In this dev blog, I'm going to discuss creating concept artwork for completely new settlement tiles, and the thought processes that we go through.
First, we're given a briefing of what buildings are required, what type of building they will be, a deadline, and so on.
Next, we collect and study some examples of pre-existing tiles in the area, both at in-game size and as larger, more detailed images. This is useful to get a feel of the style of architecture, especially if the existing artwork was created by a different artist and another artist is continuing with completely fresh designs. It is also helpful to study the buildings at in-game size, to help avoid adding too much detail at a larger size that gets lost when the tile is shrunk to fit into the game.
(Click images to expand)
Then, reference images are collated to help get a visual idea and representation of what elements the tile should contain. For example, regards the foundry, a huge smelting pot was decided to be the most recognisable focal point of such a tile; the aluminium plant, tubes of aluminium and so on.
The focal point helps work as "flagship" iconography for the tile. For example, do you see a building with a big stack of stones in each Age? You will recognise them all as the Stonemason building, regardless of Age. The key point to the design of each tile - the stack of stones - means they evolve using a similar structure to each other, and get more refined each era.
Next up, we create sketches of ideas, as well as variations - sometimes 2 or 3; sometimes up to 5. If the first 3 designs or so don't exactly match up upon first glance, members of the graphics team help select elements from all designs, then those get pulled together in a new sketch. Sometimes when working on things for a long time, having help from other artists is important for idea generation and seeing things you may have missed the first time round. Now, that's teamwork! Keeping in mind that the buildings must also fit in well with the other tiles is the key path to creating new settlement building tiles.
When a design has been chosen, it will be given to a 3D artist in the graphics team to render up quickly. When the design has been rendered, and a separate shadow cast that has also been rendered to layer up on top, we import it into our art programs to be given the "Post Art" treatment. This involves taking swatches and elements of buildings from other spritesheets, and literally painting the model digitally - taking care to include all elements of the design, adding textures if required, and even adding 1-pixel wide touches to help bring out the detail.
We want to have lots of variety and little touches in the tiles that keep you interested as players throughout the game. So the buildings are complemented by animations in specific places around the buildings - and scaffolding when constructing and upgrading the buildings, too.
More on that at some point in the future. Until then, enjoy the buildings, with all of their quirks and features - and see you on the forums!