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From illustrator to video game artist

My name is Sebastien and I am a Freelance Illustrator.

Until recently, I was doing mostly role playing illustrations, book covers, concept arts – just like most of the freelancers do.

That was until I received that email from Strange Matter. They saw my work and invited me to join their small team as a 2D artist… At first I was a bit apprehensive because I never worked on video games before, but as soon as I heard the name ‘Lovecraft’ I was all-in.

The novels of Howard Phillips Lovecraft always were a strong source of inspiration for me. There is a whole lot of very talented artists gravitating around this universe, and I always wanted to be a part of it. As a matter of fact I had drawn quite a few things already !

innsmouth_by_sebastien_ecosse-d89h6yn

My vision of Innsmouth, painted in 2013

To be honest, I wasn’t too concerned about the difference between drawing illustrations for paper prints and drawing illustrations for a video game… I thought it would be more or less the same work.

Boy, was I wrong.

 

Challenge #1 – Finding an art direction

First thing I had to do was to define a visual style for the game. So I started to draw a couple of sketches :

The others liked it a lot. In fact, we liked it so much we considered doing the whole game in black & white for a few days… But we eventually realized that we needed colors for a whole bunch of reasons – one of them being that Rise of the Elders is not a survival horror game !

So I started coloring and making a few suggestions, which led to a lot of feedbacks, and thus to more suggestions :

ContactSheet-001-1

We iterated for days, trying all sort of styles : photorealistic, film noire (in red), cartoon (blue), cell shading (yellow), technicolor (purple) and finally, what we call the ‘realistic comic style’ (green)…

In the end we chose that last one because it was a good compromise between cold Lovecraftian realism and warm video game entertainment.

But it took a few more iterations to really make it work on the tiny mobile screens (Rise of the Elders is developed for both PC and mobile). That’s because I was used to work with a strong light source and lots of shadows for my illustrations, but in a mobile video game, the more shadows you add, the less readable it becomes. Also, we weren’t sure about the lighting of the scene yet, so I couldn’t draw all my portraits with a light coming from the right, when it would actually come from the left in the game !

Eventually, I managed to overcome that hurdle, and our portraits now have less shadows and are perfectly readable on a small screen :

Challenge #2 – Working with a game engine

Once the style for the portraits was set, we had to do the same with environments. No problem for me : I did a nice little concept art for that in honor of the novel ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ :

compo antarctica 25feb16 sebastien ecosse rise of the elders concept art
Once that was validated, Robin (the coder in charge of the Encounter Phase) told me “Okay, let’s put this into Unity now…”

I thought it would be simple (although, I must admit, I had never opened a game engine before), but it really isn’t. Just so you understand a fraction of my pain, here is what it looks like in the game engine :

AntarcticEnviroA

AntarcticEnviroB

This means, every single object needs to be hand drawn and manually placed on the Z axis in order to make everything fit together perfectly.

Needless to say that this is taking a huge amount of time, but it’s all worth the pain once you see it work in-game :

AntarcticaA - Copie

 

Anyways, working for a video game is nothing like working for a book, but I am having a blast so far ! I am a heavy player myself and always contemplated the possibility to work in that industry one day… And it might seem complicated at times, but believe me, I am living the dream right now 🙂

Seba t work

Thank you for reading !

Strangely yours.

 

Note : you can follow our progress on www.facebook.com/eldersrise/ or @EldersRise. You can also leave a comment on the blog or send us an email at contact@strangematter.co

Feedbacks, (gentle) criticism or good ideas are always welcome !

 


4 comments

  1. Ralpe Allen
    March 28, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    glad you were comfortable with the engine. I’ve been modeling with maya for 5 yrs or so. hope to break into the industry the way you have. congratulations on making it to the dream world.

    Reply
  2. seb
    March 30, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Thank you very much Ralpe! I’m still learning with the engine though, it is a long process as I have to produce quite a lot of art for the game at the same time. I really hope your hard work with Maya will pay off and that you ‘ll break into the industry soon.

    Reply
  3. Fab
    February 2, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Hi Seb,

    Thank you for this post and your testimonial 🙂
    Now that it seems that your totaly invest in the “Rise Of The Elders” project (may be in a full-time way ?), I wonder if it brings the opportunity to win your life, or if you have to manage both activty at the same time : traditionnal illustration works and the assets for this video game ?

    Thanks !
    —–
    Fab

    Reply
    1. seb
      February 2, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Hi Fab,

      Yes, I’ve been invested full-time in the project for the past year ++ though I have and still am painting illustrations only for my main clients as much as I can (during my days off). That helps financially when it happens frankly though that is not always easy as being away from painting tablets and computer screens are very needed for a matter of sanity and health :).

      As for earning a living this way, I manage so far but the game has to succeed to manage even better!!! I don’t do much tradionnal art anymore, digital painting makes the workflow so much faster which is a blessing for the job. You have to be so fast in what you do whether for a freelance client or for the video game art tasks. On Rise of the Elders, I am a one man’s army concerning the pictural arts, that is quite an experience I’d say but worth it in the end. I hope that answers your questions.
      Thank you for writing Fab 🙂

      Seb

      Reply

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