Rome wasn't built in a day..or so I'm lead to believe. Anything of value has had a huge amount of thought, planning and preparation behind it. This is the same for architects as it is for film makers, photographers, lawyers, cheese cake factory...etc so obviously the games industry is no different.
Everything starts from an idea, a mind fart. But in order to make that mind fart a reality you have to begin the process of pre-production (could have easily made pro into poo, I hope you realise that...)
In our line of work, pre-production takes the forms of analysing, research, gathering reference material, documenting, group work, gathering ideas, concepting and organizing...yada yada yada. It is perhaps the most important stage when it comes to creating games, and thus should be thorough. It is the same with creating a piece of art.
Although it isn't uncommon to have artists that paint out of passion and put little thought behind their art, when you are an artist for video games this simply wont do. Usually you start with a brief – an outline of what's expected of you given to you by your boss or a client, which you have to analyse and develop. If there are any huge themes in the brief (i.e. cloud ninja fluffy limbless world) then you will be expected to research and gather relevant resources on this theme. One you finally begin concepting, you will constantly be given feedback and critiques for you to consider, resulting in the scraping of many ideas and re-concepting and re-designing it all over again...this happens alot.
So a while ago when I was in college I was asked to design a logo for this woman's website. She was setting up her own company for autistic children and helping them learn. So I said I'd do it for free and she gave gave me a brief on what she wanted. If I remember correctly it was something like "I want a sun, incorporate a sun". So with the descriptive brief that not even J.J.R. Tolkien could write I set to work. Unfortunately I don't have any of my initial crap sketches but I was reeling through random ideas and produced this image;
Not the best thing in the world but I sent it to her and got her feedback, she didn't like the chalkiness of the logo and wanted a revised version.
Revised version done and she hated it even more lol. She likes the sun and thing going on but wasn't sure about the background she wanted it less dark and less colour (specifically only use green, yellow and blue) and she definitely wanted the text changed. White on black your weakness Mike and instead wanted Navy text.
Revised edition 2...eugh but I have to do what I'm told. After this she didn't like the font and soooo...
After all this she decided on a text but background had to change again, just blue and green and a sun with a body was just weird so...
She picked one of these in the end as she never answered back but god it hurt me to send it. I was like...*barf*, but it's kinda going through what I was talking about. We go through a process of planning then once we concept its still only an initial stage. Most of the time you have to keep revising stuff until your employer is happy. This could take from 2 revisions to 2000 revision. But you are paid to do as you're told and sometimes you just have to do it.
I think I got off track a while ago but I was going through CGHub and came across some nice sketches and it shows a thought process and many alliteration to try and create a more ascetically pleasing image, may it be character, environment or in this case creature. I will place them at the bottom of this blog. Pre-production is important and every aspect of making a game is considered and broken down into a structured list of requirements. This branches from Resourcing including supplies, staff, outsourcing...etc. to research which includes market research, archive research i.e. Clearances which are used to get access to certain copyrights and IP products, people and places. Also MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) this is where you can get access to the right to music. Even Model release where you need to get the permission to use the likeness of a person in your game i.e. Mitzi Martin in NOLF.
I could droll on forever but i'll wrap up with my experience of planning and concepting. Usually like all students here I think y first design is my best. I admit that but when you are forced to keep working on it, changing things up makes a big difference. You have to get all the generic crap out of your brain first and then you can get to the good stuff. I'm also learning to look at my images in a more conceptual way thanks to Feng Zhu. I've mentioned him in the composition blog, by doing this i can analyze what is going on and construct a scene which is nicer than just a random pile of shapes conversing to a single point. The key I think is not to get attached to your work, just do it and don't be full of yourself. If you start to think your good enough for industry or whatever that's when you stop caring and you put less effort into planning a painting. If you constantly analyze your art and critique how it flows then in the end you will end up with better art...simple. Now I'm tired, here's the pictures I promised you :)