It’s week 4 now and we’re well on our way. We got a look at our incubees’ progress and everyone has really solidified their ideas! We’re deep into construction at this point: with a lot of the framework locked down it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at our building blocks. Let’s make some art, with the help of Naomi Savoie, concept artist at Ubisoft!
Progress Check In – Don’t Panic!
By now, you should have a pretty basic prototype of your game’s core concepts working. If you’re still having trouble with your prototype consider taking an hour’s break to switch gears and do something fun! If after another round of “programming” your prototype is still far away from being complete it’s time to consider several options:
- Break down the area you’re stuck on into a series of baby steps.
- Simplify. It’s easy to get excited about your game and try to do too much. Remember, that six weeks isn’t a long time. In order to scale back, you should list the most important verbs/actions of your game. Decide whether each is really necessary for your game and do the most, important ones first. Prioritize. Place the secondary actions as stretch goals. You can always get to them later!
- Switch game tools, if needed. Are you trying to learn programming (say in Unity) AND how-to-make your game? Try switching to a more visual-based tool. You’ll save a lot of headaches, plus, you can always come back and re-make your game with Unity later. There’s no shame in making your life easier.
- Go ahead. Copy and paste that piece of code ;)
Concept Art Basics
As your own game has now taken shape, you can refine it further by forming all it’s aesthetic needs. Naomi took the stage this week to talk to us about her work as a concept artist at Ubisoft, working on titles like Far Cry: Primal! She took us through the ins and outs between working on a really big team and balancing it with personal work. Concept artists have a lot of influence, being one of the first roles to really chip at a game creatively, in tandem with art directors and game designers. The look of a game changes not only the mood and immersion, but is also visually represents what you’re meant to do in gameplay.
Some advice from Naomi about getting into professional concept art:
- Just draw a lot, and consistently. Get lots of practice in and set challenges for yourself for specific places to improve, if you are looking for projects.
- Draw things that you’re passionate about! It seems obvious, but sometimes you might feel pressure to do specific types of things thinking that it’ll get you ‘the job’. However your best work will come out of things you’re genuinely excited about and ultimately that’s what it’s about: great work. HR departments will see that.
- About portfolios: if you do the first two points, you’ll have plenty of material to choose from when putting together packages for different companies.
- When interviewing for the job, sometimes you don’t know which game/property they are looking to hire you on. If you get a clue about it though, don’t be afraid to step up and supplement your original portfolio with pieces that are more relevant! Don’t be afraid to say “Hey, I definitely have work that suits this kind of project” and follow up with your recruiters by email. Be confident!
- The artwork that you will create as a concept artist will be beholden to many people within the team. You’ll get plenty of critiques, and it’s a long process of iteration. You are part of this process though, and don’t be shy to also fight for the changes and look that you want.
- At some point, you have to be cruel and maybe “kill your babies”. Occasionally artwork that you worked very hard on sometimes doesn’t make it into the game, and you have to be prepared to let it go. It’s not lost forever — the skills you learned remain with you and perhaps you will revisit it in future projects. Edits need to happen and it’s ok!
If you’re looking to make your own art, graphics tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, or even one solely for pixel art (see below) can come in handy. If you’re inexperienced with pixel art, while it looks simple pixel art does take a long time and requires a lot of patience. If you’re inexperienced with art altogether there are lots of different options out there. You can choose to use free assets, use a stick figure or doodle art style, cut out photographs, or go with minimalist shapes to represent your game’s art.
Alternative Ways to Make Art:
- Stop motion
- Glitch Art
- String together YouTube clips
- Scrape Google Search to create auto-generated art
- Draw, color, watercolor, etc on paper then scan them in
- Use the laptop’s built-in camera then manipulate the video feed of the player with programming like a 1337 hax0r
Free Graphics Programs:
- Pixlr, online photo editor
- Pyxel Edit, pixel art and tileset creation tool,
- Tiled Map Editor, general purpose 2D tiled map editor
- ASEPRITE, animated sprite editor and pixel art tool
- Wings 3D, 3D modeler (no animation)
- Graphics Gale, tool for animation, spriting and pixel art
- Gimp, open source “photoshop-like” tool
Free Art Assets:
Sound is the key to immersion. It’s what the player listens to. It’s another way of giving the player feedback. If you’re ambitious, you’re probably hoping to sink your claws into sound design which can be an amazing experience! But plan your time wisely, it’s easy to get carried away with sounds of traffic, children at play, and splashes. If you haven’t got the time, there are lots of free sound assets out there for you to use!
General Tips on Sound:
- Keep in mind that the effectiveness of sound in games has slightly less to do with the type/style/quality of the sound, than with the timing of the sound. Instantaneous timing that creates the proper reactive signal to your player gives them the sensation that what they are doing is meaningful to the game. It matters less what the sound is, it matters more that the sound plays at the appropriate timing.
- Many free sounds have blank bits or silent lead-ups until the sound actually triggers. Use free programs (see list below) to cut them down, and maximize on that reactive timing.
- It is important during sound implementation that you are consistent, all across the board. If you implement a sound for one game enemy, but no sound for another, your player will feel like something is off or that they have broken something. Make your asset list and prioritize what feedback is most necessary.
- Consider programming functions in that control all your sounds. It will make it a lot easier if you want to edit and improve on them later — you can swap out one single line, rather than searching in your code for 40 different lines.
- Save sound implementation right until the end! Playtesting will reveal what and when those sounds are most needed. You can then add background music to emphasize the aesthetic you’ve already created. Plus when your code is more or less finished, adding a couple lines in for sound is a quick and satisfying task (but still… back up often).
Free Sound Tools:
- More assets over at PixelProspector
Sound Design Reading
- The Guide to Sound Effects
- Quick Tip: Make Retro, Low-Fi Game Sound Effects With Bfxr
- Sound Design Advice
- 5 Tips for Creating Sound Effects
- Game Audio: Getting In
- How to Break Into Game Audio
Creative Commons & Pre-made Assets
As seen in all the links, there’s a treasure trove out there of awesome stuff on the internet that you can put in your game. This brought up a lot of questions in our session about legal use of pre-made art assets, music, and sounds. For the most part, when creating your first (non-commercial!) game, it’s not a huge concern of big companies to come chase after you, as much of it falls into the category of fair use.
However, it’s always good practice to be mindful of proper crediting and attribution rules. Read up a bit on Creative Commons and how that works. Many free sprite and sound kits come with easy-to-follow instructions. If you’re not 100% sure about if it’s fair or not, you can always find alternate sources where it’s more clearly stated, or create all the assets yourself! There’s still plenty of time to revisit and swap out placeholders in your game.
We encourage you to go online to discuss at our Facebook Group, or Follow-Along Slack! Feel free to post anything — builds of your game, screenshots, problems, and triumphs. Show us your amazing art and sound skills!
As always there’s also face-to-face meetings, where we can help you through your specific issues in person, and play your game so far!! It’s starting to get tight for time, so let us know if we can bring out expert mentors of any kind.
When: Every Saturday from Jan 16th to Feb 20th, inclusive
Time: 2pm to 5pm. Bring a friend!
Where: Gameplay Space, 1435 Rue St Alexandre (Metro Place-des-Arts)
- Continue working on your game prototype! There’s only 2 more sessions left and it’s up to you to take the reins and develop your game further. Be realistic. Think about what can you do in the remaining time.
- Don’t be afraid to scrap your idea and start over, or even switch tools. It happens and you just may be happier with your second try. Don’t panic, it’s not too late, and the skills you’ve learned thus far and the efforts you’ve put in are still valuable, never wasted.
- Start adding in the artistic touches, swapping assets. It will be a good change in gears from programming and will motivate you to get back into it.
- Add at least one sound effect or background music to your game. (Even just to know how to do it later.)