Calm before the Brainstorm — Desperado Diaries

Calm before the Brainstorm

What’s art’s part in creating new games? Where do we start in the creative pipeline? What does brainstorming themes and visual styles look like? How do we know if it’s going to work?

These are common questions, but the answers are never the same – they vary from person to person, from studio to studio. Trends in the industry are fickle, and part of the job is to keep up to date, maybe even predict the next tendency. As a part of the casual gaming universe, artists are inclined to follow certain guidelines, appropriate to the target audience. More often than not, this means keeping tabs on personal preferences, or even better, adjusting them towards the target.

Everything starts with science! The marketing team explores the market, looking for suitable game genres and finding new windows of opportunity. This is the first “lightbulb” moment, for at this stage, ideas already start sparking. With clear guidelines from that phase, the torch is being carried over to the creative team, be it Art, Game design, or anyone else interested. The true brainstorming part of the project can begin.

The brainstorming phase is a place for anyone with a creative mind to join. The brainstorming phase is a place where stakeholders lead with references they’ve gathered beforehand. Although they should come prepared, the most beneficial practice is brainstorming ideas on the spot. Creating a safe space where all ideas are welcome, where trains of thought are being chained together to achieve a unique composition. Here nothing is wrong and every idea can spark something else, so building on top of each other’s ideas is paramount. Here pigs can fly, and plumbers travel to other worlds through pipes and ride turtles.

After the brainstorming meeting, the aforementioned “torch” is being passed on to the Art team. Art and Game Design work together, passing ideas back and forth, inspiring each other, pushing and refining concepts gathered before. Bombarding GD with art suggestions of concepts and their takes on them along with the inspiration behind whatever direction they chose. While this is being worked on in the back of the artist’s head, they’re thinking about the visual style and they communicate it in their concept art.

Because of a very short time to capture the attention of the player in the pool of existing and upcoming new games (which grows every second), and because things change on a daily basis, being up to date with the industry trends is a must. The more you see the more info you gather about what is relevant and where things are heading – thus enabling you to make clearer decisions. The rules of the casual gaming sphere do seem a bit constricting at first – there are popular styles, UI and UX trends that seem to work the best for the majority of players, but also, in between the lines, there’s a creative space. It takes bravery and a disruptive approach to abandon these proven solutions and experiment beyond.

For every individual artist, references are everything!
Although a large number of references can be overwhelming, the right amount gives more room to put that special touch while searching for the one that will be used for the game. The new thing being created has to be fun for the production members, but also to be in line with lessons learned and goals to achieve.

Will the style you chose work? Million dollar question there.

Will it be the best thing ever created, will it attract millions of players?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Even though we know certain things work in certain situations, it’s still a thing of trial and error. As said before – things in the industry change fast, and we have to adapt. This is fine as long as we make purposeful decisions.
The conclusion is no – we can’t know if the chosen path will be the right one. One thing we can know is – it’s better to proactively search for the next trendy solution than to wait and react and potentially miss great opportunities.

We can and should shape the casual universe’s trends.
We should be the change we wish to see in the world.

Miloš Jurić, 2D artist