Concept101: Red Hair and Painted Shields

Everyday, check out this site for a new Concept101 post until the end of the month, at which point it will return to its regular weekly schedule. But while it's here, enjoy brand new concept art and artists, plus an explanation of the concept process and links to artists' sites!

Yesterday's Concept101 discussed how and where KingsIsle started looking for artists for Wizard101... and explained that they did the same for Pirate. I showed some sketch to art examples, and then left you with a few interesting new Valencia concept art pieces, and talked about art tests and the original intentions for that world and its props. Today is a bit different.

Today I'll be beginning to talk about what happens after the concept art is completed. See, finished 2D art gives the 3D artists an idea of where to go.

Fueling the Flame

To continue our fire analogy, I found the idea that 3D artists fuel what Concept artists started very appropriate. Take the above two works, for example. The left is by Dave Greco, and the right is just one from the Pirate101 website, but if I had to guess whose it was, I'd say Billy George, as it's very much his style. I'm going to walk you through these objects changing from art to 3D game models.

Extended Creative Freedom

With concept art, you only see one side. So character artists who do 3D based on others' work have some ability to alter the object as they see fit. Other times, they'll find that things just don't work in 3D. As J. Todd Coleman explained with a concept of Sargasso Sea, supposedly a skyway in Darkmoor, not everything ends up working in 3D, and sometimes, a whole idea can be scrapped because of it.

To begin, you need a basic shape for the object. Or not so basic. In the example above, the Zebra has been completely finished as a 3D model, and even had some shading added to him. 

Generally, the finished product is assigned a Polycount, which is the number of small planes that make up the figure. An object with a lower polycount doesn't normally look as nice as one with a higher polycount, but it works for KingsIsle's family games. Objects in KI games usually have a lower polycount.

Because things are made of planes, curves can be tough. For example, you'll notice that some crystal balls have points. That's because it has got a low polycount, and not much time was spent on perfecting it.

For still images like this, the object is often photographed from multiple angles to show the full figure. You'll see more of this with weapons and such in the future.

Texture Mapping

Artists must then apply textures to the 3D model. They create each one individually, and, assuming the piece is symmetric, create only half of it. They place these all in a square called a texture map. Those pieces are then applied to the planes specified in the 3D pieces. The half textures are reversed for the other sides.

This is what a finished product looks like. This enemy, NPC, or whatever it may be, is ready to be placed in Zafaria! It's a similar process with the Yak concept pictured above for Pirate101. Pay specific attention to the texture map for this piece. Notice how different you have to create art for something that it's... flat, for lack of better term.

Here's the finished Yak piece. Is it just me, or did his hair turn out more red than it should have? Maybe it's just the arm and headbands that are throwing me off. Have we seen this specific Yak in-game?

Layering Textures

The last example I have for you is a little bit different. It's a female zebra, and everything is in one image. Notice that the 3D models do not have any shading on them, unlike the ones above. Look at the textures, specifically the eye, which appears much lighter in the finished piece.

Textures can actually have transparency and be placed on top of one another.  For example, the eye textures are placed first here, with the head and face overlapping, revealing only part of the dark area around the eye. This is also seen with the Yak, whose initial model had large layers hanging over its face, which were found to simply be parts of his hair in the final work.

Concept Credits

All of these concepts are created by the KingsIsle art team. Dave Greco is the Lead Concept Artist there, and shares many of his works on his blog, My Electronic Days. You can view it HERE. See more from KingsIsle Entertainment at These character concepts are by Isaac Oster on his website, HERE.


Every day until the end of the month, I'm posting new concepts from new artists with explanations of the concept process! Stay tuned for more! Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral.

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