Define Your Games Art Style


Game design has moved forward, tools are being developed and everything is starting to come together. Isn´t this the perfect time to start work on the art style of Fireside? 

You got it! Today, I would like to take you on a short journey of finding and developing an art style.  We will be taking a look at the game jam version of Fireside, some other games and references!

Game Jam

Last time, when I wrote about "Creating Concept Art", I talked about the rough process of coming up with an idea, declaring a target  and shaping the idea to fit the target. This time, I would like to start with taking a look at the game jam version of Fireside. 

Screenshots of Fireside

Screenshots of Fireside

Concept Art of Fireside

Concept Art of Fireside

After the game jam, we received a lot of positive feedback for the art style. It reminded people of Don´t Starve  and felt accordingly cozy yet mysterious. The colors which I used established a not too friendly and not too dark mood. They should not distract the viewer but add to the atmosphere of the game. As you can see in the bottom picture (of the two above), colors were originally a bit brighter. We added some post processing in Unity to establish a more desaturated mood. It also adds to the paper aesthetic, which we currently have.

So, we already got some things to take care of and consider while redeveloping the art style:

  • Paper aesthetic
  • Atmospheric art
  • Should not distract
  • Should add an element of atmosphere
  • Nature and exploration

Finding New References

At the game jam, I already used some references but before I started working on the new style, I went looking for some references again! As an artist, you should not be ashamed of using many references. References are helpful to get colors, proportions or specific objects just right and it takes a lot of time to memorize all the tiny details.  Normally, I use pinterest to set up a mood board by pinning many different artworks on to a board.   You can find some of my boards here

If you want to find references  which fit your vision, try looking at games  with similar mechanics, films or comic books with similar stories  and art books which might fit the style you are looking for. Be aware that references can also good for finding what you do NOT want your game to look like!

In the following, I will only link a few references... otherwise this post would only consist out of pictures. The following few provide a nice impression and are the main inspirational sources for the new art style.

One huge inspiration for Fireside is the art of Dom2D. A black and white aesthetic with clean outlines.

Artwork by Dom2D

Artwork by Dom2D

Don´t Starve should not be missing as it has a nice paper-like look and interesting items.

Screenshot of Don´t Starve

Screenshot of Don´t Starve

And comics like Gravity Falls  have a great color palette.

Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls

On the basis of these references, I started working on some first concepts with the following things in mind:

  • A noticeable outline is important
  • Pastel like colors are good
  • Colors can be adjusted later (e.g. post processing in Unity)
  • Paper aesthetic is a plus
  • Objects should be differentiable based on their purpose

The last point will be truly visible with more drawn assets but let´s get into this!

Making The First Steps

You may now think: "Perfect, now I know where to look for references and how to use them but where do I start with drawing stuff?" Good question!  This may depend on your game. You can ask yourself questions like: What is a main element of my game? What does the user see after starting the game? What will be most prominent? Where will the user spend the most time while playing? It is important to get the stuff right, which the user needs to look at the most. In Fireside, we established a great focus on objects at the campsite and on items in your inventory as they will be present for a long time.  That´s where I started!

First Item Concepts

First Item Concepts

I drew some items, experimented with different line weights, proportions and colors. At the beginning everything felt a bit inconsistent but things started to work well together. I decided to use an outline of 15 px, an inner outline (to differentiate between disconnected and connected parts of objects)  of 10 px and some lines for details with 5 px. While working on concept art, the overall canvas which I use is typically quite big with 2000px x 2000px .   Let´s take a look at the creation process of  a single item:

Item Workflow

Item Workflow

After I got a feeling for proportions (outline vs. fill), I started working on some  concept art for the map screen. Switching between different things like single items and a screen mock-up is really important for me. It helps me to stay creative while working!

Word Concept Progress

Word Concept Progress

World Concept

World Concept

We can already see that the art style changed quite a bit but let´s compare this to an old image. 

World Art Comparison

World Art Comparison

Currently, the new version lacks a few things:

  • Soft vignette
  • Pale colors
  • More environment stuff like lakes and mountains
  • Different opacity for each object

The last point I just mentioned, refers to the trees and their variety in saturation. To achieve this look, I put the color on an extra layer and lower their opacity. As the background of the color is just white, they will look more desaturated.  This and the other elements will be added over time  and things might still be changing as it is important to be open for changes if they fit the core concept better. If you would like to see how I work on one item in detail, feel free to check out this fancy video of me drawing an item for Fireside!  Enjoy! 

That´s it for today! If you want to see more WIP Art and other stuff make sure to follow @EmergoE and me (@linusgaertig) on Twitter! Have a great day!

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