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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!

Evolving in a studio with a soul

Frédéric Bibet is one of the cornerstones of Ludia. With over 28 years of experience in the video game industry, he has worked at every level, giving him a broad, informed, and accurate view of game production. Throughout his career, he has also witnessed the big changes in this vibrant industry, which is driven by one concept: continuous evolution. 

Frédéric joined Ludia 12 years ago and is now our VP of Production. His adventure began as an independent partner at Mistic Software, a company that developed console games for Ludia, then went on within the studio itself, as Mistic joined Ludia’s family after successful collaboration over several years. This career path has allowed Frédéric to see the entire evolution of the company, from its very beginnings to the studio Ludia is in now.

Since arriving at Ludia, Frédéric never stopped growing along with the studio. He has worked with passion, rolled up his sleeves to overcome many challenges, challenged himself, learned a lot, and most importantly for him: he continues to do so every day.

A studio with a soul 

When Frédéric first met the studio and Alexandre Thabet – CEO – Ludia was a very small company. Working as an independent partner at the time, he was impressed to see it grow so quickly from 7 to 14, to 20, to 40, to a hundred people. This entrepreneurial spirit and capacity that came from the founders, and allowed them to sign partnerships with renowned licenses such as Price Is Right, Hell’s Kitchen, or Family Feud despite their very young existence, made him immediately think “Wow they know what they are doing, they know where they are going with their company”.

In 2010, he officially joined Ludia and became the right-hand man to the VP of production. A challenging start with a game based on the Bachelor to be delivered in a very short time. This complex project required a lot of learning for both him and his team, and through hard work and incredible motivation, the project was completed! Another project with tight deadlines followed: The Amazing Race. The job was as hard as it was exciting, but what Frédéric remembers and cares most about this period is the teams. They were mainly made up of juniors, but they were extraordinary, with motivated teammates, hyper-committed, patient and attentive, and a thirst for learning and completing their projects, even if the challenges were important. Many of his very first collaborators in this adventure have continued over the years to grow alongside him and evolve into key members of the studio. They have developed their potential and helped make Ludia what it is today. But what’s even more amazing is that they are still as united, enthusiastic, and willing to help build the Ludia of tomorrow. 

While the games weren’t that impressive in the early days and the studio was at the early stages of building effective management, Frederic yet quickly saw the potential and benefit of joining Ludia. He saw the opportunity to learn a lot from the founders, Alexandre Thabet specifically – a daring young entrepreneur who had vision and ambition while remaining deeply human. But more importantly for Frederic, he immediately understood that Ludia had a real soul. The values he upheld and still passionately upholds today are part of the DNA of the studio.

Take risks…

In 2011, Frédéric saw Alexandre make a drastic decision, a risky choice for the studio: to stop making console games and focus only on Facebook and mobile games from now on. Once again, he was impressed by Alexandre’s ability to have a vision and an ambition, to go “all in” on a new path, guided by strong convictions. This energy and entrepreneurial spirit complement Frédéric’s personality that is more pragmatic, and it inspired him! Frédéric was and still is a very analytical person, which leads him to seek and collect enough information and consult what he deems to be enough people to support the decision-making process. Mastering a subject thoroughly allows him to position himself as a decision-maker, much more so than the hierarchical position he has. Where Alexandre has the ability to aim even further for the future with his ideas and ambition, and to inspire people to join the projects, Frédéric is able to make decisive choices for the games themselves, arbitrating where necessary with pragmatism in order to be able to deliver the games thanks to his in-depth understanding of the issues. He realizes that one cannot go without the other: without a vision, one does not go far enough, and without pragmatic management, the project does not succeed. A symbiotic relationship! 

The decision to go for only mobile and free-to-play games required learning everything. A new field of knowledge and opportunities to explore opened up. Frédéric probably keeps the best memories of this time. It was an extremely enriching period when the whole team, himself and also Alexandre, were learning and sharing together every day, and incredible creative energy carried them along every morning. Many people didn’t believe in this model and wondered what was going on: why focusing on mobile? It’s crazy to create free games! Then came the launch of the first Family Feud & Friends game, which went on to reach over 1 million DAU! From then on, everyone knew it was a winning bet and the teams got really excited about this new model. This was a big turning point in the history of Ludia, which decided to review its structure and organize itself as best as possible to adapt to this new evolution. Since then, the studio has continued to grow and has gone from 100 to 400 wonderful Ludians who work every day to always take the studio one step further!

… But also to take a step back and question ourselves.

Two years ago, Frédéric and the executive team decided to take a step back. “How far have we come and, above all, where do we want to go in the future?” There have been many adaptations over the years as the studio has grown exponentially. And benefiting from its experience, Ludia is no longer a start-up, it’s a solid studio that now requires deeper changes to get to the next level, and no longer what we might call “micro” adaptations. A major reflection was then initiated. Frédéric, along with the executive team, hand in hand with our trade experts Serge Mongeau, Jimmy Beaubien, Marc Antoine Ledoux, Raphaël Monin and with the support of the HR team, questioned and explored the best ways to organize the studio to achieve new goals and provide the best tools and work environments to develop employees and games whose quality is constantly being improved.

While having these discussions for the studio, Frédéric realised that he needed to start a more personal process to reconsider and deprogram certain thoughts and automatisms he might have in order to move on to a new level in his evolution atLudia. His job is one of those amazing “passion-job”, with so many opportunities to grow, and this is what keeps him wanting to do things and be involved in everything. But he is questioning himself and slowly understanding that it is no longer possible, at his level, to manage everything. His responsibilities are changing and evolving, and he is no longer expected to do what he did a few years ago.

With his teams, he digs deeper and asks questions that are sometimes extremely detailed to push them to go further, to better express their ideas, and to go into as much detail as possible, to dissect the elements in order to achieve a mastery of the issues so as to be able to make the most informed decisions possible. This attention to detail, this way of pushing them to understand a subject completely and then being able to share their knowledge, is his way of helping them to surpass themselves. Today, he wants to keep evolving on how to better manage his teams, how to give them what they need to evolve, to grow, to become the best versions of themselves to be able to be as autonomous. With this in mind, to support the teams and help him in management, concrete decisions have already begun to be taken, including the creation of two new key structuring roles for Ludia: Head of Operations and Head of Creation. This whole process is undoubtedly one of the biggest projects he has undertaken. Because: “a project, you do it with people. Like on a boat, you can be the one at the helm, make decisions, listen to the wind and the sea, but you are sailing with people. It is the perfect balance between autonomy, knowing your role in the group and knowing how to do your part efficiently, and the coordination of the whole crew working towards the same goal to reach the same destination that allows you to reach it successfully. If you don’t listen to your people if you don’t give them the key elements to carry out their tasks autonomously, a vision of the impact they have on the whole team, and a clear common destination, there is a big risk that you will never reach your destination, or that when you have to change direction, your people will fall overboard or your boat will end up sinking.”  

The important thing for him now is to build things on the notion of infinite, leave a legacy and see his people thrive.

“The day I leave, the studio will continue to grow and I want to be proud to have been part of it and to have set the right course for them to get there. The idea is to create an infinite company, beyond yourself, to prepare it and give it the automatisms needed so that it can grow on its own. It has to stand the test of time. It is with this same perspective that we create our games too so that they endure so that they stand the test of time. ”  

Permanent learning and continuous evolution

Throughout his 12 years at Ludia, Frédéric kept one of its most representative characteristics : his thirst for knowledge. The evolution of the studio, of the games, but also of his own role have required adaptations, learning, and questioning. And beyond that, Frédéric remains deeply passionate about all the new developments in this industry. This openness to others, this willingness to share with his teammates at Ludia but also his external contacts or his participation in round tables, and this vibrant curiosity, which is still very strong today, are part of his DNA. He is so anchored at Ludia because all these values are part of the foundations of the studio. Thanks to that, he continues to develop, learn and share his knowledge to take the studio and its teams always further. 

To continue to grow and evolve, change and constant movement are necessary. When asked “is it comfortable?” He naturally replies :

“In the evening you’re exhausted, sometimes you think you haven’t made enough progress that you’ve had to deal with too many unforeseen events, but then you step back and look at the positive and everything you’ve actually done. It’s important to force yourself to be aware of how far you’ve come and not just how far you have to go. So is it comfortable? No, it’s never comfortable, but it’s so exciting and motivating! ” 

How video games made a mark on the lives of 3 of our ludians

It’s International Video Game Day! As you can imagine, at Ludia we have a special attachment to games. They are an integral part of our Ludians’ lives!

Today we’re sharing with you 3 great stories about how video games made a mark on some of our Ludians…

Father and Son: A Drawing and the Birth of a New Game – By Eddy Léja-Six, Lead Game Designer

In 2017, my son Elric drew this when he was 6 years old:

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At that time, he only played small 2D platform games. He was already curious about my job as a Game Designer, and he was very motivated to invent his own game (he still is!).

I asked him questions about his game to understand how it was supposed to work. Then one Saturday morning, while he was playing with his sister, I scanned his drawing, turned it into sprites and created a very small prototype of his game.

Then I placed his drawing on my laptop screen, called him, and removed the drawing revealing  the game. It took him a few seconds to realize that it was really playable. 

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The same day, he was unable to finish the game.

But 2 years later, he asked me to play it again, and he succeeded! The screen at the end of the game was very poor, it was just a text displayed in the middle of the screen, but he was glad he succeeded. And I was delighted that 2 years later he still remembers it.

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An Encounter That Changed Everything – Claudie Léger, Graphic Designer 

In 2009, I was playing Diablo2, when I got into a Chaos run with my necromancer. I wrote in French on the chat and another Quebecer answered me. In the past it was quite rare to find another person speaking French in a game. I told him I was a girl, he didn’t believe me, so we exchanged our MSN to talk to each other. After a year of virtual friendship, we decided to meet at the Longueuil metro station and that was the beginning of our love story that has been going on now for 10 years!  

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The First Steps – Olivier Rayé-Lalonde, Game Designer

When I was little, I played Doom with a friend in a hot seat.

The first time we met a Pink Demon, we let out a high-pitched scream as we backed away from the computer screen! My father knew at the time that video games were visceral and immersive for me. Going from the SNES to N64 with the same use of the computer, I knew pretty quickly that I was hooked. Very young, in the 90’s, I started doing amateur level design. I thought it was crazy that games provide us with free editors to make maps in their machines.

So I had fun making maps for strategy games such as Age of Empires and Starcraft, but also for the first person shooters of the second generation: my favorite being Worldcraft from the original Half-Life. Some of my levels were part of additions to the game, commonly called “mods” (for modification). I played and modded a lot one of the first shooter coop games I knew at the time, I named Sven Coop. As a gamer, I was involved in the development of the Valve Source engine, particularly enjoying the Half-Life (then Half Life 2) mods such as Team Fortress Classic, Counter Strike (which was just a mod at the time!), The Specialists and The Hidden. 

This passion and talent acquired during my early years allowed me to access the Game Level Design program at the ADN Campus in the 2000s, and then land a series of jobs in level design!