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Why Concept Art is Essential for Award-Winning Games

Creating concept art for a game design is the crucial first step in developing video games. For many developers, this is the initial push which jumpstarts the process of creating a game. In fact, without a good concept art, game designs may feel unpolished and directionless.

But what is concept art and what is its role in game development?

In this article, we discuss the invaluable contribution of concept art to open world game design and find out why it is an important part of video game development.

What is Concept Art?

Concept art is a form of visual art that serves as the basis of an idea. In game design and development, it plays the important role of setting the tone and style of the visual aspect of the game. Think of it as a foundation for the project–without a proper concept art, certain elements such as the video game character design becomes more difficult.

Since games are a highly visual medium, art is a staple in the gaming industry. This is why concept art is often confused with promotional art. The biggest difference between the two is the final output. Concept art is usually a rough sketch with details that will most likely go through multiple revisions. While concept art leaks are quite normal, it is never guaranteed to look the exact same way when the game is released. On the other hand, promotional art is usually official art that can be seen in the developed game.

In terms of game design, concept art is the blueprint. Before any of the 2D or 3D modeling for games start, many artists and programmers will refer to this blueprint to keep their work in check. 

backview of a woman playing online game on computer

The Importance of Concept Art

It’s easy to say that anything can serve as an inspiration for a game. Using that logic, it can also be argued that concept art isn’t essential. But speak to any insider in the gaming industry and you’ll find that they will vouch for the importance of concept art.

Aside from acting as a baseline, concept art allows developers to zoom in and streamline their games. It also allows players, especially test players, to better understand the world within the game. Simply speaking, concept art acts as an anchor for game design.

Some of the reasons why the role of concept art in game development include:

  1. Player Understanding: Good concept art allows players to easily understand the environment within the game.
  2. Character Development: Remember how a picture can say a thousand words? Well, that is certainly the case for character concept art. Good concept art will show the character’s personality, capabilities, and even a hint of their backstory.
  3. Reduced Game Development Errors: Game design becomes much easier with a clear concept art as it tells artists and developers what they want. This lessens incompatibility between gameplay, aesthetics, and objectives.
  4. Aesthetic Guidelines: Concept art lays the foundation for the mood and tone of the game, which makes further development much easier.
  5. Artistic Value: Beyond its technical attributes, concept art can be simply stunning. 
female game designer working on a game in the office

How to Use Concept Art in Game Design

Concept art serves as a baseline for the entire game design, so it’s no surprise that a single project will have multiple sketches and pieces.

The power and importance of concept art is especially felt in games with rich lore and gameplay. With the help of incredible artists, the abstract ideas of a game become tangible and understandable with clever concept art. From there, it becomes easier to design video game environments and characters with direction and clarity.

Digital paintings are the most common media for concept art and for good reason. Among the many media forms available, a digital painting allows for greater flexibility and detail. It’s also less restrictive than traditional pen and paper. Digital paintings also become incredible promotional art or additional content, which is a common occurrence for stunning concept art.

Since concept art is an indispensable part of game design, many studios spend time and resources in its creation. The option to outsource 2D game art is also quite common, especially for game houses that do not have their own artists. Considering the large role of concept art in game development, hiring professionals to create the various types of art needed is definitely a step in the right direction.

Types of Concept Art in Game Development

Every game has a variety of visual aspects that need to be considered. As such, there are many types of concept art needed when a game is in development. Similarly, concept artists each have their own specialization–whether it be environment, props, or character design.

If you’re trying to familiarize yourself with the various types of concept art used, then here is a brief rundown of the common types in the gaming industry:

sketch of robot main character for a game

Character Art

Character design helps progress the narrative of a game. Whether you’re creating a hero, a villain, or an anti-hero in between, impressive design is important to flesh out a character. This is where concept art enters.

Concept art shows artists the initial visualization of a character. Personality, background, capabilities–all these can be featured in a character’s initial art and further incorporated into further iterations. Character concept art is often included in promotional materials and background featurettes because of the impressive insights they bring.

Environment Art

Terrain, buildings, and even weather–all these things make up the atmosphere of the world in your game. This is why it is important to ensure that your world is cohesive and seamless. Environment or landscape concept art helps with this as it gives the developers a path to follow.

An important thing to remember about this type of concept art is that it won’t always be the same. Over the course of many revisions, the initial environment concept art will change and the final result will be the one players see in-game. Concept artists start this process by developing the mood and visuals of the world. Sunny, rainy, futuristic, medieval–whatever the setting of your game is, concept artists breathe life into it with their work.

Screen of a 3d game work in progress

Prop Design

A world is more than just its main setting or characters. As the adage goes, the devil is in the details–and this is most certainly the case when it comes to prop design and concept art. If you’ve ever marveled at the brilliant details of a game, then you have to thank the concept artists for such incredible work.

Prop concept art works on the design of the minute details. Weapons, vehicles, furniture, and even food are just some of the things prop design focuses on. These small details are subtle, yet they take any game to the next level.

Important Tips for Concept Art in Game Design

Concept art isn’t an easy thing to create. It requires a subtle balance between strategy and style. Of course, learning how to create concept art in relation to game development is an art in itself. Thankfully, professionals in the industry have set up key considerations when it comes to concept art creation.

Here are some tips to remember when working on concept art:

man playing a game using vr

Keep it simple

The point of concept art is to have a basis and foundation for your game visuals. Since you’re setting up a foundation, you don’t have to put all the details. In fact, a simple sketch can be a great concept art as long as it captures the mood, tone, and essence you want to communicate.

Think visuals

Concept art is meant to be a guideline for the visual aspects of a game. Color palette, mood, tone, and general aesthetic should be something you add when creating a concept piece. This means letting loose while making sure that your message is clearly seen.

racing car game with neon lights

Use light and color

Lighting and color play a huge role in setting the scene. Since you’ll be creating your world’s visual atmosphere, it’s important to incorporate the correct shades and hues in your concept art. Vibrant colors tend to add energy, while bolder and darker shades are perfect for a gritty feel. Take your pick among the many colors available and enjoy creating your own world.

Play with depth and textures

Concept art is supposed to be simple, but that doesn’t mean that it’s flat or boring. Even a simple sketch will easily be elevated with shadows, depth, and textures. It doesn’t even have to be extremely detailed! Markings, a few simple illustrations, and lines are more than enough to create the subtle details that will liven up your concept art. Adding depth and textures also makes 3D modeling for games a bit easier in the long run as artists have a clearer foundation to follow.

Enhance Your Game Development Processes with Stunning Concept Art

Award-winning games don’t just suddenly get made. For the most part, games are developed over a long time. That process starts with concept art–an integral part of game design.

Level up your game design and make the first step of your process truly indispensable with stunning concept art from our experts here at NarraSoft.