Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Mortal Kombat Concept Art

I have always found the concept art for the Mortal Kombat series of games incredibly influential to my work. The dark and twisted world the game is set allows for some incredibly atmospheric and original environments and characters to be created. The design of these game arenas lends alot to the work I am creating for this pre-production module from how similar they are in gameplay and genre. The level of detail found in the background artwork for the game worlds is something I would love to be able to capture within my own artwork. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

John Martin

The 19th century painter John Martin successfully created a number of images that depicted themes of destruction, death and religious narrative in a striking way. His use of colour and scale within his pieces allowed him to depict incredibly powerful imagery based on a number of stories from in and around the bible. Within his more apocalyptic pieces the result is an unsettling sense of doom, something which I would love to incorporate within my own work. His use of atmospheric perspective and the ability to depict great landscapes with amazing depth is something I find very inspirational. When this is coupled with the uncomfortable atmosphere captured within certain scenes the result is incredibly moving. I hope to be influenced by these pieces for my pre-production module and for the work I complete in my future career. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

Artist Research: Thomas Pringle

Thomas Pringle is mostly known for creating concept art for the popular video games The Darkness 2, Bioshock 2 and Cloud Atlas. His style of work speaks to me immediately from the striking use of visual imagery within worlds that brim with a dark and brooding atmosphere. I find his work incredibly inspirational technically as his use of broad brushstrokes and atmospheric perspective blend in such a way that his pieces look detailed from afar but enjoyably simple up close. His use of texture and colour is also something I envy as an artist as his distinctive, gritty style creates a rich world filled with a number of visual clues for the eye to pick up on, but not necessarily ponder over for too long. It is this skill of texture and brush use that allows his focal points to stand out incredibly against his vast backgrounds. I will try to take direct influence from Pringle's work into my own, both in this pre-production module and my work outside of university.

Images from Thomas Pringle's personal website.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Arena Concept #2: Road to Avalon

I feel immediately with this piece that part of what I was hoping to achieve along the way was lost and that the end, which I am still somewhat happy with, could still be changed into something different. There still feels like there's something not quite right with the finished piece of this, but since I have been constantly tweaking and changing it I have decided to come back to it later, either in my major project or later on within this module.

The idea for this environment came from a new idea I had for the story of my game idea. To give my game a much better narrative grounding I have decided to now look into Arthurian legend from the time that folklore and myth carved out the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I feel that there is a lot of scope to draw from for this legend in particular as it is one of the most well-known in modern society today while also being based on stories that sound more like fantasy novels and adventures.

For this piece in particular I decided to create an arena at the entrance to Avalon, a mystical location that was thought to be the resting place of King Arthur after the Battle of Camlann. In addition to this Avalon was also mentioned to be where the famed sword Excalibur was forged, bringing another element of the Arthurian legend into the environment which could be drawn from later on in the design stage of this arena.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Game Research: Soulcalibur

The Soulcalibur series is an incredible influence to me and my work for my pre-production module. Based in a warped history where swords, shields, axes and scythes are wielded in battle, the game takes place in a number of medieval and ancient locations reminiscent of 17th century Europe and Asia. Gameplay is mainly based on the beat-em-up genre pioneered by games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, however instead of using fists and kicks to attack your opponent character specific weapons are used. It is this element that I feel is inspirational to my game idea as I would also like to include the use of weapons within the in-game battles of my game idea. 

In addition to this the environment and character designs of the Soulcalibur series have always had a place in my heart for there beautifully creative and immersive backgrounds and engaging character balance. The images I have placed here are prime examples of the areas that certain battles would take place in, a far cry from the 2D backgrounds of Street Fighter which would have minimal animation and an even more of a minimal narrative to the events taking place in them. In comparison, the environments and characters of Soulcalibur worked much more successfully in creating a game world that portrayed an image of being inhabited by more than just the characters battling in it at the time. For example, by having the technological advancements gained from 3D rendering in Soulcalibur, fluid characters can battle within a giant cathedral filled with waterfalls while treacherously avoiding the edge of the expanse below that stretches out for hundreds of miles. It is exactly this level of detail I want to attain within my own game world. By taking direct influence from the level design of the environments in Soulcalibur I feel that I will be able to create my own world that has the same life and vitality that the former captures so brilliantly. 

Already I feel that the image below (from Soulcalibur 3) has immediatedly influenced the creation of my first arena idea, Cathedral of Fire

Armoured Combat Video

After searching the internet I found this interesting video that details how people dressed in 15th century armour would move and fight. As a reference this video will be incredibly useful when designing my own characters for my pre-production work as it shows a range of different movements, actions and stances that I can draw from. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Arena Concept #1: Cathedral of Fire

For my first of 6 arena concepts for my pre-production module I have conceptualised an environment from a thumbnail to a resolved piece that could be used in the creation of an area with a video game setting. I have included the iterative steps for this piece above to show the various process and different versions that the concept went through until reaching the final image. 

As I have mentioned this piece will serve as a concept piece for an arena design within a fighting genre video game. For this I wanted to take direct influence from the research I have conducted for this module, taking inspiration mostly from gothic architecture designs. I wanted this arena to convey an environment that seemed to be crumbling and falling apart within quite a fantasy setting. The breadth of the arena and gameplay space branches from left to right in the foreground area, it is here where the characters currently battling will move and interactive with. 

I feel I could still add to this concept as it is still in the very early stages of development. If I was to continue with this piece in my major project I would be able to design all the particular areas of the environment in much more detail. This could include detailed iterations of the statue, the immediate foreground area (that the player would see much more of in-game) and the possible options of having destructible objects that characters could be thrown through leading to other areas of the same level.

The above screenshot from Soulcalibur 3 was a direct influence for this piece as it mixes the fantasy and medieval theme I am looking to create throughout my game idea. I hope to encapsulate the same arena design elements from beat-em-up games like Soulcalibur as I feeling the detail in telling a short and simple narrative through moving objects and events in the background really amplifies to gameplay experience.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Game Research: Dark Souls

Dark Souls is a 2011 action/role-playing video game released for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 notorious for its high game difficulty and unforgiving 'grinding' gameplay. I fell in love with the game almost immediately after being propelled into a series of 15th century style environments, being pitted against enormous and dangerous monsters and dying repeatedly (but ever so slightly getting further with every death).

The atmosphere of Dark Souls is what makes the game so unique. With it's minimal story, non-speaking main character and ethereal, detached soundtrack the game experience created is one of complete loneliness and solidarity. My first few punishing hours of play through of the game left me feeling as though myself and my character were the only humans left in the game world, creating a horrendous sense of isolation and making the game feel like much more of a challenge. Of course, there are other characters you meet along the way, but their characterisation is so void of personality that you can never be quite sure what their true intentions are. All of these things come together perfectly to create a game world that is incredibly rich in tension.

The game world sees you traverse a large number of areas based in a medieval fantasy setting much like 15th century Europe. Enormous cathedrals, crumbling castles, crypts, caverns and catacombs all based within Gothic architectural design can be explored with knights roaming the hallways ready to slay you on sight. There is a distinct ominous feeling surrounding these environments, the sense of grandeur and scale helps to remind you of how insignificant you are within the game, which only helps to add to the tension that the game has already built up.

Dark Souls is a huge source of inspiration for my work for this pre-production module. The atmosphere and sense of scale represented in the game speaks directly to the work I love to create already, specifically my work in environmental concept art. I feel that the mix of architecture within the game is something I would like to implement within my own game project, interpreting the atmosphere of the game into my own vision and melding it with the other ideas I have. As the name suggests, the dark nature of the game is so unique that I feel that taking the ideas from Dark Souls and implementing them into a fighting game would lead to a really interesting design dynamic. In addition to this the medieval character design is something I would like to draw from too. By using ideas of armour and weaponry from this game I would love to experiment with incorporating them into a much more stylised and fantasy driven design that would be more suited within the fighting game genre.

From this I will continue my research by looking more in-depth into 15th century history, architecture and Gothic design that I would like to implement into the concept art for this pre-production module. In addition to this I will begin my research into other fighting game titles that I find inspirational, looking into the different ways in which characters and levels are designed and finding out what new and interesting ideas my concept art could lead to. 

Game Story: Subverting the Arthurian Legend

For my pre-production module, yet to be titled, I will create a number of concept art pieces for use in describing and visualising the design of the characters, environments and interfaces for a video game. To set this game within a world with a background and story that would have a lot of scope to draw from, I have decided to base my game within Arthurian legend. For this I will mainly take influence from a number of sources that look into the character of King Arthur and his contemporaries as a legendary figure, not necessarily historically true, but based on the accounts of writers after his lifetime and their take on his legacy. This will allow me to look into folklore, written manuscripts from the period that bore his stories and other relevant media from the modern age that creates and supports an idea of the Arthurian legend that I could draw from myself. In addition to this, by basing my research and game setting within the rich narrative of King Arthur, I will be able to create a game world based on the fantasy of the stories told surrounding him. This will allow me to subvert and re-imagine various stories, characters and areas that have been told over the years into a new version based on my own interpretation, mixing the legend with other genres and media.

My initial idea revolves around a historical fantasy retelling based initially from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) take on King Arthur and his contemporaries. Written c. 1136 it first mentions Arthur as the son Uther Pendragon and chronicles his life as king through Anglo-Saxon England in the Early Middle Ages until his death at the battle of Camblan against Mordred, his nephew. From here Arthur is taken to the mystical isle of Avalon, where his famed sword Excalibur is forged, and dies there. Within Monmouth's scriptures he describes the characters of Merlin, Guinevere and Lancelot among others. Now contested as a fatally flawed account of King Arthur, many of the events that took place within History of the Kings of Britain have remained today, regardless of their factual irrelevancy.

By using these well-known characters as a base for my own game idea, I have decided to create my own version of the King Arthur story, taking elements such as the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table and the mystical locations mentioned in the variety of sources and creating my own version of events. 

The Idea

Taking place around the Early Middle Ages, the game world is set in an alternate reality where magic exists to the select few who know of its whereabouts. The world is filled with ancient ruins and quant cities that buzz with life. The legendary King Arthur, holder of Excalibur, is the warlord ruler of the country. After hearing a number of rumours through his court of a mystical object thought to be connected to God himself, he decides to set out on a quest to find the famed Holy Grail. With the help of his loyal Knights of the Round Table, the troupe eventually come across the artefact where they find it resonating with an ancient, chilling magic that instills fear in everyone but Arthur. After much pleading to destroy the object from Merlin, Arthur ignores his companion and steps closer towards the Grail. Enthralling him immediately with its insidious power the King returns home and gradually becomes fractured and insane. He shuts himself away from the world with only the Grail at hand. 

After months of deliberation the Knights of the Round Table disband. Unable to persuade the King to return to duty they leave on separate quests to live out their lives in solitude. Days later a huge explosion rocks Arthur's castle of Camelot, immediately killing thousands in the surrounding area. At the epicentre sits a transformed version of the King now ravaged into a monstrous demi-god. Rising from his throne Arthur travels to Avalon, slaughtering his remaining subjects and destroying all of those that stand in his way with an overwhelming demonic power that controls his every move.

Hearing news of the atrocities committed by Arthur across the land the remaining Knights of the Round Table, Merlin and Arthur's once wife Guinevere one by one converge to discuss how to tackle the King. Days of deliberation pass with no solution at hand, continually building tension within the companions. Some decide to set out to destroy the now demon King outright, vanishing Arthur and the power from existence. Others decide to try and save Arthur from the force that now uses him as a vessel, aiming to destroy the Grail and hopefully keeping the King alive. Additionally, under the guise of salvation, a select number also craved the destructive power for their own gain. An impasse was reached. Those who were once friends on the battlefield turned their steel upon each other. A race to destroy King Arthur had been created. 

This is where the game begins.

Gameplay and Genre Overview

The fighting game genre that I have chosen to base my pre-production module on dates back to classic Sega Mega Drive titles such as Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat, video games that proved incredibly popular in video arcades at the time for their fast, one-on-one competitive gameplay. The main premise of fighting (or beat-em-up) games is to deplete the life bar of the opponent you are currently battling using a number of button combinations to move and attack using the player's chosen character. In the past these battles would take place on a 2D plane, with the characters standing facing each other who are able to travel within the game space from left to right.

A scene from Street Fighter Alpha 3

More recently, in the wake of technological advancements, fighting games have progressed to allow characters to move within 3D space, with titles such as SoulCalibur and Dead or Alive being some of the more successful adaptions of this new way to move within the game arena. This changed the way in which fighting games would be designed, instead of conceptualising a moving in-game background that would scroll as the player moved from left to right within the arena space, now full 3D game environments and characters had to be designed to accomodate this allowance of greater movement and interactivity between the players.

Today fighting games have almost progressed full circle in how newer titles that were originally based in the 2D side-scrolling setting now use a mix of 3D and 2D to best emulate the game experience of past titles that proved most popular in the early nineties. Street Fighter 4 for example uses 3D rendered characters and environments while also sticking with a 2D movement setting from left to right within the arena. Additionally, general design of modern fighting games now allow much more interactivity within the playable level arenas the player's characters do battle in with the inclusion of environments that move and react to the decisions of the players. This ultimately results in characters now being able to be punched through walls to other areas or thrown into vats of deadly acid (shown below in the Dead Pool stage of the recent Mortal Kombat), multiplying the cinematic nature of the genre and allowing a level of strategy to be placed within levels that normally were static images used for backgrounds.

A scene from Mortal Kombat (2011)

For my pre-production module I have chosen to research and design the concept art for a fighting game that is based in a 3D space but sticks to the original 2D character movement, much like the above image. By doing this I will allow myself enough scope to design and create a large number of different and interesting characters and arenas that would be able to be adapted in the later design and development stages of video game creation. In addition to this the fighting game genre allows me to be broad with the number of different themes and settings I can create while also encapsulating them into simple, standalone levels and characters that can then be looked into in more detail in a later project.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Concept Brief

For my pre-production module I have chosen to develop and explore a project based on the creation of concept art for a video game. I will do this by creating a number of assets that would be used as preliminary artwork for a game of the fighting/beat-em-up genre, ultimately drafting a number of concepts that would describe the game idea, levels, characters and story outline. This relates directly to my chosen field of study within my own personal work and will allow me to develop skills in and around a brief that could be suitable for my major project.

My pre-production work for this module will revolve around the creation of a number of early environmental, character and user interface concept pieces for use in the description and creation of a video game of the fighting genre. The aim of this is to create a series of iterations that will show early ideas of the game world, arenas and certain characters that could populate and be used within the game. These concepts could then be taken forward and used to create full, finished ideas and designs that would be used to direct the creation of a finished video game project. I will create and present these pieces digitally, mainly using the program Adobe Photoshop, while also keeping a blog diary alongside the creation of the pre-production items that will keep a record of the development of the module.

Pre-Production Items:

  • 500 word story overview.
  • 500 word genre and gameplay overview.
  • 6 concept art pieces of important game characters and 6 arenas which could both then be developed further in a major project.
  • 20 preliminary environmental/arena thumbnails.
  • 25 character silhouettes.
  • 3 user interface concepts, e.g. character select screens, health bars and graphic designs.

My background research for this module will centre around the design and theme of my pre-production video game idea and how existing sources have influenced the creation of my work. Firstly I will research the many stories and legends based around King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. In addition to this I will look into how the stories surrounding King Arthur have been interpreted in other media such as film, video gaming and books to see how they could possibly influence my work. From this I will further my research into my chosen theme for the look, feel and setting of my pre-production items. For this I will look into a number of fantasy-medieval sources, most notably the 2011 video game Dark Souls, which holds a rich historical setting based in an environment and world similar to that of the locales mentioned in Arthurian Legend. I will then look into examples of concept design from other well-known fighting games, mostly the Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur video game franchises, taking on ideas from the use of arena and character design and how these can be changed and molded into something new and interesting for my project.

(Brief amended after talking with Sabrina at the start of the module)