Concept Art Importance

1 08 2008

Before I was really into doing game design, I never knew how important concept art was to it all. Even as I was just beginning to learn about game development, I still didn’t think that concept art was important. The first games I made weren’t digital, but instead board games. There is a pretty good amount of concept art involved in board games too! By having a basic color scheme and design, the rest of the team is able to develop all the pieces and the board itself.

Last quarter, I took Matte Painting and Environment and Level Design. I didn’t think the two were very related, frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure I even understood what a Matte Painting was. My professor always made the class and assignments relate towards my own goals, so I started to really understand and learn how it all applied! But I still wasn’t fully convinced that concept art was absolutely necessary for game design. I suppose, I didn’t understand it yet.

In my Environment and Level Design class, I realized just how important concept art is. As I started to create assets without an Art Bible (on the fly), I realized how all of my assets just didn’t quite match each other and the environment. No matter how hard I tried to keep every aspect in mind, it was very difficult to hold onto. In my class, I was taught about an Art Bible. This book (as it should be) is kind of a source for all the models in a game. For anyone who still doesn’t know what I’m talking about, think about a movie’s Visual Guide or one of those “The Art of…” things.

I think what really made something click in my head was looking back at the visit to LucasArts. I remembered how as I walked down the hallways, the walls are lined with art that the people working there created. The art was concept art. And I recognized a few images from games or movies. Looking back, now I really get it. Those images are so important as reference material. It gives every artist or modeler something to look at to see if their asset not only makes sense, but also if it matched with the environment.

So as I was creating a my own level, I started with a mistake. I tried to just model without too much reference. I suppose I was a little stubborn. But as time went on, I saw how hard it was to make it all match and make sense. So I just pinned down exactly what the style would be. I looked at similar styled games and animations to get some good reference. I then drew my level and painted it in that style. Each asset I drew, I build in Maya. I painted it as it was painted in my artwork. I realized that I created concept art. And without it, I was so very lost.

Concept art, if the modeler draws it, helps the modeler understand the asset. You start to learn what makes that asset the way it is. You almost give it, it’s own story. So each asset has a purpose in your environment. So needless to say, I have a huge respect for concept artists and I look forward to working with concept artist and doing some concept art myself.

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