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Building A Fantasy World - The Art Direction Of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
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Building A Fantasy World - The Art Direction Of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

November 28, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

When creating the individual look, that must be when you generated so much concept art.

TC: Yes, yes. We've got some fantastic concept artists we've been working with on the project. Sean Andrew Murray is our principal concept artist -- he's a fantastic concept artist. And a number of other folks that we've worked with over the duration of the project.

What we do is we sit down and start talking about things. Like we're going to do a creature, for example. We'll sit down and start brainstorming about what it could be. But we actually brainstorm with the designers and the engineers.

We get everybody in a room and we do like, "Wouldn't it be cool if we did this, this, and this?" And we gather all those ideas up, and we get the best of the best of them. Like the leads kind of round up and say, "Well, these are really good things we want to do."

And then we start diving in on the concept art. And some of the concept stuff is awesome. You know, we get lots of thumbnail sketches, and then we refine it down to the final piece.

But then, in addition to that, I sit down with the lead character modeler, Alan Denham, and the lead animator, Young Vo. The three of us will be like "Okay, now we're really going to have to make this thing, so let's really dive deep on this. Are there any technical constraints we need to be worrying about? Any specific things that are like "Yeah, that's not going to work with these other bits and pieces that we have?"

And the cool part about is like every person in the chain tries to find a way to plus it. So, even at the concept stage, everyone's saying, "Oh, we can make it 5 percent better if we did this, this, and this!" It goes to the modelers, they try to find that like "Oh, you know what? I'm going to do something that's going to blow your mind! Everyone tries to find that angle.

And when the animators get it, it's like they're looking at it to try to say, "Okay, we want to make this combat as cool as we can possibly make it." So, they work with combat designers, and the animators are all in one pit together. They sit around and they brainstorm this stuff, and then we kind of refine it.

But even at that point, it's almost like an actor coming to a role. By putting different people on it, you get different results. So, the fun part about it, is it's like the creatures, we actually designed them in such a way that they have different personalities to them. And as you get deeper and deeper into the game, the nature of who they are, the types of creatures you're fighting, and the areas that you're fighting them in, you can see there's an evolution that takes place over the duration. It's pretty cool.

It sounds like you're very cross-discipline at a very early stage, at the studio.

TC: Yeah. I think it's really important, especially from an art standpoint. You really don't want to over-emphasize any one slice of the overall project. Every part of it is important.

One of the things I keep saying is, for this project, every part of it was considered. There's lore. There's back story. We basically developed this game in our own engine, so we're trying to build to the strengths of what we think is going to be the best possible game.

And at each point, everybody checks each other. The team is very, very collaborative. So everybody is always looking at it saying, "Uh... Really?" We have a running joke where people come in and go, "Really? Is that final?" It's like, "Ugh. Okay, yeah, alright. I've got to put in another weekend on this, because I think it can be that much better."

You're talking about moving things from concept to modelers, to animators, and stuff. You're passing things along. I'm curious about how that works.

TC: It's pretty cool. One of the things we do is we don't... It's not like a hard line where the concept guys are done, and then there's nothing more the concept guys do. We round up with everybody on a regular basis and say, "Look. Let's look at this stuff together as a group." And I'll point out the high level styling cues of things that are like, "No. I think we're missing it. I think we need to come back a little more here. The timing and animation may be a little bit off. Maybe what we need to do is kind of push that or make that a little bit sharper."

In addition to that, we're also working with the visionaries that are connected to the platform. Todd McFarlane, for example, is connected. Todd has a personal passion for animation, and so he'll come in and be like, "Oh my God. You could make this, like this... You have to go way over the top. You're halfway there." So, he's one of those people who pushes for that really high-level quality. By the time it's even being showed to Todd, the team has gone through vetting it multiple times, so it's really constantly refined and tuned.

Do you work with outsourcers? Because it sounds like your art process is very tightly controlled within the studio.

TC: We do work with outsourcers. For the project that we're working on, this is an open-world RPG, it's huge. There's this massive, massive game. So, just to populate this with all the individual bits and pieces that you need to fill, the size of the studio would need to be just absolutely huge. So, in some cases, outsourcing makes a lot of sense for a group like us. But what we do is we try to pull the most critical stuff in-house, things that are going to be mission-critical to the title. Those things, we really want to make sure it's as good as it can possibly be.

These days, I hear a lot of outsources doing props, not as much critical game stuff.

TC: I don't know if I'd say it's a hard philosophy. It's case-by-case. Certainly for this, there's so much stuff in the game... It's not like we have a checklist like "Okay, all these must go to outsourcers." Whenever there's an opportunity to give people the work in-house, we'll do that first.

But certainly from our standpoint, we don't want to shortchange anybody playing the game. We don't want to be like "Oh, we're just going to do what we can do." If we can extend the quality of the title by bringing some more folks in to help us get the thing done, we'll obviously do it.

In some cases, we're working with some fantastic freelance concept guys that are dynamite -- really, really talented folks. So again, I would give them all the props in the world. There are things like "This guy is awesome at this, so I will absolutely give those types of pieces to those people."

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