Game Design Concept Art Intro: Digital Environment Drawing
Welcome, and thanks for choosing Game Design Concept Art Intro: Digital Environment Drawing!
In this foundational course we will be learning the fundamentals of ¾ cutaway concept art. This type of concept art is great for showcasing an interior environment space making it a great design learning opportunity.
The focus will be on generating ideas, creating a relatable entertaining design, and sketching methods to create your concept.
We will cover the following core skill sets:
Philosophies and mindset of a concept artist
Generating ideas for narrative design
Space layout design including floor plans
Some of these topics could be courses by themselves so we will look at methods concept artists use to “hack” things like perspective. The most important rules for creating entertaining sound designs will be covered but we will not go in depth over all of the design principles. As for PhotoShop, we will go over the basics needed for this course, with the end goal of a layout sketch in mind. Tools and tips will be covered throughout the course and future ones as needed.
***NOTE This course shows the workflow for an artist creating a final asset, there are several ways to reach an end goal, this is simply one of those paths.
We’ll be utilizing the latest software packages that top tier gaming studios of today use to create all of your favorite titles!
Photoshop for the majority of this course, and SketchUp and/or Blender for perspective aids
Why Learn From Class Creatives?
Reide Perigo is an environment concept artist for Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) as part of the Visual Arts Service Group. In his time with SIE, Reide has worked on a number of games. Titles that have been released so far include Death Stranding and VR shooter, Firewall:Zero Hour.
Outside of games, Reide has used his creative talents and design first mentality as a concept artist helping pitch and design Family Entertainment Centers all over the world, a graphic designer — for companies such as SalesForce — , and an illustrator for board games and even disc golf stamps.
Who This Course is For:
From beginners interested in learning about concept art and what it takes to make it into the industry, to professional concept artists looking to learn more fundamental design.
As with all Class Creative’s courses, we’ve laid out a structure that covers the full spectrum of industry standard game design concept art work flows from start to finish.
Please remember, if this is your first time creating concept art, environment art, or digital drawing, we highly recommend that you follow the outline carefully, according to how our instructor’s have structured the course. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on any details!
However, if you are an advanced user and are looking for something specific to add to your repertoire feel free to dive in and skip to any sections you’d like to focus on.
¾ cutaways are a concept art method used to showcase the interior design with an emphasis on layout and spacing. In this type of concept art design philosophy and thinking will be on full display, because you are forced to make a functional design that can easily be translated and built by the 3D artist.
We will go over basic topics like research, design sketching and thinking, perspective, and by the end you will have an interior environment space laid out.
The job of the concept artist is to visually communicate elements of the IP (intellectual property). They are used to help pitch a project, and also to visualize the look and feel of the game.
Being a problem solver is a key element to being a successful concept artist. Often, concept artists must create designs that are believable. Even if the mechanics of the functions are faked they must at least pass an eye test, so no defying physics or creating totally out of this world designs. Follow real world reference to make a design believable and relatable. Then you can stretch the boundaries of the design for entertainment purposes, to make it fun to look at and explore.
IDEA GENERATION I
Setting up design board starting with elements extracted from the Brief.
Brainstorming keywords and making connections from your visual library.
IDEA GENERATION II
Once you have a good idea -- or better yet ideas -- for your narrative of your design you can break out keywords and actually write out the story. If you haven’t done so use these ideas to fill in more ‘Additional Tasks’ on your design board.
Break out unique story routes. In concept art variations are key to proactively narrow the scope of a design. The more concepts provided the more options the client or lead can choose from.
Reides method of 3 unique variations
One that is generic, heavily reliant on reference and research of the real world pushing the boundaries of believability slightly to make a design more fun.
A second variant will often take the most entertaining elements found from research and takes more liberties to make the design more fun. Let’s use the dojo as an example. Maybe it is built into the ruins of a mountain. The floor is falling out in areas opening the environment to a sheer drop below and revealing the elements outside.
The third variant pushes the boundaries of the second, expanding on the idea of adding new elements to a real world design. An example of this would be designing Atlantis that has been found on the moon. Introducing the terrain and physics of the moon into the myth of Atlantis can still be grounded -- ancient cultures and architecture can be researched -- but the combination makes for an entertaining design. Another way to make it entertaining is to play with the scale and proportions of things. A tree as large as a skyscraper, how would that change the environment, what would a treehouse colony look on it?
With the story routes set, we have a narrower scope of what we should research. Google keywords you came up with and investigate how they might be used for your design. Reide needed to learn more about what type of mat would be used in the dojo, and wanted to learn more about Feudal Japanese archery so he spent time learning about each. The more knowledge you have the more you can inject into the design. This will make the design more relatable and thus more fun for the viewers/players to explore.
Photoshop for design sketching
Going over the tools Reide uses for sketching out his designs.
Overview of study sketching and examining reference.
1st level details: Overall shape or silhouette of the design.
2nd level details: shapes and forms that break up the silhouette. Cutins, extrusions, any smaller details inside the silhouette that can be easily felt and take up 3 dimensional space.
3rd level details: Fine details often weathering marks, material, or graphics. Though they are not necessary for the initial sketch they must be considered for next gen games especially during the rendering process. It is a good idea to take note of tertiary details and study the reference during this phase.
Natures math when it comes to shapes. For whatever reason we find the golden ratio pleasing to the eye. It is found in nature and has been repeated in man made objects and designs all throughout history.
In essence, groupings of Big, Medium, and Small objects are entertaining as it follows closely to the golden ratio, especially when each is roughly half the size of the other.
Dissect the found references of your topic. Architecture from the culture, lifestyle details such as banners, lamps, unique flooring all lend relatability and believability to a design. Learning the function of a design, for instance, why the pillars are in a certain number in Greek temples or why certain materials or shapes are used for different cultures aesthetic will also greatly benefit a concept. Research and reference studying is how you find the details necessary to evoke the sense of a culture and showcase your narrative.
How do these cultures use 1,2,3 details? What are the forms? How can you use the shape language to have B,M,S?
Why design Sketch? To create more entertaining designs and alter reference enough to avoid any legal issues. These sketches may also be used to help explain the narrative or functions of the concept. They could turn into prop drawings or even be repurposed for when you create your ¾ drawing which Reide will do later in the course. In this way, you can think of them as modular pieces, assets you can place in your future interior space, so taking your time on them will be beneficial down the road.
Begin simple, and try and get into the flow state of drawing.
Use the tools you learned during the Photoshop overview.
Having reference images to glance at and study sketches to refer to will aid in the process.
DESIGN SKETCHING METHODS
Putting yourself in the environment, imagining all the senses that would be activated in the space will help with the sketching process. What would you smell in the environment? The sweat soaked mats, something else? What sounds would be present in the space?
As this concept is for a video game, adding your own touch or entertaining factors will help make the design more interesting. Heighten the senses, if you hear trees, make sure nature is present in the design. If you smell wood smoke, make sure you have a fire pit.
Pull from your earlier design sketches. Grab flat drawing and skew the drawing over the new one. An example of Reide doing this is taking the trim and adding it to our platform.
Or you can simply draw something new, flat without perspective and skew it into place in the new design sketch if you would like. This is great for patterns and repeated shapes. Reide uses it for the railing and tatami mat for his platform design.
You can also add reference photos as a base. Extract the parts you want to keep by deleting unwanted visual information. You can then edit the image with the transform tools. Skew, scale, and perspective tools are great in this instance. Painting on top of the design can also help make it your own. If desired you can then use the style filter : Find Edges to convert the image into linework. The result can be drawn over, used for another drawing, or could even stand alone as a sketch itself.
Faking perspective with lines to achieve depth, space, and give volume to our objects.
Horizon Line (HL): The grounds edge, where it is the furthest your eye could possibly see do to the curvature of the Earth. The vertical placement will change depending how high off the ground you are.
Vanishing point (VP): The points on a horizon line where perspective lines converge.
Our Y-axis will be perfectly vertical, the x-axis perfectly horizontal (so they will form 90 degree angles).
Only the z-axis lines will recede back in space toward a vanishing point.
If drawing a box, a flat rectangle will face the viewer as it is in perfect alignment, and the side faces will recede along the z axis towards the VP.
If the box is above the HL, then the bottom face will show.
If the box is below the HL, then the top face will show.
If part of the box covers the HL, then neither top or bottom face will be shown.
For 2 point perspective,there will be two points that the x-axis and z axis lines will vanish towards on the Horizon Line. Only lines on the Y axis will be parallel and perfectly vertical.
WIth 2 point perspective, we have a nice corner to showcase both sides of the design. This makes 2point a great perspective choice when your aim is to show the functionality of a space or object.
Camera and VPs
How far the vanishing points are from one another will define the camera.
The closer the VPs are to one another the more dynamic the shot.
Too close though will be too jarring.
Too far apart will make the concept flat and verging on isometric where even though lines will recede into space there will not be much variation of the angle of lines regardless of where they are on the page. A box on the far left of the page will look very similar to one of the same size on the right side of the page due to the lines receding very similarly.
As I am sure you guessed, yes 3 point perspective will have three points that all three axis lines vanish to. This means that no line will truly be parallel. For a perfect square, even though the lines are technically parallel, they will not be depicted that way in this two dimensional representation. They will be slightly pulled toward their vanishing point.
3 point is great for buildings, but it is also useful when you want to stretch the drawing, give it a sense of awe. If want to get your viewers heart racing, to excite, or to frighten and thrill, then 3pt is the choice perspective.
With the Y axis VP placed above the HL, the camera will be low and the object will recede skyward. This is called a worms eye view and is useful for a street view of a tall building.
If the Y axis VP is below the HL, this will mean the camera is positioned high up, often in the sky. This is a birdseye view.
Here is an alternative method and the one Reide used for this course.
Sketchup free is easy to use and available through a browser. It is free to use for personal work but not commercial work. So if you are wanting to learn or build your portfolio and have no 3D package experience I would suggest going this route. For anyone else go ahead and skip to the next lecture.
For this you will need to sign up for sketchup at https://www.sketchup.com/products/sketchup-for-web and press the start modeling button.
Next, Download the gridtool.skp file provided with this lecture.
Open the gridtool.skp and play around with the camera angle.
Once you have a camera view that you like, follow the steps below to save a view scenes, change to 2pt, and export as a PNG.
For those already familiar with 3D packages this next lecture may be more your speed. Alternatively, if you are looking to use this method to generate grids that can be used for commercial work, then this lecture will also be important to you.
Let’s use another free software, Blender. We may even come back to it in future courses so it doesn’t hurt to take a look at it now. Blender, unlike Sketchup, is free to use for any licensing options. There is no free version for personal work and pro version for commercial work. One package for all needs at all levels.
Consider the positioning of focal point in your environment shot. Foreground will allow it to be closer to camera thus allowing for more detail.
Next consider secondary reads.
Consider a radius of detail where the focal area is central and will have the most detail, and secondary reads near by will have detail but tapered off the further away from the focal area.
Another way to deal with secondary reads would be to create seperation. Utilizing visual pathways between the focal area and secondary areas will create defined sections in an environment. Rest areas in the design, that is periods not packed with detail, such as these visual pathways will help the flow of a piece and be much easier to look at and understand.
The radius of detail can then be used for each unique area with an emphasis on focal point, which will have the most dense and defined detail and tapered off the further away.
Defined walkways and routes: It is important to have openings for the characters to traverse. These pathways need to be wide enough for players to walk through so create openings of at least two to three characters wide (if lined up shoulder to shoulder). Utilizing our visual pathways for our routes is a great efficient opportunity.
However, this spacing of pathways can be manipulated to tell a story in unique cases.You may purposely want to block off a section.
Say in your design, you want to prohibit access to the second floor. The hero must beat all challenges before the way is opened to him. In this case, having the barred starwell is a story aid and not just poor design.
When thinking about layout and placement of objects this thinking about the narrative is key to making a great concept environment.
Begin to block in your space. Be sure to use your reference images and design sketches.
You may find a grid useful at this point, but Reide forgoes it to stay loose and think wholly about design and space layout. The purpose of this stage is to design the layout of the environments.
Questions to consider:
Where will objects be placed? Research will help decide this as well as the transitions from focal are to secondary reads.
What camera view should be used? Too high and parts of the design may be blocked off by the top plane, but too low and details on the top parts of the environment may not be seen.
How large is each area and the space between them?
How will the character navigate the space?
What will the lighting source(s) be and where are they located (you can’t have a totally dark space)?
How can we direct the viewer's eye around the environment? From primary to secondary reads and pathways, to detail density. Stairways, pillars, beams, poles, banners, can create natural guiding lines (angles and directional lines) to aid in directing the eye to different areas. Typically you want the focal point to be the first read then usher the viewer around the rest of the environment.
There are a few methods to building up your space.
Reide’s method is to start from the focal area (in his case the fighting platform) and using it to base his perspective and scale on. Then he will build up the space around it from there.
Creating bounding boxes, defining the dimensions of the room then filling it with simple objects is an alternate method.
Create at least three of these layout sketches. It may be beneficial to place each on the same page to compare and contrast them. You may find ideas to enhance an environment when considering all three together. Or, if too similar you can adjust the designs to be more unique variations.
This next step will be to take your layout sketches and turn them into floor plans allowing the measuring and “math” aspect of the drawing to be more manageable.