Thursday, 18 October 2012

Task 14: Elements of game design, part five: planning and concepting

Concept Art, those big old buzz words that everyone seems to love. Just stick them into google and your eyes will melt with all the pretty pictures. Here is just two examples of results on the first page of google image search...

The Internet is FULL of websites where you can go to glare at awesome looking digi paints that people call concept art, such as the well know "" Concepting is however, a largely misunderstood idea, and I will admit I was one of those people who thought concepting was just about drawing those pretty pictures. I come to realise now however how much more than that it really is. If for example you goggle image search 'concepting' you get a much duller set of imagery...
 That doesn't look very interesting does it? Where are the awesome characters kitted out in armour or the stunning environment vistas?
Elsewhere I guess.

This is what concepting is really about. Its about the basics, thoughts, references and ideas. Concepts are born from ideas and take them a step further. They aren't the glossy well polished artwork that probably took hours to create. 
I think people think being a concept artist means just producing nice pictures all day and they don't realise just how much really goes into it and whats involved. But who can blame them, that's all we, the public, every really get to see.

Companies release concept art books but it seems limited to showcasing the top quality well worked art. The sheer amount of artwork produced for a game must be massive and I understand that what can be included in art books is limited, so the best is chosen, I get that. But it would be really nice to see a collection of the art in progress. The real concepting of the game. The initial stages of ideas, planning and experimenting with the brief before everything is nailed down. This would really give an insight into how the game came to be, how people think and work together and what artwork really kick starts the gears of the imagination.

Throughout recent years I have lost my interest for stunning pieces of concept art, and this is generally why. I don't feel the artwork really shows me anything about how the game was designed or truly concepted. I'm just looking at someone who is really good at digi-painting showing off their skills, and that has become quite boring.

So now we get to the 'planning' stage. The idea of which I find quite dull. I just get an image of sitting around all day planning to do something but then never actually getting anything done. It gives me the sense of talking rather than doing and I'm more of a 'doing' person. But I'm overlooking the real importance of planning. Without planning nothing would get done in the first place. There would be no point to randomly starting to do things if they weren't following a plan that had a desired and planned outcome.

We need and use plans in everyday life, in order to make sure we get done everything that needs doing. I can't even imagine how many times I must have said "So whats the plan for today?' throughout my life. It might not be something I write down and strictly stick to, but it is basically the same as what companies and other people do all over the world. Why would game companies be any different? They need to plan their games. They set up teams, objectives, limitations and deadlines. They plan everything out, even if they don't know what the end result might be exactly, they still know when it needs doing by and how much it has to cost.

Planning is a large part of what makes games happen, granted they can often be pushed back and released at a later date or sometimes even completely redesigned but without a basic plan they wouldn't happen at all. An unfortunate example of this is Valve. They have released several good games but often release them years later than predicted or not released at all. Of course I have no real idea of what causes this to happen but from what I have read in the past a lack of good planning could be a leading cause.

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