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Darkness Revealed Update 11 - Creating the Concept Art of Last Dive's World (Part 1)

Hello, everyone! How's it going?

So, last week, we were finishing our map editor and integrating some neat graphical technologies into our very own Lotus Engine. With most of the infrastructure work behind us, we're finally moving ahead and creating an alpha build for our game!

With the need to create a vertical slice of our game just around the corner (more on that in a bit), it also comes the time to finally create some actual, non-placeholder art to fill our game world.

Today we'll be showing the backstage of how we "invent" our levels, from a graphical / conceptual / compositional standpoint. Let's get started!

What the Alpha is about

We already have Last Dive's mechanics figured out. We have a clear proposal for level design, story, encounters, music, sounds, etc. Because Last Dive is a linear, story-centric experience, we figured that the best scope for our alpha would be to actually build a specific part of our game, beginning to end, as close to final quality as possible.

The Alpha Demo will consist of about the first 20-25% of the game, so this is where our level concepting efforts are focusing now. 

So... what about "graphical concepts"? Why do we even do this?

Why do concept art?
One approach for building graphics is to simply build them when the need arises: when you need a rock, you draw and import a rock. This approach is ok for many types of games. For others, it tends to create a "Frankeinstein" feel, where parts don't really look like they belong together.

Last Dive is centered on its story (which includes the visual storytelling of progressing through different regions of the game world), so we need to have more artistic control. We need to create and iterate on a simplified version of each level first, one that doesn't have too much detail (therefore not taking that much time to draw), but that already has much of the basic composition figured out: colors, shapes, proportions and the overall mood.

If you're into painting (digital or not), you'll recognize this idea as what they call "thumbnailing": creating fast, small, low detail art that, once approved, can then be enlarged and rendered into a "full" concept art (or even game assets).

A while ago we created this quick explanation for an artist working on The Journey of Eko. It shows what we aim for when thumbnailing our art.

Creating a World

For Last Dive, we followed the same path. We started working on really simple and low res thumbnails that told us everything we needed to know before rendering the final graphics for a game location. 

Even though Last Dive is located underwater, we're going after quite a few different types of environments to help us tell our story and so that the game always looks fresh. It's important for us to make the game locations different enough so that the player always has the feeling he's making progress. Here are a few thumbnails we concepted for the game's first act. 

The coral reef thumbnail on the left is for our tutorial area. We wanted it to feel warm, bright and welcoming (in order to contrast with the areas that will come after). On the right we have the caverns, a dark and menacing area that will be coupled with a more suspenseful moment. Notice that the level layout is the same - this is to make it easier to compare an area's mood to another's regardless of the level design itself. Only when a thumbnail is approved is that it moves on to be rendered into an actual level (or rather, an "art kit" that is used to decorate a level).

That's it for now guys! Next week, on Part 2 of this update, we'll continue to show the game's environments art process, from concept to render. 

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Thanks and till next time!

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