tales from the art side # 2

The Whisperer in the Darkness.

So, as promised, for the next few posts, we'll be going through a single asset from start to finish. In this particular case, we are going to start with the very first thing that is usually done when trying to create any kind of cohesive game art style; Art Direction.

As a bit of disclosure at the  beginning here - technically we are still in pre-production so a lot of this is still quite fluid and is liable to change slightly. The main reason for this being that sometimes an idea doesn't work out quite like  you intended and sometimes you have to go back a bit and have a rethink, this is all part of the process  and making "mistakes" is really how we learn anyway.

In short our job is to create a cohesive visual style that reinforces the mood we wish to portray, now we could quite literally copy a pre-existing style however I personally find it way more enjoyable to play Dr Frankenstein and stitch two or more different styles together into some unholy union.

With that in mind, where do we get our starting point? - Well, first up we  are making a spaceship that belongs to a faction who happen to live on planets that what most people would classify as a bit of a terrible place to live, most of the planets themselves are a bit arid and mostly desert and the people themselves are exiles. The inhabitants of these worlds are what could only be charitably described as "not nice people" and the ships themselves are built using archaic parts rather than bleeding edge technology. So with this in mind, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it was Dune and Mad Max as they both have what can only be described  as an inhospitable climate and in the case of Mad Max, the inhabitants of the world project the right sort of mood we wish to emphasise.

Lets break this down a bit, first up we have Dune - probably one of my favorite books of all time and it just so happens that there  was a load of concept art made by Chris Foss back in the 70's for Jodorowsky's Dune

Dune:  Spice Container - Chris Foss 1975 

Dune:  Spice Container - Chris Foss 1975 

Dune:  Pirate Spaceship Spilling Spice - Chris Foss 1975 

Dune:  Pirate Spaceship Spilling Spice - Chris Foss 1975 

Isn't this stuff just super cool? So before we get carried away on a hot gust of "arty" air, we need to break this down and find what's useful for us. So firstly, there is the patterning  - probably one of the most visually striking things about a lot of Chris Foss' work on this project uses simple patterned stripes with bold colour combinations to break up the large smooth surfaces on the ships themselves. Secondly the ships themselves use a lot of rounded shapes and very few sharp angles - this will be important to consider when we come to model the ships in the future.

Next up we have Mad Max, there are two things about Mad Max that always stuck for me - the fashion and the vehicles. They have this wonderful post-apocalyptic aesthetic that just sort of screams in your face, which for our purposes is going to be bloody excellent.

Mad Max: Fury Road - 2015 

Mad Max: Fury Road - 2015 

Mad Max 2: The Road Warriror - 1981 

Mad Max 2: The Road Warriror - 1981 

As you can see from the above examples - even though these films were released about 34 years apart they still have a pretty cohesive visual style. Interestingly enough the cars  reminded me of something - Rat Rods, go on, click the link, I can wait.

To say I fell in love with the look and feel of Rat Rods would be a bit of an understatement. A lot of the car parts seem to be gathered from older cars, with sometimes this strange mix between old and new, they really have a  whatever works kind of attitude to their construction and sometimes they have some really over the top design elements that might be a nice addition.

Anyway, now we seem to be really getting somewhere, we now have some pretty bold visual cues we can work towards. In review:

  • Simple Patterning using bold colour schemes
  • Rounded shapes that echo a lot of older vehicle aesthetics
  • Worn out parts to the vehicles
    • due to being made from scrap parts
    • and because the environment is constantly blasting it with sand and debris
  • Over the top design elements like spiky bits and gigantic exposed engine blocks etc.

So what happens next is I take all this gathered reference material and compile it into a mood board for this faction. the mood board is basically a big collage of a metric tonne of reference vaguely compiled into broad areas. The point of this is to function as a sort of touchstone,  if what's made  fits in with what's on the board, I know I'm keeping the aesthetic we  just worked  towards, if not - I'll need to rework it until it is. At this point, you may be expecting me to show off the complete mood board I made right? Well, the issue with that is the fact that it's made completely of stuff that doesn't belong to us and showing it might cause us some problems. However, next week as we are working on stuff that is 100% our stuff ill be able to show you a great deal.

I hope this has given you guys a bit of an insight into how we do things and that while art is generally quite chaotic by its very nature, there is a process to everything.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them below.

- Dan

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Author: Dan Cordell Published:

2 responses to "TALES FROM THE ART SIDE # 2"


Jodorowsky's Dude! Love that you're picking from those concepts... definitely bodes well. Oh how I wish they'd made this movie.

Chris Hardwick

I think I'd be correct in saying that "Dune" is a favourite of myself and Dan. That said I still need to see the Jodorowsky documentary.

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