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Painting on Polygons:
Conceptual Art Pt. 1

By Rick "Flatness" Grossenbacher
Vol. 2, Issue 2 
November 18, 1999 

click to enlarge!

An earth golem! Again, a fairly straightforward pencil drawing. (Click to enlarge)

click to enlarge!

A demon! A bit more complex of a drawing, but still just a black and white pencil drawing. (Click to enlarge).

click to enlarge!

A warrior! This is basically a black and white line drawing. There isn’t a lot of texturing and shading going on in the drawing. (Click to enlarge).

In part 2 of this article which will come out about two weeks from now, we’ll come back to these drawings and I’ll explain some things about each of them individually. But first, let me break down concept art into a series of categories so you can understand how it is applied in the design of a game.

Concept art is used...

1. To help create the mood, feel, and style that the game will have.

It is important for the game to have a sense of its own unique style -- or at least a style that is appropriate for the game. By having an artist come up with a series of images at the early stages of the game-making process, it can be a good framework for the game designer(s) to conceive how the game with be presented to the player. This type of concept art can be, and usually is, a cast of characters, objects (such as weapons or items to be collected by the main character or characters), and scenes (such as landscapes or architecture).

2. To capture a sequence of events that will or might occur at some point in the game.

Putting this more simply; a storyboard. Many games these days have full motion video or a complex plot that requires drawn out storyboards for the game designer(s) to visualize certain sequences as a whole. Storyboards generally are fairly quickly drawn or sketched out by an artist simply due to the volume of artwork that is needed in a short period of time to keep the design process moving smoothly.

3. For other artists on the team to follow a consistent style throughout the game design process.

You can’t very well have a team of artists guessing how everything is suppose to look in the game. With a key visual or set of visuals for the other artists to work from can help give the game a sense of flow. Consistency of style is definitely key.

4. For the 3-D artists to have a visual representation to work from.

This is basically an extenuation of point number 3 from above. Many 3-D Artists and Level Designers are not always skilled 2-D artists themselves, but rather skilled at the craft they do; which is create objects or characters in 3-D space. This is why a good drawing may be necessary for them to base their 3-D models off of. This type of conceptual art can also be used to toss around ideas to other members. For instance, once I was working on a dungeon texture set and wanted some inspiration to help me think of what kinds of things I might want to put in it. So, I went to the concept artist and had him draw out a sample dungeon. From there, I was able to base my textures off the kick-ass sample he drew, and make myself a cool texture set.

Those four points pretty much sum up what concept art is and how it is used in the game design process. In part 2 of this article I’ll get more into the creation aspect and explain some good drawing pointers to follow.

In the meantime, keep drawing and also send in your questions to me so I can start building out the Question and Answer section of Painting On Polygons.

See you in a couple of weeks!


- Rick "Flatness" Grossenbacher works on Gameboy Color games for Vicarious Visions.


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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Painting on Polygons is © 1999 Rick Grossenbacher. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you cartoonish villian, you.