Creative Chronicles: Art
11 September 2017
Creative Chronicles brings together key insights, information and statistics from the experts at Creative Assembly. We hope this will inspire students and those considering a career in games development.
This edition of Creative Chronicles focuses on Art.
Artists, whether Environment or 3D modellers, bring the game to life. The quality of the visuals is key to achieving the immersive, deep experiences that games offer.
In fact, art usually makes up around 40-50% of the resources and costs involved in creating a high-quality game. For AAA games development, the art team likely consists of over ten different disciplines, and within these disciplines there are more specialisms.
With such a high-demand for talented artists in the UK, it is increasingly important that the games industry works with educational establishments to raise awareness of the breadth of opportunities and skills required in game art.
Environment Artists are responsible for realising the environment, the locations in which our games unfold. Their focus and specialism can vary from organic terrain to hard-surface modelling and architecture. They are responsible for large brush strokes as well as the detail – the props, dressing and composition. A key consideration is in-game rendering and an understanding of the engine's capabilities is required.
Using in-depth understanding of human and animal anatomy, Character Artists sculpt and model characters/creatures for in-game use. They have a firm understanding of game asset topology, efficient UV wrapping and texture creation skills. The Character Artist is responsible for all stages of the asset production pipeline, from blocking out to the final product.
Responsible for the representation of movement and behaviour in the game environment, including various elements from characters, creatures, machinery to facial animation. Animators may use various techniques from handcrafting animations from scratch to all aspects of motion capture (performing, directing and editing), all to create extensive animation libraries.
UI and UX
Working in collaboration with design and code, UI artists apply their key skills in graphic design, typography, motion graphics, and UX to create user interfaces which bridge the gap between the player and our game worlds.
Concept Art focuses on the visual communication of ideas with a view to informing production artwork across all disciplines. While generally focusing on specific assets, they also create previsualisation of larger bodies of content which illustrate the ‘bigger picture’ and provide imagery for the team. Concept Artists require a deep understanding of visual design, form and function along with the technical ability to render their ideas through an array of techniques or approaches.
Technical Art, Animation and Rigging
Technical Artists and Animators are the problem solvers between artists and programmers. They translate artists’ requests into technical solutions and ensure that they are implemented correctly in game, also researching new techniques and graphics technology to improve visual quality. Riggers support the animators by creating the underlying skeletons for assets.
VFX Artists use expert knowledge to add atmosphere and visual effects like fire and smoke to gameplay. Areas of work can include particle systems, lighting, shaders, scripting and post processing. Very fast iteration loops allow a great amount of experimentation and technical understanding, an artistic eye and great animation timing is required to create real-time effects in both in-game and cinematics, with the end-player experience always in mind.
These technicians oversee all aspects of Motion Capture inc. camera calibration, actor setup, data capture, data cleaning and exporting, while also researching and implementing new technologies as required such as VR possibilities, Facial Capture and Virtual Cameras. They will support Animators in directing shoots, using their expert knowledge to advise on movements and working with talent to create the best base for animations.
With an eye for scene composition, cinema and storytelling, Cinematic Artists create stunning real-time cinematics for in-game, trailers and motion graphics using our in-house game engine and tools. They may write, plan and implement in-game cut-scenes, oversee motion capture shoots, create scripts and storyboards, direct VO recording sessions, film, direct and edit for video.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR ART
Currently there are almost 2 million people employed in the UK creative industries, over 76,000 of these are artists. Yet 14,000 fewer students took a UK creative art and design course in 2017 and there is a clear drop off between GCSE and degree level. There is also a skills gap between education and industry, highlighting a need to increase industry involvement in curriculum to ensure graduates are leaving education ‘industry-ready’.
Artists are highly sought after and this is particularly true in specialisms like UI art and Technical. Students are often not made aware of these opportunities and most leave the education system with the intention of pursuing a career in concept art. In fact, around 50% of the students we see at UK events present portfolios of concept art. This has led to strong competition for concept art positions and made other art disciplines increasingly difficult to recruit for.
We also regularly see a lack of understanding of the game art disciplines. It is important that artists understand the difference between these disciplines, focus their efforts early and define their style. For example, we often see students who say they are 'Character Artists' when they are in fact presenting a portfolio of character concepts.
In a portfolio, an artist should show a polished level of execution in their specialism alongside an understanding of the wider production line. Games are an interactive experience and an artist needs to present in a way that is understandable for 3D as well as 2D.