This post is part of our Art Pipeline Devtalk series, in which we break down the art production process, share our experiences in the past two years and recommend tips that worked for us. This time, we’re diving into the first stage of a new asset’s birth – concept.
Every game asset or piece of art we create starts its long road as a concept – an idea of what we want to make and how it should end up looking, more or less. For our heroes, it all started with deciding their overall look and feel, their general ‘shape’. A hero needs to have personality which should affect how he appears, and a role to fill in the party – for example the mage is mechanically a fragile ranged unit, and both body shape and clothing should reflect that.
Seeing as we had several solid hero ideas initially, the contrast between their shapes served our conceptual work – we knew we wanted the mage to be round while we wanted the paladin to be blocky and rectangular, and also felt we wanted her to look ‘light’ on her feet while the barbarian needs to be ‘heavy’ and imposing physically.
At that point after we had a general idea we went online and found tons of references, we gathered our favourite examples into a Pinterest board and slowly formalized our exact artistic direction.
Our first draft for our mage had several different iterations to start picking from. Note that it’s important to include small scale silhouettes to have a better idea of relative sizes and future 3D volume.
After all our artists weighed in on the different versions, we decided to go for the second sketch as our direction and produced a second set of sketches to sharpen our vision of the mage.
It’s important to look at your work with fresh eyes every once in a while – go work on other assets for a couple of days, and then return to your concept art more able to judge the results. For example, after a few days of working on the concept and various iterations, and following a sprint for another asset, Omer felt the current sketch wasn’t good enough for his standards, and redid the set of sketches for that phase.
The art team had another round of feedback and we realized we’re getting very close to what we’re looking for. The second sketch was chosen again, and we moved into the next phase of final sketches centered around a single concept work – trying to find the perfect final shape for Liandra.
At this advanced point it was time to start preparing our mage for 3D modelling, and so we decided on the third version of the sketch and created an orthographic view of Liandra, getting her ready for her transition from an idea into an actual in-game asset. This phase is one of the most critical for producing a great asset, as 3D artists need more than just a single view – they need basic texture explanations, coloration recommendations and a solid idea of the concept behind the art.
After creating several assets through this process, we started having a bottleneck when transitioning concept art into 3D models, and realized it could save tons of time if we render basic textures into our final concept phase. While Liandra was created the old way, following heroes and assets were produced much faster by consolidating basic texture and concept – if your art team is able to do both, we strongly recommend it.
For a concept artist, one of the most important things is knowing how to receive and accept feedback – it’s very easy to fall in love with your work, but the artist must understand there might be flaws everyone else can see but him. Even disregarding issues with execution, it’s very challenging to reach a unified vision when each artist has his own preference. Trust in your art team, your art director and even your testers and always be willing to change your opinion and sharpen up your concept as many times as is necessary until you get to a solid, beautiful concept everyone is happy with.