During pre-production of a game there are numerous things that needs to be done in a very short span of time, one of those things is deciding an art style for the game. For this devblog I will be showing you some example of Styleguides, how they can be used during production and a quick overview of the process of working out a specific art style.
When starting up a new project putting together a cohesive look is one of the bigger challenges for the artists, and even if you decide to simply go for photo textures and realism as a style, there are many things to take into consideration. Realism in games can still be customized through post effects, such as Battlefields washed out colors and cold blue overlay. This post effect might seem simple, but it works well with the genre of the game, as well as making the game look more unique. In a business where many games compete for the same market, with gameplay closely resembling other popular products, the need to stand out in a crowd is essential. If a gamer can pick out your game just by a quick glance on a screenshot you´re doing it right!
The usage of Stylesheets
A Stylesheet, or style guide, is a document describing the graphical style in general of the game, but can also be excessively detailed and exhibit individual props contributing to the overall look. There are countless advantages of having a well put together Stylesheet, presenting the whole team with a visual tool what to strive for, to enhance the common vision of the final product and highlight possible problems in an early state of production. An example of an impeccable Stylesheet is the content put together for the game Ryse: son of Rome (which can be found here http://conceptartworld.com/?p=30510). In the picture below a scene from the game has been broken down into a number of concepts and reference pictures, with shorter texts describing the scene taking place in the game, as well as the specific color palette and visual elements to use.
The hardest, and at the same time easiest, part of putting together your Styleguide is the fact that there is no specific template to follow. In a team working close together where communication is no issue the Styleguide might consist of more art rather than text, and more of the “final” look of things, leaving out the descriptions of what brushes/patterns to use. To keep it simple, the Styleguide can look however you want it to, as long as it´s easy to review and follow by your team members.
Some Styleguides also have extremely detailed step by step directions on how to create the material for the final product, which can be crucial if you work with a larger team where the possibility of new members joining during the process is a possibility. If that´s the case said new member can take the first hours of working to read through the document and get some insight on the project quickly, instead of having another member going over the basics and take up that person’s work time explaining things that could just as easily have been depicted in a document. If the Styleguide includes the strict step by step directions of how to produce material, letting new members read it through on their own first, before having somebody explain it to them, can highlight issues with the document or work process. Over all that is probably the one most important part of a Styleguide, if an outsider with experience in the same field of work can´t understand it, then it needs redoing!
Working with Medusa’s Labyrinth
For Medusas Labyrinth we are currently working on putting together the graphical style and Styleguide as we speak. Most horror games rely heavily on realism and photo textures, one of the arguments being that the realistic style enhances the immersion of the game experience, and therefore intensifying the experience, making the player feel more in actual danger than they really are. At our first draft of the game we didn´t do that much research before deciding on the style, everybody were too eager to get to work so it all just happened and developed as we kept going. As for this time, I´ve decided to actually play around with textures and ideas before actually making the final decision. Even if cartoony or cell shading might not be a good choice I want to at least try something more interesting than just use photo textures. As a part of the artist team I feel like this is a great opportunity to try and make something new, even though the mere setting of Medusas Labyrinth makes it stand out from the rest, with ancient Greece almost exclusively used for action/adventure or strategy games, and the fact that the number of artists limits how far we can take the texturing artistically, since more than just one or two people needs to be able to finish assets with the same quality.
So, a quick overview of what we got so far. We made a small 3D-scene, an underground altar with some pottery and chains, which we try different elements on. The main inspirations so far have been from the art of ancient Greece vases, painted marble statues and the Minoan temple of Knossos.