One of the many reasons I love working at MLC is that I am surrounded by incredibly talented people every day. Ask anyone who’s ever played Pictionary with me and they’ll tell you I suck at art! However, I am fascinated by beautiful works of art and the creative process. The role of concept art is invaluable to most game developers, while others use it less.
So, I wanted to know more about it and why many consider it such an important step in game design.
Our senior 2D artist, Ludmila, walked me through everything…
The conceptual art we are talking about here has nothing to do with conceptualism in the traditional sphere of art academies. So, let’s start by crossing that out.
The reason concept art is important in the video game industry is that ideas can come from anyone. However, not everyone has the artistic skills that allow others to see their vision (🙋🏼♀️).
This visualization is where the concept art comes in. While it’s not just “what will it look like”, it’s also “how will it feel”? Should it convey realism? Will players be transported to a fantasy world? Do players have to be at the edge of their set?
Generally, it is the art director’s job to identify and lead the art team. Each artist will give their interpretation, maybe even a complete sheet of POV options. Once a pool of concepts has been developed, the art director will choose the style that is closest to the vision of the project. This concept carries over to the rest of the pipeline. Line drawing, coloring and final rendering with lots of feedback along the way!
Ludmila thinks that every part of game development is important for different reasons, it comes from her experience as a gamer. For example, how will it be received, how can it be improved, and what type of player is willing to pay for the game?
She walked me through a streamlined process, although in my experience these processes are reviewed multiple times before the release date. Ludmila identifies the steps as the mechanical part (the control), the automatic part (the code), the insertion part (the music) and the inception part (the art). We are all aware that the eye plays an exceptional role in our lives, to create the real world around us and for fictional worlds, it is up to the artist to be the all-seeing eye to allow others to immerse themselves in the vision of their game.
WHAT MAKES IT SO IMPORTANT, ANYWAY?
Concept art gives the game developer a one-shot way to capture a moment in story or gameplay and turn that idea into a tangible thing. This artwork will help inspire the rest of the team. This inspiration leads to discussions about directing the mood and overall feel, ensuring that everyone working on the game is on the same page. The end goal is basically to create a style guide for the game/level/character, so playing around with colors, hues, and time of day is important, but that’s really just the tip. iceberg.
Concept art encompasses the development of environments, characters, props, and slice-of-life sketches. There are so many ways to represent a game that sometimes concept art becomes a secondary focus, but it’s a step that’s integral to exploring options in design. Playing through this exploration takes time, brainstorming, and research, but it’s a process that, when done right, can unite a team on the overall look and feel of a game and the characters. that it contains.
Concept art is an exploratory process, allowing a team to play with ideas about the aesthetic nature of characters, environments, and assets without the need for complex code or animations. The end result we experience as players is often the result of exploring and understanding alternative options that come to light during this stage.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS BEHIND THE CREATION OF CONCEPTUAL ART?
What the artist is trying to convey is an idea in its own right, which may or may not have a figurative form. Ludmila explained that concept artists usually start big and then continue to drill into the finer details. The starting point can be a feeling or a simple sentence, then the magic happens✨. The artist’s inner eye (something only really creative people have, I believe) begins to ponder images: castles, dungeons, dragons, etc. are starting to appear. An image of what could be is implanted in the brain of the artist. Their job is then to represent that in the best possible way on a canvas. The end result is thousands of little details that gave the game its feel, presented visually.
Ludmila explained that having a mood board for inspiration is key to research. Look for artists who have portrayed similar ideas or solved an artistic technique and collect real-life photos for reference. This will help you explore options and perspectives for opening your work, without straying from the art director’s point of view.
A studio’s art team is often made up of 2D and 3D artists. The two types of art can be totally different, but 2D is hugely important to 3D. From his experience with the 3D team at MLC, the two teams work closely together. This is partly because some 3D artists (no names will be given here) don’t even know how to draw stick figures. It’s funny, but it’s true (I can confirm this after playing drawing games with the 3D team during the Christmas event 🤫).
They are looking for different perspectives from the 2D team. This helps decide on dynamic poses for characters, create storyboards for cinematics, and establish maps. Next, a concept art is chosen: front, back, profile, backgrounds, everything; before the 3D can start (if necessary) or it is moved to the animation.
Ludmila concluded that concept art is the beginning of every game development journey. He inspires the team and creates a feeling and style to ensure differentiation from the rest of the industry. After my research, I couldn’t agree more.
If you need help putting your vision on canvas, then get in touch. We would be happy to help you.