fbpx

What is Video Game Art

The word game art is synonymous to video game art since majority of the gamers in the world are adopted to the video game medium unless explicitly stated otherwise (i.e tabletop game art)

In the video game industry, game art is standard umbrella term used to categorize the disciplines that are responsible for creating visual elements that make up video games including all of the characters, objects, menus, user interfaces, environments, animations, effects, lighting, and so on.

The skills and disciplines of the video game artist profession in the industry are constantly evolving with technological advancements in

  • Software
  • Tools
  • Techniques

These two complimentary professions work side-by-side to produce a game.

Game design disciplines focus on the content and mechanics of a game.

Game art disciplines focus on the models and textures that bring it to life.

Art is absolutely vital to communicating the game’s design and the game’s design is vital to inspiring its art.

However, each is distinctive and unique in its tools and skillset.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at the different roles that exist in game art.

Game art is the aspect of game development process that blends creativity and technical expertise to create the visual design and aesthetics in a game.

image15

In order to create a contextual in-sync, visually stunning and immersive experiences for the players, game artists work inter-dependently with other game development disciplines such as

  • Game writing
  • Narrative design
  • Level design
  • Mechanics design
  • etc.

To be more specific, game artists are responsible for various function such as

  • Visualizing characters, worlds, and fantasies through concept art.
    • Digital creation
    • Hand drawn or paint
  • Creating realistic and interactive environments that players can explore through
    • 3D modeling
    • Texturing
    • VFX
    • Lighting.
  • Helping players navigate the game such as HUDs and icons
    • UI design
    • Iconography

Next is a further breakdown of all the different types of game artists. 👇

Certainly! A video game artist is responsible for creating the visual elements of a video game, including characters, environments, objects, and effects.

The primary role of a video game artist is to use their artistic skills and technical knowledge to bring the game world to life and create an immersive and engaging experience for players.

In addition to these technical tasks, here are the soft skills competent video game artists should also have:

  • Collaborate effectively with other team members in the development process
  • Stay up-to-date with and adapts to industry trends and emerging technologies

To ensure that the game’s visual elements are cohesive and aligned with the overall vision for the game collaborates closely with:

  • Game designers
  • Programmers
  • Other artists

The specific tasks of a video game artist may vary depending on their area of specialization, but generally, they are responsible for the following:

  • Concept Art
  • 3D Modeling
  • Texturing
  • Rigging and Animation
  • Visual Effects
  • User Interface Design
  • Etc.

Below is a full break down on all the different types of video game artists:

When people imagine the game art role, they might picture someone working on a single object in-game, developing it from a concept into a final asset for the game.

However, the reality is that game artists usually work in a specific role, like creating concept character designs. And within these roles, artists might only work on a specific set of things.

For example: You might be an environment artist (who produces artwork for the surrounding game world) or a character artist (who designs the people that inhabit the game world).

Game art used to be required to take on a more generalized position, contributing to several of these roles. But, nowadays the field is becoming more specialized, with artists focusing on more specific parts of a game’s artwork.

With that out of the way, here are the main art roles you could expect at a game studio:

Concept Art:

This discipline is responsible for creating preliminary sketches for all the assets that make up a game.

image2
(Credit: Bryan Sola)

Concept art acts as a guide for the rest of the game development. 

The goal of concept art is to enable 3D artists to convert a concept into the final in-game form. 

Main skills needed:

  • Highly experienced  traditional fine art techniques
  • Prowess with digital art software.

Concept artists interact with designers in the best studios I’ve worked at, iterating quickly on shape silhouettes and exploring different ideas for key character traits to inspire or inform the design mechanics.

3D Modeling:

This discipline constructs computer-generated 3D visual game assets based on the concept art.

image14
(Credit: Rafał Urbański)

This includes creating the characters and animals, buildings and locations, and the polished 3D art for the game. 

3D Modeling responsibilities:

  • The location of important aspects of the game.
  • Collision boundaries.
  • Line of sight.
  • Reinforcement of the game’s fantasy.
  • The needs of level and game designers.

Main skills needed:

  • Must be able to use 3D graphic content generation software.
  • May be required to texture their models as well.

2D and 3D Animation:

This discipline brings life to the moving creatures and objects in the game. 

They use techniques like keyframe animation or motion capture to make things move. 

Main skills needed:

  • Experience with keyframe animation or motion capture.
  • Ability to develop cinematics and rigging  (creating the digital “bone structure” that defines a model’s movement in game).

2D and 3D Animators work with game designers to ensure the timing of animations, attacks and the position of weapons for the placement of offensive damage zones, known as hurt-boxes or attack boxes, are placed. 

In addition, animators help convey when an animation is complete and where players can resume movement, so the game looks and feels natural and intuitive.

Texture Art:

These game discipline create or manipulate images to give textures to objects in game.

image12
(Credit: Greg Zdunek)

Textures are images that define color information, surface detail, and light information within a computer-generated world.

Think about the textural difference between silk and leather – texture artists work to create this visual effect in-game.

Main skills needed:

  • Familiarity with Substance Painter
  • High-level experience in digitally modeling software.

Texturing often involves taking the model into a 3d painting program, and painting additional details and depth into the texturing. Working with Substance Painter, or node-based procedural tools like Substance Designer, Texture artists now must work in PBR, so they have to author metallic, roughness, AO, masks, and glow maps. 

Technical Art:

Using both artistic and coding skills, the discipline of technical art integrates the visual content into the game by connecting the assets to the game engine or rigging them to bones for use in animation.

They do this by designing and importing graphic elements and developing systems for other artists to use.

If you’re interested in what a technical artist does, check out our podcast with my colleague Paul Forest above (a technical artist who worked on World of Warcraft).

Visual Effects (VFX) Art:

This discipline creates animations for things that aren’t characters or objects.

VFX Art responsibilities:

  • Explosions
  • Powers 
  • Water dynamics
  • Weather dynamics and changes
  • And everything in between

Main skills needed:

  • A high-level understanding of how elements like water and dust behave in different conditions. 
  • Expertise with key software.

Visual effects artists and game designers work together to clearly communicate WHEN and WHERE attacks land, in addition to communicating consistent visual styles for different types of damage.

Lighting: 

Using light, color, and shadow, lighting is the game art discipline of creating dynamic experiences for players.

image4
(Credit: Jen Delle Monache)

For example, responsibilities might include create the glow and lens flare associated with a man-made light in the game. Also work with game designers to optimize the lighting pipeline so that the game can run smoothly.

Main skill(s) needed: Trained and experienced in visual lighting softwares

Lighting artists support the efforts of level designers to help draw players into the right locations and ensure they notice the most important landmarks.

If you’ve ever entered a cave because there was a torch next to the entrance, you’ve seen the impact of a lighting artist at work.

User interface (UI) & user experience (UX) art:

These disciplines are responsible for determining the layout, content, navigation, and usability features in the game’s interface.

image8 e1664908977537

Their job is to produce a UI that is visually pleasing and intuitive so that players can navigate the interfaces with ease.

Main skills needed:

  • An experienced understand of a user’s needs and general reflexes
  • An overall knowledge of animation and motion software.

UI/UX work is so close to game design many people often confuse the two. At the heart though, UI focused on presentation, while UX thinks about how the user gets the job done.

Game Designers work carefully with both to ensure the game and its controls are well taught and the most essential features the most accessible and useful.

Art Direction (leadership):

Game art directors communicate and oversee the artistic vision of the game.

They are responsible for managing the team of artists and animators, ensuring that all assets work as a cohesive whole.

Main skills needed:

  • A firm understanding of all the art fields they oversee.
  • Experience organizing, managing and leading a large team of different types of artists.

Art directors work with the game director to ensure the art is reinforcing the core pillars, themes and identity of the gameplay through its style and assets.

1 min

Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive. A role’s description can differ drastically depending on the size and type of game studio you work for.

Learning game art is a the quest to acquire a combination set of artistic and technical skills to create visually stunning visuals that can bring the game world to life.

Artistic skills: Learning the fundamentals of art, such as

  • drawing
  • color theory
  • composition
  • perspective

Technical skills: Game art requires knowledge of 2D and 3D software, such as

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Maya
  • Blender

Game art styles: Study the game art styles of your favorite games and analyze how they use colors, shapes, and lighting to create a cohesive look and feel.

Game art learning tips:

  • Treat it like learning a skill. Set aside time each day to work on your art skills, experiment with different techniques, and create your own style.
  • Start with the basics, and gradually work your way up to more advanced techniques.
  • Create a portfolio that demonstrates your artistic abilities and includes examples of your game art work including potential employers or clients.
  • Create fan art, especially for the games from the studio you want to work for. They’re looking to hire people who can execute in their context and fan art perfectly showcases that.
  • Joining game art communities (I.e forums, Discord) to connect with other game artists and get feedback on your work.
  • Learn through online courses, tutorials, or by experimenting on your own.

The Funsmith Tavern

Weekly Game Design Newsletter

Level-up your game design knowledge, skills, career, and network

Each Friday, get a shot of 2-min TL:DR update in your inbox on the latest

All tactics. No fluff. Pro advice only. Unsubscribe any time

Get Exclusive Game Design Tips that I Share Only with Funsmith Tavern Subscribers

Weekly Game Design Newsletter

Level-up your game design knowledge, skills, career, and network

Each Friday, get a shot of 2-min TL:DR update in your inbox on the latest

If somehow it turns out this isn’t for you, unsubscribe any time.

EXPERIENCE & BACKGROUND:

[STUDIO] Blizzard Entertainment: Content, mechanics, and systems designer

(Creator of Apex Legends & former Creative Director at Respawn)

[GAME] World of Warcraft: MMORPG with 8.5 million average monthly players, won Gamer’s Choice Award – Fan Favorite MMORPG, VGX Award for Best PC Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Video Game.

  • Classic:
    • Designed Cosmos UI
    • Designed part of Raid Team for Naxxramas
  • Burning Crusade:
    • Designed the raid bosses Karazhan, Black Temple, Zul’Aman
    • Designed the Outlands content
    • Designed The Underbog including bosses:
      • Hungarfen, Ghaz’an, Swamplord Musel’ik, and The Black Stalker
    • Designed the Hellfire Ramparts final bosses Nazan & Vazruden
    • Designed the Return to Karazhan bosses: Attumen the Huntsman, Big Bad Wolf, Shades of Aran, Netherspite, Nightbane
  • Wrath of the Lich King:
    • Designed quest content, events and PvP areas of Wintergrasp
    • Designed Vehicle system
    • Designed the Death Knight talent trees
    • Designed the Lord Marrowgar raid
  • Cataclysm:
    • Designed quest content
    • Designed Deathwing Overworld encounters
    • Designed Morchok and Rhyolith raid fights
  • Mists of Pandaria: 
    • Overhauled the entire Warlock class – Best player rated version through all expansion packs
    • Designed pet battle combat engine and scripted client scene

[GAME] StarCraft 2: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Diablo 3: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Overwatch: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Hearthstone: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[STUDIO] Riot Games: Systems designer, in-studio game design instructor

(Former Global Communications Lead for League of Legends)
(Former Technical Game Designer at Riot Games)

[GAME] League of Legends: Team-based strategy MOBA with 152 million average active monthly players, won The Game Award for Best Esports Game and BAFTA Best Persistent Game Award.

  • Redesigned Xerath Champion by interfacing with community
  • Reworked the support income system for season 4
  • Redesigned the Ward system
  • Assisted in development of new trinket system
  • Heavily expanded internal tools and features for design team
  • Improved UI indicators to improve clarity of allied behaviour

[OTHER GAMES] Under NDA: Developed multiple unreleased projects in R&D

Game Design Instructor: Coached and mentored associate designers on gameplay and mechanics

[STUDIO] Moon Studios: Senior game designer

(Former Lead Game Designer at Moon Studios)

[GAME] Ori & The Will of The Wisps: 2m total players (423k people finished it) with average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites (including Steam and Nintendo Switch).

  • Designed the weapon and Shard systems
  • Worked on combat balance
  • Designed most of the User Interface

[GAME] Unreleased RPG project

  • Designed core combat
  • High-level design content planning
  • Game systems design
  • Game design documentation
  • Gameplay systems engineering
  • Tools design
  • Photon Quantum implementation of gameplay

[VC FUNDED STARTUP] SnackPass: Social food ordering platform with 500k active users $400m+ valuation

[PROJECT] Tochi: Creative director (hybrid of game design, production and leading the product team)

  • Lead artists, engineers, and animators on the release the gamification system to incentivize long-term customers with social bonds and a shared experience through the app

[CONSULTING] Atomech: Founder / Game Design Consultant

[STUDIOS] Studio Pixanoh + 13 other indie game studios (under NDA):

  • Helped build, train and establish the design teams
  • Established unique combat niche and overall design philosophy
  • Tracked quality, consistency and feedback methods
  • Established company meeting structure and culture

Game Design Keynotes:

(Former Global Head of HR for Wargaming and Riot Games)
  • Tencent Studio
  • Wargaming
  • USC (University of Southern California)
  • RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • US AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)
  • UFIEA (University of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
  • West Gaming Foundation
  • Kyoto Computer Gakuin – Kyoto, Japan