How Do We Make Video Game Art, Again?

Creating art for video games is a rewarding experience, but equally strenuous. Most gamers know how much work goes into the engineering of game engines and mechanics, but just as many hours and just as many people are required for the creation and curation of video game art.

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Most consumers draw a blank over what happens to video game art between early concepts and the final product. In most studios, the art department always falls behind schedule, requiring outside assistance in order to make deadlines. That’s where Concept Art House comes in - to aid studios in the creation of assets, illustrations, and promotional images. CAH and studio representatives sit down together to discuss the overall look and feel of the game and what kind of art style CAH will have to emulate. Sometimes, the studio would provide a rough asset in need of refinement; other times, CAH are the ones that have to create the art style.

The process begins and ends with the client, who, at first, provides references and a list of requirements for the project. In order to stay on the same page with the client, the Art Director (AD) has to go over all the client demands in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Afterwards, the production team in Shanghai is handed the project for initial sketches or thumbnails, which are a series of different recreations of the requirements.

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Once the thumbnails or sketches are done, the AD comes together with the client to discuss which option is best and which changes will be made to the original image. Once the client gives the go ahead to move forward, the team in Shanghai gets to work.

The next phase is a cycle: the art team creates or updates the image in accordance to the client’s feedback, the US ADs review and QA the art, ensuring top-tier quality, the PMs submit the art to the client, the client gives feedback and then the asset is sent back to the art team. The usual stages for 2D art are as follows: a black and white sketch, a color rough, and final color render.

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Sometimes, an artist is inspired enough to start working on a project immediately, rushing to find reference images so that they could dive straight into the creative process. Other times, artists can be slower on the uptake, and struggle to find some inspiration. Every artist finds their own way of stimulating their creativity; some take walks around the office building, while others play a lot of ping pong. The illustrations are first sketched out in Photoshop using only black and white brush strokes, the focus being composition. The point is to capture the basics of the illustration and see if the client is satisfied with the foundation of the image. Once the client approves, the artist can refine and the image by adding color. However, the image remains rough, as the client has to first approve of the value and coloration. Once the general idea is solidified, the artist can go back and add in the level of detail the client desires. The PMs step in at the end of each step to refine the image further and ensure that the asset is up to the client’s standards.

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3D work has a different workflow altogether, and requires more technical knowledge in order to follow the concepts provided by the client.

Once the artwork is done, be it a 2D illustration, a vector asset or a 3D model, the client gets the chance to approve it one last time. Conditions for all revisions and how revisions a client gets are set by the business development team and the client prior to closing the deal initially. Revisions do not necessarily have a set number limit; more often, revisions are unlimited if done within the estimated hours billed to the client. Sometimes, assets are completed before the deadline; other times, there can be a time crunch by the deadline due to the intricacy of the project. When the final version is approved by the client, the agreed upon final deliverables are turned over and CAH's job is done.