you with collecting orbs and one where you attempt to fly as far as possible before crashing. There's even a visualizer where you can sit back and watch the game play itself, a way to enjoy the art a little more closely without having to worry about actually playing.
Before development began, Dean had been discussing the idea of making an app with a few different companies, but finally settled on Moshen — whose previous work includes a number of social games and apps for celebrities like American runner Michael Johnson — because he says the studio simply "got it." This, in spite of the fact that Dean wasn't quite sure what kind of game he actually wanted to make. "What sort of a game and how it would play might have been partly determined by my paintings," he says, "but the sort of emotional quality, the speed of the game, how it was going to sound, and strangely enough even look — it's a different medium — was not something that I had any preconceptions about."
"Some serious thinking over a cup of tea and a chat with the cat."
As you play through Dragon's Dream you'll unlock new pieces of art that you can use as wallpaper, and that includes an entirely new piece called "Blind Owl," which hasn't been shown before. But despite the new medium, Dean says he created the new pieces in much the same was as his past work. "The new paintings were done pretty much the same way as all my most recent paintings are done — large canvas, lots of paint, and some serious thinking over a cup of tea and a chat with the cat." That said, the process of converting a painting on a six-foot-by-four-foot canvas to an iPhone screen was lengthier than he initially realized.
"I wanted to produce images for an app that were at the same level of finish as a high quality illustrated book and had no real idea of the amount of work it takes to convert painted to digital images," says Dean. "I was lucky because the team at Moshen were really determined to produce something visually stunning and there is no quick way to make anything like that. So it took time and some changes but I think it was worth it and I hope they do too."
"Images that would have been beyond belief even ten years ago."
However, the final product is a far cry visually from the games he worked in the past, when he painted covers for titles like Barbarian and Shadow of the Beast. The two worlds you'll explore in the game are actually created using a combination of elements from paintings from Dean's similarly titled 2008 hardcover collection Dragon's Dream. "We are now at a time when we are pushing the limits of what can be created in terms of CGI for mobile phones and iPads," says Dean, "things that don't need a room of their own and air conditioning, but that you hold while sitting in a bus in who knows where and watch and play with images that would have been beyond belief even ten years ago."
And while Dragon's Dream is the first time that Dean has been so directly involved in developing a game, it may not be the last — though he couldn't be more specific, he says that "of course I'd like to continue to work in the game industry and I may very well be doing that." With Dragon's Dream now completed and out in the wild, his hope is simply that people have fun with the game, and that it may even introduce a new, younger generation to his work.
"I am informed by my daughter that there are seven billion people in the world," says Dean, "and I would be very happy if some of them enjoyed the game."