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 !
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 :
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’ :
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 :
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 :
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 🙂
Thank you for reading !
Feedbacks, (gentle) criticism or good ideas are always welcome !