Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cornbread stuffing and old stuff(ing)...

I just got home from a much needed week-long vacation in Las Vegas. Its been an unbelievably long and cold winter in Edmonton, so it was a welcome change to go somewhere and stretch my legs. Since I'm not a gambler, one of my interests there was to get some "American food"... below is a picture of some fried chicken and cornbread stuffing, which satisfied my mission.


Before I left I started thinking about making a self-published book. I have 15 years worth of artwork of all types (mostly from my video game industry) and it would be nice to see this stuff compiled in one volume in a physical format rather than sitting in folders on my computer. I have no delusions of creating a best-seller, but nevertheless I would like to organize all this material, even if just for myself and my family. Thinking about what type of content would be of interest to a reader, I'm feeling some process and instructional material interspersed with an art book would be the way to go. Maybe I can get some essays or content from other artists as well. At the very least anyone interested in BioWare games would likely find this intimate and descriptive volume of interest. At the very least it will be an organizational exercise and something to sell at conventions.

I started sorting through the folders of my career before the Vegas trip and realized that I would easily have a small book's worth of material. As a preview to this eventual product, I'll start rolling out some old art from the dusty corners of my hard drive from time to time...

First we have an unfinished battle scene I was trying to cobble together for Dragon Age a number of years back in 2006. illustration is a tricky business in games development. Much of the content comes together at the end of development making it hard to create visuals early in the production that remain relevant at product ship. In modern RPGs, its also common that the characters are put together near the end of the dev cycle from a "parts library" of modeled bits that don't exist until late in the game. This is the reason why you see so many games utilize the "iconic character", which is a marketing creation of a possible character you could create in the game or the lead villain, and is unique looking and independent of the "parts library".

This battle scene was never finished as the characters were all either changed or cancelled. We can see the generic monsters are nailed down but the party of good guys are in various states of finish. The blond elf with a knife is a placeholder in anticipation that this design may not proceed, which was what happened...


Since such detailed, laborious scenes take time, I wanted to make one image that could be cut up into pieces to be handy for various marketing purposes. I intended each main character to be clearly shown so the image could be cropped for a portrait or descriptive vignette. Similarly, the bad guys are grouped according to race so the image can function in smaller chunks. I limited the enemies to a few races in anticipation that the more unique monsters would have a greater chance of being cut from the game due to technical limitations... which was what happened.

Here is a cropped vignette of some bad guys. My plan would have worked out fine, as you can see by the header image on this blog: you can always use a dark mass of evil dudes for some decoration.


An unfinished portrait of Oghren the dwarf...


Some Smaller baddies and a blue ogre...



Anyhow, it was tough to put all this work into an image only to abandon it to the waste-bin of pixel irrelevance. Even though I never finished it, It actually was cut up and used to promote Dragon Age on the website at some point as intended.

Projects like this call out how marketing illustration in games usually has to happen at the end of development, which means "quickly"so it can be put to use. These factors are why freelancers are employed, usually on behalf of 3rd party marketing companies for illustrations in the games industry. It's also why I'm quite happy now being on the other side of the development, making art where the questions have been answered before the work starts.

My self-published book will likely comment on things like this and show some more behind-the -scenes process of fantasy and video game art. Please feel free to comment with topics and suggestions that you would like to see, and I'll try to tailor my tome to where the interest is.

2 comments:

Calydon said...

When I look at these, especially the detailed closeups, it seems to me that the artistic vision for the game was so much tighter before it became a committee design. I might be a bit biased, but I would love to see how these would have turned out in a final product that was more about whimsy (and less about blood).

Mike Sass said...

well, the development was a major fuck up and they lost all the craftsmen, so you'll be getting Anime and simplicity now... not exactly what was originally intended for sure