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PROFESSIONAL TIPS FROM OUR VIDEO GAME ARTIST!

2D Art, Concept Art, video games, tips to improve your art: today we go through it all with Andreia Silva, concept artist at Ludia!

Andreia and art: her journey

Andreia’s passion for art started very early. Influenced by her older brother’s paintings, something sparked around the age of 6-7 after an artist visited her school in Brazil. After seeing him draw Tarzan in a hyper dynamic pose in only 5 minutes, she immediately thought: “I can’t wait to be able to do that one day too.” She then began her journey, drawing by herself, then participating in workshops, and upon entering college she chose fine arts (animation schools were not very common in her area). Choosing fine arts helped her greatly: “It’s important to know the theory, understand the intention in art, experience different mediums and arts to gain more maturity as an artist.”

Thanks to an online school, she discovered a month-long intensive course in Canada: 18 hours of drawing per day! Then came her desire to deepen her knowledge in animation, and video games, as well as understandingframing, positioning and production process.

After some internships, she evolved as a 2D artist and built a solid trust with her teams, became concept artist and today manages the concept part of the characters on one of our games at Ludia!

The key learning in her career? To nourish herself with more and more content, work on her weaknesses and keep on learning, by herself and from professionals.

2D Art and Concept Art

When we talk about 2D art, we talk about a finished product in itself. Concept Art is different in its approach. It comes at the very beginning, at the upstream of the creation that will be in the game and that will serve as a guide for the artistic creations of the project. It’s like an instruction manual for creating something that doesn’t exist yet. It makes the universe tangible and creates a space of truth.

The fun thing about concept art in mobile video games is that the LiveOps add a layer to the concept in which it has to continue to evolve throughout time. There’s going to be a lot of iteration, new environments to create, new characters, but it all has to fit together and blend into the same universe. That’s where the concept is going to be paramount and where the role of a concept artist is key.

Andreia sees concept art a bit like a Rubix cube during pre-production: “The Art Director and the Game Designer arrive with a bag of problems and you have to turn everything around to make the combinations work together. It’s super exciting.”

And what about 3D in all this?

“Volumes are very important, and it’s not always easy to define them with just lines. You have to play with light and colors. It’s very important to have this vision of how the object lives in 3D, to understand this three-dimensionality in order to have a coherent visual and concept. Even if an artist doesn’t know 3D software, it’s important to understand the basics to be able to speak the same language so that all the members can collaborate on different stages of creation. It enables you to understand the entire production process and to create more efficiently.

Learning both sides (2D and 3D) takes more time of course but brings a richness to the creation and a very interesting added value to an artist. Concepts then become more detailed and rich with this component.

The daily life of video game artists

We often have this vision of an artist creating alone standing behind his drawing board. But the daily life of a video game concept artist is quite different, and is in fact based on talking and sharing a lot with others. In addition to pre-production discussions with art directors and lead game designers, the concept artist will also have daily meetings with the other artists on the project to ensure consistency.

“In production, you’re not alone at all! There are research parts of course but we have daily meetings between artists, it’s very collaborative. We’ll show everything we’re working on, we’ll be able to share ideas, make sure everything fits together, get feedback on elements we may have missed. We’ll line up the different characters as well to make sure we’re keeping the right consistency and harmony of styles.”

When it comes to creating a character, the artists will follow several steps:
– the research stages
– intentions of volume and proportions
– the basic colors (without heavy treatment at the beginning to confirm the validation)
– the polish phase, where more information and finesse are added

At each of these stages, we discuss and validate the elements with the Artistic Direction, and with the license in our case at Ludia, to make sure we are on the right track. We create the best documentation and validate the points definitively so that we don’t go back on them later.

Then a lot of conversations will take place with the animators about facial expressions and specific requests. The 3D artists will take over to bring their magic with volumes, textures etc., and the animators will bring the characters to life!

Andreia’s advice

– Keep it simple

Andreia’s biggest learning from these last few years is : Keep it simple. When you add too much detail, it can seem like you are hiding weaknesses. The important thing is to work on the basics and have a solid simple concept. Go back to the basics, think about your framing, the gameplay for a video game, where the eye will focus on. The first question to ask yourself before you start working on the details is: what is important in my design? Work on the basics, the light, the volumes, the proportions, the sense of design, take away the extra to have something more precise and precious.

– Be honest with yourself and work on your weaknesses

You will not be the best in all aspects of your art on day 1. Be honest with yourself, recognize your strengths but also your weaknesses. Work on your weaknesses to make your art grow. Is 3D visualization complex for you? The placement of the light is not yet optimal? Do your personal research but don’t hesitate to look for more professional training and surround yourself with experts.

– Look for inspiration elsewhere

In video games or animation, the risk is sometimes to use on the same inspirations and end up copying more than creating. Don’t hesitate to look for inspiration elsewhere, in different types of art, painting, sculpture, cinema, furniture design too, why not! The important thing is to multiply your sources of inspiration to open your mind.

– Stay curious and observant

As Andreia says:

“An artist is first of all someone who will observe things. Learning isn’t just about having your pencil in your hand and your back bent. You can learn every second by walking around and observing the light, how it reacts with the snow, how the shadow is placed, … You also need to live and experience to have things to say through your art.”

It’s important to keep and feed your curiosity too. The idea is not to force yourself to draw at all costs all the time and repeat the same strokes that will become mechanical gestures but to explore what intrigues you. Did you like a certain composition in a movie? A new software feature that you don’t necessarily use in your work but that tickles your curiosity? Go find out what makes you tick and why it made you feel that way. Explore!

– Give yourself time

The important thing is to find a balance between work and your life. It’s important to work on your art and put in the hours, but you have to listen to yourself. There is sometimes a culture of “always more – never enough” and that’s how you lose confidence and the pleasure of drawing.

You have to put time into your work of course, but do it efficiently. To be good, you have to give yourself time, “just as a beautiful tree is given time to grow and become strong and solid. You can’t ask an apple tree to drop fruit too quickly because it’s not going to be good, it’s kind of the same with your art.”

So take time to breathe too, to develop your personality to infuse it into your art. Inspiration comes from living your life!

The Journey of A Talented and Promising Artist: Felipe Ramos

Artist. If you look it up, you’ll find literally thousands of different definitions: a person dedicated to the expression of beauty, technique master, creator of emotions. In reality, there are as many definitions as people practicing Art, with a capital A, in the largest possible sense of the word. At Ludia, we’re lucky enough to count close to 100 of these amazing people. Inspiring, passionate, hard working, talented and curious experts, everyone’s source of inspiration is unique. To define this wonderful team, which amazes us daily with their creations, in one word would be: richness. 

Today we embark on a journey with Felipe Ramos, Concept Artist here at Ludia on our game Dragons: Titan Uprising. 

Felipe

Concept Artist: What’s That?

Concept Artists are key people in the pipeline of a video game production. Their objective is to illustrate, in images, a concept that was solely living in the designers mind prior to that. The project is brought to life thanks to their creations. All their work allows the entire team to visualise which direction everyone should take and how to move forward together on the project. 

One of the most important key characteristics for an artist? According to Serge Mongeau, our Art Expert at Ludia, “It’s the will to always push forward while improving your work methods, being curious and exploring new techniques.” And this is the aspect of Felipe’s profile that makes him more than just talented, but an artist with a promising future. “Felipe is deeply curious and does not hesitate to embrace new technologies, to improve its productivity and define a new coherent universe throughout multiple characters.”

Passion and Hard Work 

Being a great artist is not only about having good predispositions and “natural talent”,. To succeed in an artistic career often means facing of obstacles,. It requires a strong will and hard work. Especially for a concept artist, as it is quite similar from one studio or project to another, and so it turns competition into an even more intense game on a worldwide scale. , You need to be  deeply passionate and dedicated to your art, to get the chance to turn it into a professional career. But if curiosity, hard work, sacrifice, and commitment are your daily mantras, success could be at your fingertips. 

To reach his goal, Felipe worked ruthlessly until developing the necessary skills to be able to get into an art school here in Montreal. But once he reached this goal, an even harder goal was set. Leaving his family and friends behind in Brazil and facing the reality of the competition and how good and hard working some of his friends were at school, was, at the time, a tough period, but nevertheless forged his work ethic. 

Today, he still puts a huge emphasis on self educating. Internet tutorials, sharing sessions with coworkers and managers, new software learnings, online classes from the artists he is most inspired by: he takes every chance he can get to learn something new. Through time, as a Concept Artist, he came to the conclusion that he “can’t just specialize in a specific form of art”. That eagerness for learning was nourished by his professors’ who guided him, not only in mastering the existing techniques, but in continuously seeking knowledge, innovation, novelty. It is also, in part, motivated by a small fear of being outdated quickly in an environment constantly changing and marked by fast evolution. 

Albert Einstein once said “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work…”. This might also be very true for art.

Why use a quote from a scientist? Well, it’s a natural correlation! 

Science and Technology: The Heart of Felipe’s Inspiration

When asked if he always wanted to take an artistic path Felipe answers: Yes, I always wanted to be either an artist or a scientist, since I first saw a Leonardo Da Vinci exposition in Sao Paulo when I was a kid, it changed my life. So setting myself towards a career that would allow me a similar creative freedom was my main goal”.

After studying biology back in Rio, and realizing science was a hard reality in Brazil, he deeply dedicated himself to his art to reach this ultimate goal. 
But never truly forgot about the scientific universe. He still nowadays, besides taking inspiration from personal experiences, what’s surrounding him, events, films or environments he wanders in, science and technology remain in a special place amongst his inspirations. 

His current obsession? The artificial intelligence movement in art. More and more technologies allow us to make art and will surely change the creation process, artists’ work and way of thinking. It’s that part Felipe is exploring, and his thinking is nourished by his own research as much as sharing ideas with some of his peers, which are equally captivated by this subject as well. 

The idea behind it? Always keeping an eye on the potential future evolution of his job.

The Video Game Industry and The Creation Process 

Even if he thought he’d work for the movie industry at first, Felipe “always knew video games were the next step.” “It was just a matter of time until the graphics I was seeing turned into full immersion, like an obvious progression. Right now it has the potential to be the ultimate form of art and immersion.”

What he loves most in his job is world-building. “So things have to make sense when I’m creating them. Character and creature designs are my favorite thing to do for fun and at work.” He balances his time between his artistic practice at work and his personal projects in his free time. He does not limit his creative mind to express itself during work hours only. As a technology lover, he likes having access to a wide range of tools. “It forces me to learn new ways to make things every once in a while.” His managers are more than open for him to explore further to allow him to develop his full potential. 

How does the creation process for a Concept Artist work at Ludia?

Of course, every artist has a specific vision and way of doing. For Felipe, “it varies a lot, depends on what the asset is, or for what it is for.” In every case, some elements stay part of a routine in the creation process, as the research part for references and to form moodboards. Then, for a piece of concept he usually does it on a 2D media, render a base model of the asset then painting on top of everything on Photoshop. For those assets, his favorite technique is to approach things manually and painting stuff out as it is the fastest way to get a realistic looking finished piece. For a piece of illustration, like a splash screen, his first step is usually 2D sketches, then pass on a 3D process. It might take longer at first, but allow him to make interesting iterations and changes of camera angle. For in-game assets, he starts by creating many 2D concepts then moves on to make 3D models (in 3D coat) based on the best ones approved, so he can interchange/kitbash pieces and produce more variations. Then, the final assets being 2D, the final steps are assigning basic materials, rendering it and painting on top to deliver the best pieces. 

Covid-19 and Creativity

Along with the entire studio, our artists work from home. Some elements remain the same, no matter the job position occupied. Thus, the necessity of being adaptive, finding the best ways to communicate remotely, and focusing on the positive aspects such as: being less interrupted and being able to enjoy more free time as commuting is no longer part of our schedule is the same for everyone. 

For the most part, Felipe’s daily work, as for several of our artists, did not drastically change since the implementation of work-from-home. Same material, same meetings adapted virtually, projects still going on. But the quarantine has had a deeper impact on his creativity.  Inspired by the tiny daily details of life, his social experiences, being in contact with different personalities, being able to encapsulate moments of his life outside are elements that usually nourish his work. “For inspiration it can be tough sometimes, it can be blocking. For example, when you need to develop images reflecting summer and all the characteristics that encapsulate this season… it is very complicated when you can’t go outside, or are not living this usual summer vibe when going out.” So, he is a little more “forced” lately to solely find inspiration on the internet. 

Finally, of course, whether you are a parent or someone living alone, one of the main things is being organized. Not that Felipe lacked this before, but remote work still requires optimal organization. Feedback he received from his peers was key to improve even more his organisational skills. He also disciplined himself, still respecting the schedule he was doing in the office, even if he was tempted to move around his hours to meet the ones during which he thinks he would be the most inspired. That way he keeps the right rhythm and a good balance.

Some Advice During This Pandemic Situation

Felipe says that even if it feels very complicated sometimes, it is important to try to keep yourself up to date and well informed about the situation while protecting yourself from the media chaos. It will be good for your mental health. He also notes, not to forget about the importance of disconnecting from work, especially when being locked down alone. “The first 2 weeks were a bit more complicated as I use the same sound system for both my personal and professional computers. So it’s happened that while working on personal projects after my working day, I would hear my Slack notifications. I was tempted a couple of times to go check the messages and go back to work. But since then, I am more careful to draw a clearer line between work and personal life, and strive to get the best balance.”

Drawing dragons with Dreamworks

CREATE DRAGONS WITH DREAMWORKS

Working with licenses in the video game industry can be a complex topic: a formidable source of opportunities for some, a creativity brake for others. One could agree that there are as many reasons to work with licenses as there are existing brands and studios.

But how does it work at Ludia? How do we work with our licenses? Do our artists feel constrained in their creativity? A quick feedback from Philippe, artist on Dragons: Titan Uprising.

Philippe

Working hand in hand

After studying art and animation, Philippe joined Ludia 4 years ago and has since worked on exciting projects with Dreamworks, such as Kung Fu Panda and Dragons: Titan Uprising: “I am responsible for the artistic design of the games and visuals”, says Philippe.

How does it work in practice?

Well, for the Dragons: Titan Uprising game for example, the Ludia Game Designer may need a new dragon. This is where Philippe comes in. His work consists in imagining and drawing the dragon including the research phase, sketching, adding texture, final drawing, colorimetry: everything is well thought through. Philippe collaborates with Dreamworks throughout the whole process to bring this unique universe, its dragons and characters to life.  They share the visuals, make live comments and are in constant touch until the final validation.

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Working with Licenses: How to Train Your Dragon

As Ludia’s Lead Game Designer on DreamWorks Dragons: Titan Uprising for nearly 3 years, I’ve seen first-hand how working with a beloved franchise empowers game development.

There’s a common misconception that working with established licenses stifles creativity and results in mediocre products. While the early days of games are littered with half-baked movie cash grabs, things have changed dramatically over the years. From 2018’s Spider-Man on PS4 to Jurassic World: Alive on mobile, gamers have more options than ever to dive deep into their favorite franchises. Licensors now understand the value of high-quality titles supporting their brands, and Ludia has become a mobile expert in licensed gaming.

Written by Kevin Messer

You Already Have an Audience

Let’s face it—getting people excited about a mobile game and forming a community is really hard. There’s more competition every day, and mobile still carries a stigma with old-school gamers. Building around a known franchise not only helps with marketing, but you already have an answer to “who’s our audience?” Knowing your audience helps in all stages of game development, allowing the team to focus on what really matters to people who already care.

In the case of How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD), I’m constantly amazed by the passion and civility of the fans. The inherent optimism in the franchise attracts some wonderful people who treat others with respect. Even when they find bugs, they often let us know with a tone of “I want to help improve the game” instead of “the devs are terrible!” This creates a collaborative atmosphere with the community and motivates teams to constantly improve.

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