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Beautiful Worlds, Part 1: Research

I discuss the process of creating immersive environments from the perspective of the artist, highlighting the importance of research.

Omni Jacala, Blogger

March 1, 2012

2 Min Read

Oy, world! It's me, Omni the artist, and I'm here to talk to you about environmental design! As far as games are concerned, environments are an aspect that is often overlooked or taken for granted. However, there is usually a lot of thought and deliberation that goes into creating an immersive environment. While our designer, Zak, is formally tasked with the creation of the world in which our games exist, in reality, it is the collective efforts of the designer and the artists that leads to environments that exist in an immersive world.

For the artists here at Demergo, environmental design is one of the few elements that continues to evolve beyond the pre-production process. But as that implies, environmental design begins during pre-production, where the artists, including myself, sit down and evaluated the level worlds that our humble protagonist will encounter. As Zak and Dan—who serve as our de facto story writers for Project Fixbot—outline the story for us, the artists' creative juices begin to flow. But before the Photoshop brushes start moving, two far more important steps must be completed: Research and Thumbnailing. Our discussion today will cover the former topic, Research. With our ideas fresh in our minds, the artists take to the magical world of Google, gathering reference photos, art, and information.

For our game, Fixbot finds himself in a space vessel that is very much unlike any spacecraft created by modern humans. As such, I felt it was important that the aesthetics of the vessel be different from those of modern-day or futuristic designs, which are typically very sleek and clean. So I decided to look to the opposite side of history at the ancient past. I began studying ancient civilizations from East Asia and Egypt, but I felt that those cultures were too familiar. So I looked to a culture that is often overlooked: Ancient America. No, not the United States; I'm talking about Aztecs, Mayans, etc. I began collecting photos of various ancient structures and art, and a recurring theme was that of tiling geometric patterns. Given that our game is tile-based, I felt it was a perfect fit. While our research primarily lays the groundwork for the artists, I found that ideas for the story began blossoming as well. These story ideas became the fertilizer for more art concepts, and the cycle continued.

To make a long story short, story feeds art, and art feeds story. This cycle is what makes a simple concept become immersive. Immersion can coexist with simplicity, and some of the most beloved worlds are those where the complexity is completely unspoken. That complexity is born in the process of research.

I'll be talking about that second topic, Thumbnailing, in a later blogpost. Thanks for reading thus far, and stay tuned for more! (especially if you like pictures XD)

(Reposted from Fixbot Blog: http://demergostudios.com/fixbot/)

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