Game Art MA Major Project

Developing an Environment for My Necromancer Character

Weeks 1-6: Research Period

Beginning my Final Project for my Master’s Year, I knew I wanted to use this final term to create a project individually and tackle a subject area I knew I needed to improve on. One which I felt was missing from my portfolio currently.

Due to the time constraints this project would pose, and the support that I would have access to from lecturers and other staff, I thought this final term would be the perfect time to try out a project further out of my comfort zone!

Having access to frequent supervision sessions on my course will also push me to achieve and hold me accountable!

My aim for this term is to strengthen my 2D Art skills, and demonstrate my improved understanding of the key art fundamentals, such as lighting, composition etc. Another main aim of this project is to increase my employability as a 2D Concept and Visual Development Artist.

During Week 1, I detailed to my supervisor three main ideas I had for my project, all of which were targeting areas I felt weren’t currently visible in my portfolio, as mentioned earlier.

My Initial Three Ideas:

Idea 1.

Castlevania Painting Dracula and Wife – Reddit: (I am in love with this painting, 2019)
  • Character Portrait – Historical and Modern Version
  • Fade between the two to show contrast
  • Stylized, focused on composition, rendering, anatomy, and lighting.
  • Take inspiration from royal portraits (ethical concerns with glorifying royals potentially)
  • Could research portrait painting, portrait photography etc (potentially splash art/promotional art angle)

Example of job requirements – First point would be the one I am aiming to achieve with this project:

Idea 2.

  • Character in an environment – using 3D techniques to block out.
  • Human and Supernatural version, chance to take an old character and re-paint them.
  • Human version – normal clothes, coffee shop setting, most likely behind the counter serving. 
  • Necromancer version – same location but at evening/night – dramatic lighting with potions replacing normal items.  
  • Ethical issue in that this character is based on Myanmar and there are currently protests and a coup. 
  • Would be meeting the job requirements I mentioned earlier.  
  • Would show character design from this initial concept to a more ‘human’ version of this character and also prop breakdowns and concepts.  
  • Would be nice to present this piece as a slide between the two outcomes/a gif showing the progress between them, similar to my Rookies 2021 Submission: Thabisa (Richards, 2021)

Idea 3.

  • Create a visual novel entirely by myself – most likely experimental and a vertical slice due to time constraints.  
  • Would involve coming up with an initial concept, script writing, python programming and art creation (background, characters, UI).  
  • Could investigate time-saving techniques etc. Use 3D to model backgrounds etc 
  • Would be using Ren’Py.  
  • Inspiration from Brianna Lei, creator of ‘Butterfly Soup’, created by herself. (Lei, 2017)
Butterfly Soup (Lei, 2017)
  • Assignment submitted as an itch page, and Artstation page – Want to create one to have a game I am proud of on my portfolio.  
  • Ethical concerns would depend on what I base my visual novel around – any topics that arise etc. 
  • Risky as art will not be as polished and there’s a high chance that it may be overscoped, but there’s a lot to be marked on! 
  • Risky with mechanics too, and being unique enough with this concept to make it engaging to the player.  

After discussing these ideas, I decided upon Idea 2 – the re-creation of my Necromancer character, and put him into an environment. By choosing a pre-made character, I will speed up some of the concepting time as I have a design to work from. Additionally, I am hoping that by taking a character already existing and improving them, I will be able to demonstrate to an employer that I have improved and expanded upon a concept.  

As I will be embarking on an individual project, it is up to me to keep up my project on track, and this can influence motivation. To tackle this issue, I created a timeline for my project early on, with rough aims for each period of the project. 

I split my project into four segments: Research, Practical, Polish, and Finalise.

In order to keep myself on track outside of lecturer contact time, I decided to create a Trello board for myself, in Kanban style. This is because I believe that using Kanban, over a full scrum development style, will allow me to be more flexible during my project. This will allow me to focus on tasks I find more enjoyable or understand the workflow of more clearly, meaning my productivity will be heightened and I will hopefully experience less artistic blockers.  

In my Trello board, I used colour coordination to indicate the importance of tasks. For example, red indicates high importance, whereas green is low importance. Additionally, I used time deadlines in order to push myself to keep on track, rather than having tasks open-ended. As is shown in the above image, a lot of tasks are due to be completed on the same date, usually when a new week begins. This is to allow myself a little bit of flexibility during the project.  

As mentioned previously, the first six weeks of my project was dedicated to the ‘Research’ phase. This firstly involved a lot of organisation of the project. To begin, I created a smart plan for the presentation I would have to give in the fourth week of this project. By creating this early in the project, I had a clear vision of what I needed to create, which also aided in my creation of tasks on the Trello board.

Image of my SMART plan for this project.

After creating this, I began to collect a lot of visual reference for my art style inspiration, the café interior, props, and possible outfits for my Necromancer character in his undercover barista form. In these mood boards I noted down what I liked about each image I had created, and although this was very time-consuming, it also helped to focus in on what exactly I wanted to achieve and create in my work.

All references of images on the moodboards, can be found in a description next to the image!

Below are the mood boards I created:  

ART STYLE INSPIRATION MOODBOARDS

PROP MOODBOARDS

ENVIRONMENT MOODBOARDS

OUTFIT MOODBOARDS

PRESENTATION SHEETS MOODBOARD

While creating my project, as part of the requirements for the assignment, I had to consider the ethical concerns.

One issue with my Necromancer character, is my initial inspirations I had to when first creating this character. Initially, my character was inspired by Green Peafowl from Myanmar. I decided that this character would be a Necromancer, as his original concept was centred around taking an animal and a DnD class and combining them. Peacocks are commonly seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal, which links them to the theme of Necromancer.  

However, currently Myanmar is undergoing a coup and there have been hundreds of deaths. By taking a character from an Asian country currently undergoing so much violence, and then associating that character with death, as a White person this feels incredibly distasteful. As a result, I decided that my piece would not have any graphic depictions of gore, death, or other sensitive material. I have also decided to separate him from reality as much as possible, only focusing on the visual similarities between the green peafowl, whilst still maintaining his appearance as an Asian character. 

I additionally decided to change the narrative of my character, rather than him being evil or having any negative connotations in relation to death, he instead is cursed with these powers, and chooses to try to control them and use them for good, never using them to harm anybody.  

In order to flesh out my character’s story I created a character biography during this research phase, this can be found here:

By creating this, I was able to identify some of his interests, and then think about which props or interior design decisions I could make to reflect this. 

Speaking of interior design, I decided that this would be a relevant workflow avenue to research. I found two talks on GDC by Dan Cox which discusses Interior Design and how it can be used to influence Game Design.  

What Modern Interior Design Teaches Us About Environment Art – Dan Cox, Ubisoft Toronto. GDC 2014. GDC Vault – What Modern Interior Design Teaches Us About Environment Art (falmouth.ac.uk)   Accessed 9th June 2021 

Interior Design and Environment Art: Mastering Space, Mastering Place – Dan Cox, Ubisoft Toronto. GDC 2015. GDC Vault – Interior Design and Environment Art: Mastering Space, Mastering Place (falmouth.ac.uk)  Accessed 11th June 2021. 

Although these talks were more focused on 3D spaces and game levels, I still learnt about some interesting ways interior designers use contrast and repetition etc. I will be keeping these in mind and re-visiting this information when refining my environment.  

As well as this, I strengthened my knowledge around environmental thumbnailing. I found a tutorial on YouTube by illustrator Lee White, and his process on creating thumbnails.

(YouTube, 2019)

I could relate this to my own work and found it very useful.  

I felt particularly reassured to see that he started off with very rough sketchy thumbnails and then worked these up to more solid drawings. As someone who is not familiar with environment concepting, as much as character concepting, this gave me hope that even though my initial sketches may not be perfect, this is okay, and that I should not be discouraged but instead push the ones that are working the further.  

Encouraged by this video, I began creating rough sketches of the composition of my environment. 

After narrowing down the composition I liked the most, I researched more into tonal thumbnails, and found an interesting tutorial by Trent Kaniuga:

(YouTube, 2017)

After watching this, I created a tonal version of the thumbnail I felt was most successful, and through doing this I was able to understand more clearly the depth of the image and the positioning of some props. 

However, I knew I had to improve on this composition, as it is very basic. Additionally, I will need to focus more on prop design before I can concretely know where to position some props, and really refine the illustration.  

In order to make the composition more interesting, without worrying too much about perspective, I decided to use Maya and 3D model some of the environment in order to establish more interesting camera angles.

After taking a few screenshots of the rough blockout at different camera angles I put them together in a document and asked for feedback from a friend.  

I received help, and I was able to enhance the 2nd thumbnail into something a lot more interesting and closer to the atmosphere I wanted to create for this piece! 

I will develop this further moving onto the next phase of my project: the Practical phase.  

WHAT WORKED WELL THIS PHASE 

  1. In depth research means I have a detailed pool of references to draw from.  

2. Because I defined my narrative and created a timeline early on, I have a clear idea what I should be doing at each stage, meaning I am not aimlessly creating, for the most part.  

HOW TO IMPROVE MOVING FORWARD 

  1. Focus in on a workflow for a longer period, rather than flitting between tasks: higher chance of developing something more fleshed out and therefore I will feel more motivated.

(Although the flexibility of choosing what I want to work on was nice and kept me interested in my work, I began to feel demotivated as the weeks went on as it felt I wasn’t creating anything I could show off or be proud of as the quality wasn’t up to my standard just yet.) 

2. Might be better to research workflows as I am creating – can put it into practice straight away rather than re-visiting.

Thank you for reading and keep tuned for another update at the end of the practical phase, where I’ll be showing off a lot more of the art I’ve done for this project! You can check out the Pitch Presentation I did for this project in Week 4 here:

Link to Laboratory speedpaint featured in presentation:

(YouTube, 2021)

This video shows a black to white workflow that I would like to try out further down the line when developing my environment piece! There were many other videos I watched that inspired me during these past six weeks, but I will mention these once they become more relevant in future blog updates!

REFERENCES

Reddit.com. 2019. I am in love with this painting. [online] Available at: <https://www.reddit.com/r/castlevania/comments/be6guh/i_am_in_love_with_this_painting/> [Accessed 3 June 2021].

Artstation, 2019. Adele Richards Necromancer Concept. [image] Available at: <https://www.artstation.com/artwork/58GxqW> [Accessed 3 June 2021].

Richards, A., 2021. ‘Thabisa’ – 2D Concept Art.. [online] The Rookies. Available at: <https://www.therookies.co/entries/13087> [Accessed 3 June 2021].

Lei, B., 2017. Butterfly Soup by Brianna Lei. [online] itch.io. Available at: <https://brianna-lei.itch.io/butterfly-soup> [Accessed 3 June 2021].

Cox, D., 2014. What Modern Interior Design Teaches Us About Environment Art – Dan Cox, Ubisoft Toronto. GDC 2014 GDC Vault – What Modern Interior Design Teaches Us About Environment Art (falmouth.ac.uk)   Accessed 9th June 2021

Cox, D., 2015. Interior Design and Environment Art: Mastering Space, Mastering Place – Dan Cox, Ubisoft Toronto. GDC 2015. GDC Vault – Interior Design and Environment Art: Mastering Space, Mastering Place (falmouth.ac.uk)  Accessed 11th June 2021. 

YouTube, 2019. Lee White How to do •50• Thumbnail Sketches!. Available at: <https://youtu.be/jghVE4V5FfU> [Accessed 28 June 2021].

YouTube, 2017. Secrets of Thumbnail Drawing (Real-time). Available at: <https://youtu.be/LREZ2dSTZLQ> [Accessed 5 July 2021].

YouTube, 2021. Speed Painting Laboratory #1. Ускоренный процесс рисования. Available at: <https://youtu.be/cHUF9KRhzms> [Accessed 8 June 2021].

Advertisement