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Meet The Steel Colosseum Team: Christopher Neal-Knight

steel colosseum meet the team Chris Neal-Knight

Steel Colosseum is now live on Kickstarter! Zatu Games' first publishing deal alongside Needy Cat Games, Steel Colosseum, is a competitive team combat arena game designed by a wonderful team of creatives. Here on the Zatu blog, we are going to introduce you to each member of the Steel Colosseum team and see if we can find out any sneaky details.

This week, we're hearing from Christopher Neal-Knight. Chris is the talent behind Steel Colosseum's incredible artwork. From concept work to fully realised box covers and amazingly illustrated game components, Chris has contributed to the final look of the game at every single stage.

Name: Christopher Neal-Knight

Job Title: Illustrator

Favourite Food: Lemon Drizzle Cake

Favourite Biscuit: Bourbon

Favourite Movie: A Scanner Darkly

Favourite Character: Fourteen Fifteen from Twilight Mirage

Favourite Band/Artist: Zeal & Ardor, Propagandhi, Birds in Row, 100 gecs

Hobbies: Skateboarding, Destiny 2, ttrpgs, gardening, being bullied by two small dogs.

Tell Us About Your Role Within Steel Colosseum

If it needed drawing, I probably drew it.

Sophie and James brought me a detailed outline of the game, an idea for the new setting, and all the art they’d had for the previous version of the game. I set about figuring out what our post-collapse cyber future was going to look like, and how their previous 1950's inspired designs and styles from the first Kickstarter were going to be updated to the new setting.

I charted a huge mood board of things to be thinking about while I worked, and this is where most of my influences lived. A big mix of Designers Republic work on Wipeout, Jet Set Radio and some blue sky period Sega, the Southbank Centre, mega-scale fulfilment centres, military stealth technologies, the Honda Motra, Phantom Crash, anything the Y2K Aesthetic Institute puts on Twitter, Simon Stålenhag, the Hamyak ATV, Ghost in the Shell, drone racing leagues, Ikeuchi Hiroto, and anything else I found trawling Tumblr for things that felt like they would litter the Steel Colosseum.

Working with the whole creative team really made the process a super fulfilling one. It was great getting into the weeds of how the robots were meant to work, what kind of real-world machines they were referencing, and how they’d need to look to print as models nicely with Tim. Getting fully rendered models back to use as a reference for the key illustrations was an absolute dream. Talking to Tom about fictional robot manufacturing companies and what their logos would look like, y2k stylings, the aesthetics of sci-fi sports, and what we wanted the advertisers to be. And getting feedback on image composition and colours so we could make all the parts of the game feel like they lived together. I got great direction from Sophie. We talked about who these operators were and what they should feel like, and also about our favourite kind of weird sci-fi shoes and coats. As well as lots of bothering James with questions about what kind of weird post-collapse desert we were playing in, how ruined things should be, whether there were still plants etc. All of that has made the final pieces so much stronger.

Most of the rest of my job was just taking everything from those conversations away, passing back sketches to see if everyone liked where we were going, and then working away on all the final art that made it into the game.

How Did You Get Into The Board Game Industry?

This is my first foray into the board game industry - and I’m very happy to be here! Though that’s not strictly true, I’ve done some work with Chris at Exit 23 Games, and it was him who recommended me for this game via Twitter - thanks, Chris!

Before this I completed a Masters in Sequential Design at the University of Brighton where I focused on games as a medium for storytelling, working on both physical and digital games over my year on the course. This is really where my appetite for working in the space was whetted.

What Was The First Game That You Backed On Kickstarter?

Beam Saber by Austin Ramsey. I used to live with a friend who backed a lot of games Kickstarters so I never really had to, it's only in the last couple of years I’ve had to do my own Kickstarter spelunking.

In Three Words, How Would You Describe Steel Colosseum?

Delinquent y2k smashfest

Just Between Us, Tell Us Something That We Didn’t Already Know About Steel Colosseum

I made more than 100 pieces of graffiti that are littered around the arena and the backgrounds of illustrations. But if you want to see where all the hidden little nods and references are from me and Tom, you’ll have to look at the arena's sponsors.

And Lastly, Tell Us About Your Favourite Character Within Steel Colosseum

I feel like on principle I should say that I love them all equally as I had such a hand in making them. But it’s probably Lake, AKA Magpie. I love their outfit and their graffiti. It’s also some of the happiest I’ve been with the work, and the drawing itself was a breeze to do from start to finish. Though you should ask me again after the Kickstarter. I’ve got a great idea for Augur and I might end up changing my answer.

Meet the Team

Meet the rest of the Steel Colosseum team by heading over to our blog. We've also got an exciting series on each of the Steel Colosseum robots, so be sure to check them out!

Editors note: This blog was originally published on March 24th, 2022. Updated on May 17th, 2022 to improve the information available.