So I don't know about you but I am one of those people who can imagine amazingly artistic pictures in my head but the instant I pick up a pencil or a paintbrush I produce something like this:
This above image of my creation is so public domain gifted by the way .
As anyone can see my creative visual endeavours, while spectacular in how much it reveals of my artistic talent, have no hope in hell of being helpful beyond introducing levity into the team (aka Critics who have no true appreciation of the heart that goes into the material ). It's probably a good thing I am not the concept artist.
A concept artist for us was a vital need. A means by which many different ideas about the look, the shape, the feel of an idea, a puzzle, the architecture can be bought forth into pictures which then get scrutinised, criticised, amended and basically beaten into an image that works to showcase and provide a common reference point for all team members to work from.
How do you recruit a concept artist though? We are not a well established games company, nor have megabucks to spend and advertising a vacancy would most likely result in a number of applications from a variety of different levels of skilled individuals which might or might not have met our particular needs.
Let me introduce you to MrDojo who began the idea for Project Veritas in the first place. MrDojo possesses an uncommon skill that I would almost associate with the talent of a paparazzi, he hunts people down. Utilising such websites as ConceptArt.org and Concept Root he began to trawl through the ridiculously large number of artistic works until he found pieces that he liked. From there he went to the individual artist portfolios and looked at their body of works. Then somewhere in his inscrutable mind he decided upon the following gentleman as being the concept artist he needed Wangrui. So the first thing this Netherland's native does to gain contact with this Chinese gentleman is to use Google Translate to produce "Ni zui jin mang ma" as his opening introduction. Fortunately to the utterly shocked chicken's relief, Wangrui turned out to possess basic English skills which made life so much easier.
Now this happened in the days before I joined the team and initially began with MrDojo seeking to commission a one off piece of concept art...somewhere in the midst of all this, the idea for Project Veritas as a game was formed and we found ourselves with a concept artist who chose to become a part of the project. I would like to say that we pay him in English lessons, but the truth is, that is just the fun side of things.
Producing a usable piece of Concept Art
An artist cannot read your mind (however to be on the safe side in case I am wrong I recommend tinfoil hats). What can make it even harder, is when you have an artist whose English language skills, whilst good enough for basic communication, does not extend to interpreting the nuances and idioms in the way we might like to have them understood. How do you bridge the gap?
We found the most effective way was to collect a number of images for an idea / theme / location by sourcing from the vast pool of visual references existing on the Internet and supply this to the artist along with a basic description of the particular visual needed. I won't reference this first step into here as (despite probable fair use covering it) it doesn't fall under our copyright.
The next step involves Wangrui then producing a quick page containing a four image variations mockup. Below you will see an example of this for a railyard/factory concept needed:
Feedback utilising image number 4 (bottom right) which was preferred was then dispatched back to Wangrui. This stage can sometime require a complete redo as none of the four images might be suitable.
Resulting in (yes it is the same image as in the bottom right of the above -- picture got integrated for some slight tweaking):
Further adjustments were made:
Which finally led to this piece which for our needs served the purpose.
Now no doubt this image will change again in the future as the level designers for this section step in and start creating their own variations within the concept. But having this image to work with is an extraordinarily helpful tool to provide them the basis upon which they can build.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting our concept artist. Over the length of the project I will bring various people forward, introduce them in terms of their role, how they became a part of this project and give an insight into how their skills are being utilised.
If you have any questions, comments, outrage at chicken abuse please feel free to comment http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png