Game art style development

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In 2020 realistic game art style can impress no one. Yes, you can mistake screenshots from Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront with real photos. But it’s hard to mistake this games with each other because of unique art style.

RDR2, TLOU2 and STBF characters

We will tell you about development of game art style: how it’s done, which tricks we use and how art style affects the games profitability.

Art style — the most important part of a game

Game art style connects everything the player sees on screen: characters, surroundings, animations, interface and menus. All of the elements must be connected through visual style so the player can recognize the game from one screenshot. Notice the difference between Diablo (left) and Torchlight (right). Both are hack’n’slash games, but the visuals appeal to different audiences.

Diablo and Torchlight game art style differences

Big game studios spends on graphics and visuals more resources than on any other aspect of game. For example, there were 128 graphic artists and only 32 programmers working on the last God of War game. That’s the way to develop a game of a year or just a game which can get in TOP 10 of App Store.

Art style completes the games story and influences the atmosphere. It helps the player to navigate in the world, it gives gameplay hints and encourages exploring. Good game art style is the key to the heart of the player. And to his wallet too.

Game art style developing starts from a concept document

A concept document describes all the gameplay mechanics and the setting of game. The art style development is based on a finished concept and not the other way around. The main task of concept artist is to catch the mood of world and characters and display it on paper.

Concept art style

The concept-artists decide which of main art styles they will use:

  • abstract — there are no objects from real world, suitable for games like 2048 or Tetris;
  • stylization – the objects look familiar but still are out of this world, like in Crossy Road or Little Big Planet;
  • stylized realism — the objects do look like real ones, but with strange proportions or colors. Fortnite is a good example;
  • realism — as realistic as possible, but the game may contain zombies and magic, like in Resident Evil.

While the artist is working on concept art he can draw what he wants to generate ideas. The best ideas can affect the whole game art style.

Examples of games affected by one piece of concept art:

  • Blasphemous — the developers came up with 2D souls-like game and the spanish concept artist created pixel-art version of a few famous medieval paintings. The developers used his art style for a whole game;
  • Portal — the concept artist tried to explain how main character of the game can jump higher than a regular human. He came up with prosthesis legs and the developers used this to explain why it does not hurt to fall from 20 meters heights;
  • Flappy Bird — the developer saw a sketch of the “wackiest bird in a world” and made a game about it.
  • Super Toss the Turtle — the developers were inspired by famous artist and animator who creates cartoonish violence. And they hired him to draw some cute creature which they can shoot and blow up in game;

Super Toss The Turtle game art style

Sometimes it may be possible to create a whole game based on concept art. One of the Rovio Studios artists have drawn the Red Bird concept. And other developers came up with story about Bad Pigs, stolen eggs and giant slingshot.

The best concept art pieces create a style

Good concept art will help us with drawing style, character proportions and clothing style, overall design and color palette. When there will be enough concepts to describe a visual style, other artists can expand the style on every part of the game.

Main character design

Aesthetics of visual style

The unified art style is needed so the players will see a game as a solid product. Gamers would not appreciate the shiny pink unicorn in a grimdark game about zombies. Most of developers don’t do such mistakes, but can slightly depart from own style and disappoint the gamers. Look at the screenshot below. This is a mistake of mixing visual styles.

Mistake in game design

For example, by the Angry Birds development Rovio draw birds based on simple shapes: circles, triangles and squares. Those birds were easy to remember and differ from each other. But in Angry Birds Rio the developers added stylized blue birds. The players weren’t happy about that and Rio failed to make money.

A second example — Devil May Cry 5. The first few levels had beautiful art design, but starting from middle of the game the levels become generic and boring. Some statistics: 80% of players finished the last beatiful level, but only 49% completed the game and still blamed developers for poor art design.

DMC 5 art style

Functionality of visual style

Visual design of characters, objects and surroundings must speak for themselves. The red potions heals player, the green puddle may be poisonous and the biggest enemy hits the hardest. Developers use cliches like these in almost every game because they make it easier for player to adapt to a new game.

Functionality of style also affects the game atmosphere. For example, the villain must look evil, and the dangerous way — dangerous. The characters and enemies must be easy to spot on background and the player must be able to tell the use of an item just by its looks. To achieve this effect the artists use hypertrophy, so the player can read the story only from what he sees.

Different characters game art style

Here are some rules of style functionality:

  • any interactive object must be bright and differ from world scenery;
  • the art style must reflect the properties of an object;
  • the objects player often sees must be the most detailed;
  • the artists must stylize all objects till they look natural in the game world.

You can easy check functionality using a simple test: convert a sketch into a silhouette. If it’s still recognizable — the artist did a good job. If it’s not — it is better to redraw the thing.

Various caharacters silhouettes

How art style affects the sales

In 2017 the KEO company did a research and found out that the main selling point of indie and mobile games is art style. Even the AAA games can fail if their style is not good enough. And they were not talking about graphics: Nintendo fans still love cartoonish and simple Mario games.

If you want to develop a game in a genre with high competition we recommend you to focus on art. This way you can attract many gamers who want to play the good looking game and not just a good game.

Cute little monster visual design

Modern gamers find about new games on Youtube and Twitch. If the game is eye catching — they will buy it.

Hire us to create a unique game art style

Good graphics is not about polygons and shaders, but about overall style and character and world design. It is way easier to promote and sell a game if it looks good.

To create catchy visual style for game you will need a lot of people: concept-artists, artists, animators, specialists in character and surroundings creation, 3D modellers and special effects makers. It costs much to have own art department, so most developers hire freelancers or outsource the process.

We have all people you need to make a game art style. And we will help you at any step of developing: from writing concept document to drawing skins for a ingame shop.

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