Concept Art 101 - The WHY


In this week’s blog I’m going to talk a bit about concept art, specifically how and why we do it. Let’s start with the 'Why' first:

1. Establishing a style

When we first started work on Röki we knew we wanted to create something rich and beautiful, with its own distinct style. Whilst we had a few ideas and reference points, it wasn’t until we started putting digital pen to digital paper that the look of the game began to take shape. Initially we looked at something very stylised and minimalistic, but ultimately felt that over simplification of shapes left the world feeling too quirky and without the grounding we needed to tell our dark fairy tale. Proving this out through 2d tests was a far quicker way for us to iterate and essentially fail fast.

In any creative process failing, or deciding what you don’t want or like can be as important as doing something you do like. In fact, it’s often a good starting point to create a mood board of reference images you don’t want the game to be like, in order to focus you better on elements you do want.

Anyway, I digress. The point is quick iteration can be very liberating. It stops you from becoming too attached to ideas, and keeps Monster Time firmly under the bed (nothing kills creativity more than stressing about deadlines). 2d images are also far better at communicating ideas as well - a picture says 1000 words and all that!

Early tests for Röki exploring use of flat colour and simplified shape language.

Early tests for Röki exploring use of flat colour and simplified shape language.

Super quick snowy tree and rock studies

Super quick snowy tree and rock studies

2. Designing an area

Ok, so the scene is set, you’re going to be creating a long forgotten church, covered in snow, in the middle of an old forest. Simple huh? Well no actually. There’s a question of the church’s architecture, the materials used, the colour palette for the scene, the opening composition.... I could go on. These are all hard things to create from nothing in 3D. Sure, sometimes you can find some killer reference and your imagination can do the rest, but other times I like to use 2d to help me solve the problems. Either through photo bashing, rough scribbling, or more considered paints - whatever the method, it can be a great way of getting your ideas quickly into some form to see how they hold up. 

3. Marketing

Everyone likes looking at pretty pictures don’t they? Whilst these can always be in the form of screen shots from the actual game, concept art is also a great form of marketing - particularly if the in game art isn’t actually finished! It can also be easier to orchestrate a scene to look good in 2d when you’re not having to rely on in-game characters and cameras to behave themselves. Instead, you’re working with one image that can be consistently manipulated and tweaked until it looks awesome.

To help push Röki on social media we’ve released a number of time lapse videos showing the creation of some of the game’s concept art. As well as showing people some process (more of that in the next blog) they also do a great job of showing off our vision for the game,  without showing explicitly what’s in it (so not too many spoilers!)

4. Events

This one kind of falls under marketing as well, but I think it’s important enough to be in its own category. If you’ve ever been to a live game event like EGX or E3, you’ll notice all the games have kickass backdrops to showcase some key art. The bigger the game/budget, the bigger the backdrop. In a lot of cases the key art is created specifically for these shows, but that’s a lot of work. Instead, it’s often worth going the extra mile and working up a piece of concept art for the game instead.

There are 2 crucial aspects to this. The first one is overflow on the image - basically an extension of the image beyond the original size. This allows it to then be used in different configurations - wide and narrow, tall and thin, square - you get the idea. The 2nd key point to remember is resolution. Images used in shows, or posters & t-shirts (basically anything printed) will need to be a high resolution to look sharp. Fundamentally, you can’t add pixels, so you need to make sure it’s developed at a high resolution in the first place. In our case, we actually took the time to take a game scene and then convert it into a vector image so that we can make it whatever size we want.

T-Shirts designs for Röki based off of our key art.

T-Shirts designs for Röki based off of our key art.

Very cool.

Right, that's your lot for this blog - tune in next week for part 2 where I look at The How'.


Tom & Team Röki

Tom Jones