Here, in the endless void of space and time we can finally ponder one of the greatest questions facing the whole of humanity: How does one become a video game artist? Well good news! You're watching “So You Wanna Make Games??” It's a 10-part video series and it's all about making art for video games.
We're covering concept art, character art, environment art, tech art, character animation, visual effects, sound design, user interface design, and a final video on game design.
We'll be talking to professional game artists who have been making games for years, outlining their core principles, breaking down examples from games, and just getting a ton of solid advice for starting out.
And the whole thing starts with this video! An introduction to the core art principles that all video game artists use.
Now keep in mind this is a springboard, and these videos are far from comprehensive.
And we might even be wrong sometimes.
But if you're an artist that likes gaming or just someone who wants to make games, this series is made just for you.
And hopefully it can jumpstart your own personal journey toward a career in game development.
Alright, let's get started! So what is art in a game? Well, it's basically everything that you can see and hear.
Artists are responsible for the characters, the effects, the enemies, the environment, the UI, and the animation and the sound as well.
But why does every game look so different? And how do you choose what the art is supposed to look like? I mean, are artists just making a pretty wrapping? Art is way more than just a pretty wrapping on a game.
The overall role of a game artist can be broken down into three parts: Clarity, satisfaction, and style.
I'm already lost.
What is clarity? Clarity is basically communicating to the player what's happening in the game, like knowing which way to go, where you are, who's an ally and who's an enemy, and how much health you have.
These are all examples of critical information that has to be immediately clear to players.
So, just make everything clear.
What's so hard about that? Well, it can get difficult because games have a lot of things going on and a lot of information that a player needs to understand in a really short amount of time.
I mean, have you ever been in a team fight in “League of Legends”? Okay, let's move on to satisfaction.
Satisfaction is giving clear and responsive feedback to player actions.
This includes things like immediate change from button press, feeling good when you succeed, and feeling bad when you fail.
But deciding how to deliver clarity and satisfaction is a whole question unto itself.
Whether it's a meaty hit pause, a huge ceremony, flowing momentum, or even something as simple as running around and jumping.
Every game action has to be responsive and satisfying to engage in.
So an artist has to make sure a game is clear and satisfying to play.
But they still have to pick what style they're going to do it in.
Every game has a different art style.
The colors are different, the character designs, the environments, how pushed proportions are.
Every type of art style can evoke a different emotion.
To use two games as an example, PUBG and Fortnite, even though they're very similar in gameplay their art styles are different, and you feel differently when you play them.
Fortnite has a lot more color, the characters' proportions are very pushed, and evokes a little more light-heartedness, whereas PUBG has a little less color, it's a little more serious in tone.
Real world guns and environments add a lot to making you feel super different when you play that game.
So to recap, the role of a game artist is to make sure that the game is clear, that it's satisfying to interact with, and that the art fits a cohesive art style that sets an emotional tone.
Now, games have thousands of pieces of art, and it's pretty hard to keep them from clashing.
That's why it's critical to establish a visual hierarchy.
Visual hierarchy just means that the most important information is the easiest to see.
Artists create visual hierarchy by manipulating contrast to create areas of focus.
As an artist, literally everything we do can be framed in terms of contrast, both for creating focus and the overall feeling of an image.
There's shape contrast, color contrast, saturation contrast.
You can create contrast with things like size, layout, or position.
All art forms, actually, between sound, music, and narrative, use contrast in some way.
Okay, okay, the only part I don't get is the stuff about contrast.
Okay, let me explain.
We can start by looking at the basic contrast between light and dark and seeing how we can manipulate that contrast to change the focus and feeling of an image.
Consider a checkerboard.
Every square on the entire board is either black or white.
As an artist, however, if I wanted the center square to be the focus I would need to reduce the amount of contrast that every other square has so that you know where I want you to look.
Woah! Art is so powerful.
So I can make you look here and here, and here, and here and here, and here, and here and here, and here, and here and here, and here, and here.
Another way to create contrast is using shape and size.
Shape and size play a huge role in establishing a visual hierarchy.
You can use shapes to create distinct points of contrast and achieve clear silhouettes.
Shapes can also act as arrows and pointers to highlight where to look, what's dangerous, and what's safe.
Size can be used the same way.
By simply altering size we can establish which enemy is the most important to be aware of.
Just through changing shapes and sizes we can communicate different kinds of information.
Yeah, and the same thing's true with color.
A lot of games use stark color contrast to clearly denote things that are really important to see.
Yeah, like the bad guys in “Superhot, ” or where you need to jump in “Mirror's Edge.
” Ah [CENSORED] But perhaps one of the less obvious ways of establishing a visual hierarchy is how you apply detail to your game.
There is always a question of where to put detail and how much to use.
It is tempting, especially in a world of copy and paste, to cram as much detail into your game objects as possible.
But that doesn't support the visual hierarchy.
Detail can be applied in the same way you might apply any other visual element.
Creating areas of rest and areas of high detail is a great way to create contrast.
Games like “Journey, ” and “INSIDE” do this to a high degree.
But it's not just something in stylized games.
Very realistic games use this idea as well by implying detail.
If you look at a game like “Uncharted” and “God of War” you can see how the detail is reduced in the distance, also called atmospheric perspective.
This helps lead the eye and creates depth.
Wow, so we can tune all these different aspects of art to make sure that the most important parts of a game are the easiest to see.
Now that almost brings our video to a close.
No! It's okay, look at all the stuff we've learned! Now let's spend a few more minutes with Lisa, Sean, Tyson, Moby, Evan, and Santtu for advice on pursuing a career as an artist in games.
If I had future me giving advice to past me, it would be something along the lines of “just try everything.
” Find out what you are, like, really passionate about.
Whatever it is, it's going to take a lot of hard work to get really good at it.
I started out as a musician and dabbled a little bit in 3D and became a visual designer ultimately.
If you just explore all of those different things you'll find something that really sticks, something that you're really passionate about.
And all of those fundamentals from all of those different disciplines within art, that's all valuable and it's going to make you a better, more well-rounded artist in the end.
So just try everything.
Being a creative is not a vocation.
It really is about a way of life and how to live.
Focus more on quantity than quality, especially when you're starting out and need to learn a lot and learn quickly.
I remember when I started out I would spend a lot of time on single pieces of art.
It sort of hit me years later that I didn't know, as an example, how to draw hands very well.
So I took a little bit of time, like a weekend, and I just drew as many hands as I possibly could instead of spending a lot of time on a single hand.
And it was so much better for me to do that, to actually learn, to learn what doesn't work, what makes a good hand pose than to spend a whole bunch of time just on a single thing.
If you're trying to get into the industry the first step is to show the world what you can do.
Whether you're a designer, artist, anything, it all starts with making something and showing people what you made.
Earlier in my studies as an artist I struggled a lot with “Am I talented enough to do this?” And, ultimately, the more that I have grown and as my career has progressed I've realized that talent is really not as important as the dedication to your craft.
It's tricky to, like, see how much you are improving but you just need to trust that if you keep at it you will get better at it.
You go through sometimes a hard year.
You know, sometimes you can't get the ideas to come out.
But you just have to be patient and power through it.
And every time you consider stopping, saying, “Oh, you know, I'm actually not good enough at this, ” just consider.
And remember this is just the first in a whole series of videos.
So make sure you watch the rest to find out how every type of artist is involved in making a game.