The Fundamentals of 2D Concept Art in Video Games

Creating 2D concept art for games is a crucial step that helps visualize the game’s world, characters, and overall visual style before principal production begins. 2D concept art lays the foundation for a game’s visual identity, carried through its development right through its release and any subsequent content updates.

Magic Media has extensive experience crafting concept art that guides game development. We understand the importance of creating 2D concept art congruent with the game mechanics and story to create a sense of harmony that will resonate with players when they play the game. This, among other factors, is critically important to creating high-quality concept art.

2D Concept Art Influenced by the Game’s Themes and Setting

Concept art must be aligned with the game’s setting and themes. It’s important to bear in mind the game’s genre, period setting, and overall atmosphere when beginning work on concept art. 2D concept art for a game like BioShock perfectly encapsulates the retrofuturistic visual styling of the game, in addition to its horror influences and isolated atmosphere.

Before artists even begin work in earnest on their concept art pieces, it’s critical to conduct extensive research for reference materials relevant to the game. A notable example of this is in Dark Souls and its fearsome Anor Londo location, which was chiefly inspired by the exterior of the Milan Cathedral.

Character and Environment Concept Art

Two significant aspects of any game’s visual identity are its character and environment designs. For character design, it’s critical to consider their personalities and how they fit into the game’s visual aesthetic and narrative. In hyperrealistic military shooters such as Battlefield and Call of Duty, it would make sense to use real-life military personnel, their uniforms, weaponry, and behaviors, to create fitting 2D concept art for games of that style. Stylized character designs would likely be inconsistent with a realistic military shooter’s overall visual identity and narrative.

2D concept art for environments, similarly, needs to match the game’s overall style and should take inspiration from relevant references. The teams behind the Assassin’s Creed series, with its many portrayals of vastly different period settings, research appropriate environments for their games’ 2D concept art extensively. Assassin’s Creed Origins is set primarily in Egypt and, as such, Egypt was used to form the basis of the vast majority of its environmental concept art and adapted to fit its approximate 40 BC setting.

2D Concept Art as an Iterative and Collaborative Process

Regardless of department, game development is a collaborative process, and concept art is a critical component of this collaboration. It’s incredibly important for concept artists to work closely with animators, modelers, and designers to ensure their work is congruous across the board, and that the work of one team member won’t negatively impact another. With this comes the opportunity to receive constructive criticism that helps improve stylistic consistency, overall quality, and cohesiveness with the game’s other aspects, such as mechanics and narrative.

Concept art, just like all aspects of game development, is an iterative process that builds upon itself over time. By leveraging the feedback of team leads and peers from different departments, revising concept art can mean a marked improvement with every iteration. Another consideration is the technical aspects of a game and how concept art can factor into this.

For 2D games, any 2D concept art must consider the game’s resolution and aspect ratio to present concept art in a way that resembles how the game could look in its builds and final release versions.

At Magic Media, we’re experienced service providers for the gaming, entertainment, and tech industries. Included in our range of dozens of expert services are full-cycle game development for all platforms, art services for games of any style and scope, real-time VFX, and much more. Get in contact with us today, find out how we can collaborate, and let’s create magic!


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