Artist’s Guide to a Reskin — Desperado Diaries

Artist’s Guide to a Reskin

If you decide to be an artist in the gaming industry, you’ll do your fair share of skins. It’s a rite of passage, really. This is an artist’s guide to a reskin.

Let me take you on a journey through the process of making one for our title “Viola’s quest”.

1st stop: GDD (Game Design Document)

We receive a quick brief from a Game Designer, they will tell us the objective, and the theme. It can sound something like this: “Make me a summer themed, challenge map reskin, here’s a GDD explaining what the game mechanic of Challenge map is, and the summer part is up to you!”

Lost Temple Challenge

2nd stop: Brainstorming

This is where the fun starts. We make a brainstorming group by getting people from the Art, Marketing and Game Design teams to start throwing ideas around. So, the summer is coming to Viola’s universe, what does that mean? “Summer” is a really vague term. Is she going to the beach or going underwater? Do we maybe make her a mermaid, or send her to a summer camp? Do we send her to a hidden beach with tikki totems, or send her surfing on magic waves? This time we’ll settle on the “Lost temple challenge”. It’s an overgrown Aztec temple in the middle of a hot jungle, and it’s a little homage to Zuma too. 

We’ll also go through some more details during the brainstorming session. For example, what would the Aztec temple in the Universe of “Viola’s quest” look like? Is it run down and abandoned or shiny and vivacious? How is it decorated? Will it be visible on the map in the distance or will Viola be standing right outside of it, etc.

Quick break: Mood board

To make our design consistent we will collect a bunch of photo references for Aztec buildings designs, jungle vegetation, color palettes that we like, examples of some good mobile game art and overall Viola’s style. We’ll then compile it all into one mood board to look at for inspiration or help. It will also help us share our ideas with other members of the team, so we are all on the same page.

3rd stop: Check the tech.

Some events are more popular than others, so some of them will have more reskins, but no matter how many times we made art for the same event, it’s always good to talk to a Tech Artist and Developer before you start. This type of challenge has a set of rules you have to integrate in your design, so we use a template file. It defines the size of map and position of the UI elements that can’t be moved.

4th stop: Concept art

Now, this is the most important stop, we make a sketch. We try to define the color palette, design of the building and a few plants. We want it to look similar to the final product, but not to put too much time into it. It will usually be done in freehand shapes or line drawing, depending on the artist’s personal preference. The sketch should give other team members a very close idea of what a finished artwork will look like, as all the people who participated in the brainstorming will give us feedback on it. We will keep sketching and asking for feedback until the entire team is happy with the design.

5th stop: Rendering

This is more of a vacation. We will stay here for a while, as rendering of a map takes time. The technique is simple. We use a pen tool to make the shapes and paint them hand free. This gives us map elements with sharp, crisp edges, but also an organic feel to them. Start with a flat color, then add values, shades and highlights. Keeping it this simple keeps the style cohesive as 4 different artists are working on this game.

Once we are done with the map, which is the biggest portion of this project, we move on to smaller but necessary UI elements that support the event. We need level background, animation frames, treasure chest, banner, icon, and pop-ups.

Final stop: Exporting

This is when we check in with a Tech Artist and Developer again, and make sure everything is exported properly and up to standard. Our work may be done, but these guys have another big journey to travel, before we and 30M of our players can see our new skin in the game.

Mina Simić, 2D artist