Hi, I´m Emmanuel Ayala, environment artist in Freaky Creations, and I would like to talk about art for video games, specifically environment art, and an equally interesting topic such child conception. Let us begin.
At the beginning everything was chaos, every level took a moth and half to fully develop, this in game development time,is really slow. The chaos wasn´t just a matter of time, other topics like: Color, Style, which visual elements the level needed,etc, all these things were undefined at that time. In many cases we added unnecessary details, because we thought that this would solve many art problems we couldn´t fully understand.
After many developed levels, we are now able to sit down and review them with a cool head and a lot less uncertainty of what the level really needs.
Here is one of our first children, born after a lot of labor pain, although this guy wasn´t very attractive, as all parents, we thought he was the most beautiful child ever born. Let me introduce you the first level we produced for To Leave.(Production Time: 1 month)
Let´s get our hands dirty as we describe our child from a crude point of view, the aesthetic point of view.
The color palette was simple. Most of the details fade away due color similarity. The composition wasn´t interesting, in fact wasn´t fully designed to guide the player view. Foreground has to little detail. The scenery was settled as an apartment, the experience was planned as a disordered, dragging and hot place, however as we were created art and struggled with other problems arising, the experiences that we set as the goals for this level slowly faded away.
Now we need to understand the actual state of art. Although the first level seems to be good looking, as we compare it with one of our recently born childs , that same first level stops being good looking and he becomes the unlucky child of the family. It is time to introduce the level I was talking about, the one that made our past selves cower in shame, yeah that one, created for an advanced stage of the game, we call it The Sidewalk. ( Production time: 2 weeks. Size: 8 times bigger than first level.
Once again, we have to describe aesthetic of this level, even though this image represent just a small part of the level, it its enough to understand the state of art.
The background and foreground details are very rich and visible. The color palette is more controlled and diverse. Some animations were added to the background. There are at least 10 different layers in the background creating the sense of depth of field in the level. The experience for this level was: a stressful and loud city which makes a transition to a hot factory; in many ways this experience was successfully created.The composition now has a rhythm and also interesting and different shapes or elements for the player.
But of course you haven’t come here just to read development stories. I know you want to learn how i managed to have better and more handsome children. Isn´t it? Don´t be shy, ask without fear. Well, to avoid any risk to be censured by ultraconservatives, i´ll try to share my thoughts about the methodology i have developed to make art for level.
The following steps are in some way a mixture between the books of art and game development I’ve been reading since I started making games.. I like to think this steps like filters, this highly influenced by Jessie Schell in his book The Art of Game Design.
Before i start painting anything i usually discuss with level designer some features or experiences he wants to transmit to the player.
Right after that i work with this filters, asking me this questions and trying to answer them in a thoughtful way while I´m working in the aesthetics.
1.- Fundamental level design.
-¿Are there are any design restrictions that affects art in some way that I need to be aware of? Take as an example To Leave´s Colliders rule: This means i need to make levels with enough contrast between foreground and background because gameplay
¿What design decisions affects the art of the level?
¿Where, when, and how are my gameplay elements?
¿Do I need to paint the level so that this gameplay element pop up to view? Take as an example the main character’s scale and how it determines the entire level scale.
2.- Experience or theme
What does the player need to feel in this particular level? Stressful, desolated, etc.
Is There any real life experience that i want to reflect in the game?
Which artistic elements I need to use to synthesize that experience?
3.- Imagination elements
What’s the scenery of this level? City, Jungle, Raining Forest, etc.
Is there any way to exaggerate some scenery element to express better some feelings or story?
4.- Shape and color composition.
Are the basic shapes I´m using interesting even without polish?
Is there contrast, repetition, focal points, scale, asymmetry, symmetry or more composition elements?
Is there a clear rhythm of forms?
Are the shapes guiding the players instead of confusing them?
5.- Aesthetic embellishment.
Are there proper lights, colors, shadows, etc?
Are there enough detail to let the player dive into the experience?
Are elements readable enough to transmit the experience?
If I add more detail, will there be any difference, or is enough as it is?
All the time I´m trying to solve the environment problems using this questions, but to be honest, I find them hard to answer in a right way, at least some of them, but I try my best, and this helps me to be sure when a level is done. I’m sure that for other types of games this pipeline should have some modifications, because we are going to face different environment problems and most of the specific solutions used for To Leave cannot be reapplied, but the questions will stand true and their analysis will get better over time as we iterate on them.
I hope this would be of any help, I have to go for now, there is a lot of work to be done, because there are many unborn children, ugly ones, good looking ones, beautiful ones, with and without luck, that need to born.