Development Blog: Why is Artwork important?

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since I did my last development blog entry – I have been crazy busy with several things recently – but here we are now!

Today, I’m going to talk artwork – why is artwork important in games? Does it make any difference?

Before I make the obvious reply to that question, I’m going to start with a little bit of science. Humans are visual creatures – a beautiful sunset is something that people (as a generalisation) remember more clearly and are more drawn to, than a page of text describing the same sunset. Pictures, when used properly, can stimulate immersion in a way text on its own can find challenging.

So, let me present you with this image, a brand new one from my latest game in development:

Silence Demo Image - websafe

From this image, I am willing to bet you can pretty much instantly see a few things about this game:

– This individual is wearing leather and cloth in a sort of medieval type style – probably a fantasy game of some sort?

– She’s wielding what appears to be a magic sword – more strength for the fantasy series.

– The sword is stronger than steel and doesn’t strike like a lightsaber does, so it’s not cutting through precisely due to heat – more likely to be magic.

– It’s a stone statue with a good level of detail – helps place the period.

– etc…

And this is an image which shows a person hitting something with a sword. That’s all it is.

An image can tell you a lot about a game instantly – if anyone has been by a convention or seen pictures of our convention booths on Facebook, you’ll see that we cover it with images from our games. I often study which image catches peoples’ eye, I think that’s very interesting.

The right image can make someone pick up your book and start to look at it. This is what you want, as a game creator – it doesn’t matter how good your game is or how many shelves it is on if no-one picks it up to find out more.

The wrong image can give a similarly negative impression – it can make a book look low-quality, or instantly give people a different impression about what the game is about thanks to getting a few details wrong. The artists that work for me are used to me being very specific with many details in order to get the “feel” of an image right – a wrong or inconsistent item in the image, the wrong clothes on one of the characters, an incorrect piece of furniture in the background… these things can ruin the feel of an image.

A lot of game developers also choose to go with greyscale images, because it’s much cheaper. I, personally, feel this is a mistake – we don’t see the world in black and white, and if you want to get a genuine feel for the game, I think that colour is important.

Of course, all of this is just my opinion, but I’ve had a lot of compliments on the layout, artwork and general presentation of the books I’ve written.

What do you think? What’s the minimum level of quality you would buy for $30 or $20 or $10? And how do you assess that – it’s very hard to assess the writing of a book when you first pick it up, but very easy to flick through and look over the pictures.

I think artwork matters. Artwork is what gets people to pick up your book, quality writing, quality rules and a strong hook is what gets them to buy it.

– Ed

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