A lot of people ask 'What does a Concept-Artist do?' They look around online and see the amazing fully rendered paintings and they think that's the ticket. Well not quite, those images are 1:100 of what we do day-in and day-out. For the most part those images are created for marketing, or early on when no one has a cohesive vision of what the heck we're building. So, we iterate: that is we come up with a variety of ways to visualize and implement an idea, gag, or concept.
So this post is going to show examples of that from EA's Minions Paradise.
The funnest and most difficult aspect of working on a recognizable brand is that you need to come up with stuff that feels like it belongs to the aesthetic and fiction of the world, but doesn't exist yet. Its all about getting the feel right, about expanding the variety within some very narrow parameters.
A casual/social media game typically known as a 'content furnace.' There is tons and tons of crap you can get, from costumes to props, specific buildings, decorations, etc. Everything you see in the store, that endless scroll of items, needs to be designed by someone. Even in AAA games, every crate, doorway, lightswitch, valve needs to be addressed. There are only so many heroes and bosses in any game. And the specialists that tackle them are VERY good. The rest of the concept team fills in the gaps.
Which can be hard when suits want to see what the game will look like... when the game doesn't exist. Often at the very beginning, at the figuring-out stage, you have to design a facsimile of the whole game from thin air, just so a simple decision can be made, like: "yeah, on a beach might be nice."
Images like this might look pretty, they're designed to sell the idea to internal decision makers, but that is the only purpose they serve. Selling something nice off like a piece of art is only secondary. What we do is help decisions get made. That means the art is disposable to that end. For the majority of the time we prove what bad ideas look like, to prove that they're bad. And we whittle away at a pile of bad ideas until we've got a few good ones. All that art goes in the can along with.
The rub is that even good ideas can be executed poorly, and be mistaken for bad ideas. Sometimes it takes a lot of polish to get at the gem. And for artists under a deadline its easy to throw something at it and move on. But the first idea is usually the worst, most cliche' option! So you've got to get it out of the way and move on, force yourself to look at things differently and put something more on paper than a knee-jerk reaction.
Iterating on banana carts...
As you can see, these aren't nice finished drawings. They're just enough for someone to recognize what it is and be able to so, "I like it," or not.
Iterating on stationary bikes...
And some early exploration of what a Minions Lab/Lair would look like.
See? Almost non of this went into the game as is. Even an approved concept gets altered substantially in the translation to 3D and workable game play. All in a days work.