Some thoughts on art

Tell us your thoughts on the WTactics aesthetics, but make sure you stay constructive.
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Q_x
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Some thoughts on art

Post by Q_x » Sun Nov 14, 2010 15:26

We are using BfW art for some cards and artists are doing more or less similar things.
My initial question is: is it what is supposed to be like with WT?

But, let me explain what I have in my head:
WT uses and shows portraits rarely. They can be "portraits" only, cause there are thousands of other things on screen.
We would have pretty minimalistic, repetible card artwork (frame, logo, map in background) and all what is left are the portraits. Pretty consistent, homogenous pieces.
So here is my question again - is it the right way?

I don't have too many alternative ideas. We may utilize some artwork with background, hire or found a host of other illustrators. Not very creative.
Way out I see is to change style completely from faction to faction, Empire could be like historical painting, Undeads may be sketchy and so on.

I'm really feeling like wandering in the dark. Its comfortable, until I stumble into a tree, like now.
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Re: Some thoughts on art

Post by snowdrop » Sun Nov 14, 2010 16:47

Q_x wrote:We are using BfW art for some cards and artists are doing more or less similar things.
My initial question is: is it what is supposed to be like with WT?
1) Context: There is, and will hopefully be, an important difference between the BfW portraits and the WT ones: In WT we're also having something that's going on depicted in the portraits. BfW lacks that, since they have no usage of it, and choose to go for a classic portrait approach where the creature itself is in the centre in all it's glory, in contrast to the creature in a context. I'd claim this is a pretty huge difference.

2) Creativity: Example: If we want to create a card that insta-kills a members of the Undead army, it could be depicted by showing something happening to a skeleton or a ghost. They are put into a context that, by reading the card name and/or text, will work as an explanation of what's going on. That also serves the players memory. However, one could really illustrate that card in a number of ways without ever showing any creature at all, as well. Figuring out these alternative ways to illustrate haven't been to easy, at least not for me. I have no issues with us using more creative ways and would love to see some nice examples of that become real (here you'd have a golden opportunity if you start artidirecting, which I think you should with current new piece that's cooking. Will mail when lineart comes in.)

3) Psychology: There is however a reason for why we as humans tend to show other creatures and humans in different situations in a CCG. Look at the 10 000 MtG cards: How many of them have a creature of some sort in a certain situation and context depicted? My guess would be around 90%. Why? I don't know, maybe because people find such cards more interesting to look at, in general, compared with creature-less ones. All this is however speculations, but it does pose interesting questions about a just as interesting topic at hand. Maybe, one of the more abvious ones, is how would you else say something about the creatures and their roles and quests and pains in the world of Wesnoth, if not by showing them in different contexts? And why do, indeed, a majority of all CCG:s depict creatures in context on a majority of their cards? What would it mean to not do so? And so on...

4) Non-similar things: Card art like Karma, erode, crumbling tower, captured etc are all very different from the creature portraits found in BfW. They don't even show the creatures in the centre. So, I'd say there are and will be plenty of cards that depict stuff other than (portrait) creature. That we happen to have plenty of new creatures as well has to do with my (lack of) creativity and also my wish to see if the artist can handle the assignments, to get a clear understanding of what he can do and not, and so on. In theory there is no obstacle of us having plenty of cards like the examples above, where objects or parts of events are depicted. There hasn't been a concious decision taken to prohibit the creation of such pieces, nor will there be.
We would have pretty minimalistic, repetible card artwork (frame, logo, map in background) and all what is left are the portraits. Pretty consistent, homogenous pieces.
So here is my question again - is it the right way?
I don't agree they're homogeneous. The two goblin pieces, latest one that you saw with the sword, and goblin against the wind, are good examples of what I'd consider very non-homogeneous pieces. I don't know if we could agree on that.

The again, I could agree that a couple of the characters done for us are indeed very portraitish and BfW style (example, human swordswoman, merfolk female noble, etc). However, keeping it that way is not my primary intent at all. On the contrary: I want to see them all in a context. Stuff happening. At least when compared to seeing them in a portrait.
We may utilize some artwork with background,
I don't follow: What's depicted on a CCG card must usually not be very small. We don't have space for details or a lot of stuff going on in one single artwork. I think it would be a mistake to cram the art and scale down full blown art. I don't think that's what you mean, so let's strike that idea.

What I'm trying to come at is that we usually will have to have a very limited amount of objects/creatures etc in focus. Whatever they are, only depicting them and the minimum required surrounding should be quite enough to deliver the aesthetical message and card art connection to card text, if any.

It's also a consistency issue: We don't want a game that has some cards with cutouts - which we use currently - whatever is depicted with no BG, and some cards with full art, that includes a real BG. At least I would find it very odd and would see it as bothering on purely aesthetical grounds. This is however not an argument I'd use, really, as it's just a matter of taste.

One I would use however is about economy: If we're to have real backgrounds it would almost double the costs per card. Personally, I don't see how the backgrounds add anything at all, if the art we have is good enough on it's own. Now, maybe you're suggesting it isn't - clearly there's something that isn't enough with using it on it's own, but, what might that be?

If it doesn't double the costs it would mean we get very bad and abstract backgrounds, which would just lower the overall quality of what was in the foreground.

My main point here is that whatever function the full background fills, it can to a huge extent be redproduced in a system that uses cut outs only, like we do. Look at the most recent example: http://chaosrealm.net/wtactics/files/pi ... ot_099.png

It' supposed to show an elf chilling in the grass. I think the image does just that. No full bg was needed. Message wise not much would be added if there were beautiful skies as well or if all of the bg was a forest. Aesthetically though, full bg is of course superior if you want to create context. But, there we are again: Economy. It's not viable. We'd trade in way too much money for something which I mean has a very slight positive effect.

We could even try this out: Figure out 3 cards and tell me how you would illustrate them with full bg, and I'd tell you how to do it with cut outs. (Actually, I'd always do the same thing: Just focus on the most important parts of them, and cut away anything else. If that's not possible for some reason, then change what's depicted. In the end, aprox the same message will be delivered.)

hire or found a host of other illustrators. Not very creative.
Why? How does style matter, how would quantity of artists solve anything? If anything, it would actually create problems instead ;) but more about that below:
Way out I see is to change style completely from faction to faction, Empire could be like historical painting, Undeads may be sketchy and so on.
You'd end up with a game that looks like 5 different games put together?

I imagine the game to be as unified as possible stylistically (e..g. one faction isn't B/W, one isn't photo, one isn't sketchy while other is BfW-quality) if it is to be taken as serious attempt by the general public. Their tolerance to such huge variations in style is pretty low, and, I don't believe we'd ever be able to compete with the really huge games if we let ours become an artistic experiment.

On the contrary, I think we should look what they have done and try to do a better job: They often try to create coherent worlds, stylistically, but often fail since they use a zillion artists and a zillion pre-made works and what not, to be able to keep deadlines and deliver new expansions to the stores and whatnot. MtG is one of the least unified games around if you look at its art: It spans form crap to great. From almost pure manga to western. From almost 3d to whatever.

I think for players to be immersed in the world there should be as little "noise" and disturbing stuff as possible aesthetically. Differen styles poses the question: Is there one or several realities here? How does the world look like? Disneyworld, or something from Cthulhu? In my opinion, the challenge isn't t to create a game that has different styles. It's to create one where there are as small differences as possible. Where we become one with the world and get a clear picture of it.

And we do that by having it as unified as we will ever be able to, and, by showing creatures in different situations in that world. An confused orc with an axe, a young elf gathering flowers... a catapult launching burning rocks. They are all part of the same universe.


I'm not sure I understood the problem really. What can't we do that needs to be done with a) cut outs and b) unified style?
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Re: Some thoughts on art

Post by Q_x » Sun Nov 14, 2010 19:46

I hate quoting type of forum or e-mail discussions, but sometimes it is the best option.
I'm not quite sure to what degree would my freedom here can go. But I'm usually brave, try to foresee some problems before they will become a major sickness. And I'd rather speak much, than little. Especially now, when there is weekend, when I'll go for a walk and thats the only thing to do really. BTW: I saw two of those today: http://pl.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?tit ... 0830165415

Problem I want to point is that we may end up with having game that is simply visually boring. Not solid, homogenous, stylish or however you want to call it. Boring.
snowdrop wrote: 3) Psychology: There is however a reason for why we as humans tend to show other creatures and humans in different situations in a CCG. Look at the 10 000 MtG cards: How many of them have a creature of some sort in a certain situation and context depicted? My guess would be around 90%. Why? I don't know, maybe because people find such cards more interesting to look at, in general, compared with creature-less ones. All this is however speculations, but it does pose interesting questions about a just as interesting topic at hand. Maybe, one of the more abvious ones, is how would you else say something about the creatures and their roles and quests and pains in the world of Wesnoth, if not by showing them in different contexts? And why do, indeed, a majority of all CCG:s depict creatures in context on a majority of their cards? What would it mean to not do so? And so on...
Watch the cards again. How many you will find, that are build with human figure waist up and nothing more (just flat or blurred background)? I'd say under 5%. And this is what makes like half of what we have. Stop demagogy. Stop counting. their 90% or more of human beings are showed in really various ways - from close ups to something like our crumbling tower. With some crowds and parties as well.
snowdrop wrote: I don't follow: What's depicted on a CCG card must usually not be very small. We don't have space for details or a lot of stuff going on in one single artwork. I think it would be a mistake to cram the art and scale down full blown art. I don't think that's what you mean, so let's strike that idea.
(...)

It' supposed to show an elf chilling in the grass. I think the image does just that. No full bg was needed. Message wise not much would be added if there were beautiful skies as well or if all of the bg was a forest. Aesthetically though, full bg is of course superior if you want to create context. But, there we are again: Economy. It's not viable. We'd trade in way too much money for something which I mean has a very slight positive effect.
OK, fair point.
I think I need to figure out quickly how to make variable, not boring an attractive art with map in background :P.
hire or found a host of other illustrators. Not very creative.
Why? How does style matter, how would quantity of artists solve anything? If anything, it would actually create problems instead ;) but more about that below:
Way out I see is to change style completely from faction to faction, Empire could be like historical painting, Undeads may be sketchy and so on.
You'd end up with a game that looks like 5 different games put together?

I imagine the game to be as unified as possible stylistically (e..g. one faction isn't B/W, one isn't photo, one isn't sketchy while other is BfW-quality) if it is to be taken as serious attempt by the general public. Their tolerance to such huge variations in style is pretty low, and, I don't believe we'd ever be able to compete with the really huge games if we let ours become an artistic experiment.
First thing - I imagined myself playing with those cards we have for now. What immediately hit me was an image of myself, in pre-school age, playing with toy soldiers. All dark olive green, all unpainted. I never liked them too much, I'd rather invent some crazy machines...

Style-wise uniformity don't bothers me more. I'm worried about deck and table not looking like a toy soldier battle, where olive green soldiers attack smaller brown ones.
Watch paintings, old and new, various subjects, various styles. It will hit you immediately, that there are plenty of ways to depict a human or a party of humans. Van Gogh's portraits that are emotional and straightforward, Gaugin's symbolistic paintings that use body to find in human life some general patterns, Bosh scenes that show some bizarre processes only powered by humans. This are all humans that were depicted there. And there are nearly no artists that to never put human into their work.
So its not about if there will or will not be humans there, its how we would use them. Composition. Text. Visual language of the game, that is now not in full flex yet.
On the contrary, I think we should look what they have done and try to do a better job: They often try to create coherent worlds, stylistically, but often fail since they use a zillion artists and a zillion pre-made works and what not, to be able to keep deadlines and deliver new expansions to the stores and whatnot. MtG is one of the least unified games around if you look at its art: It spans form crap to great. From almost pure manga to western. From almost 3d to whatever.
Budget is a key feature, I think. Doing better than rivals at one point is easy, but winning on all fronts is a malevolent wish, really.
I think for players to be immersed in the world there should be as little "noise" and disturbing stuff as possible aesthetically. Differen styles poses the question: Is there one or several realities here? How does the world look like? Disneyworld, or something from Cthulhu? In my opinion, the challenge isn't t to create a game that has different styles. It's to create one where there are as small differences as possible. Where we become one with the world and get a clear picture of it.
What I would say its the exact opposite of that. Only straightforward things can be pointed without noise to it. I don't say we need photos and 3D models as artwork here, I'm 100% thumbs up for what we have already, just rather proposing to diverge it a little bit. And to do it wisely, plan carefully, but without any compromise. And carefully separate disturbances from noise.
Let me show it that way: If you depict 3 or 4 factions as a portrait-only waist-up lineart figures in different palettes, you will have to end this way. And it will not be cool-looking game afterwards. It will be boring.
If you will use BfW heritage without tweaks you will end up with really inconsistent graphics. Nothing will really save you in this case. One fighter will be blue, other - red, third - gray and shiny, all in the same faction.
Let me depict the noise in another way:
In Doomtrooper there were series of cards that were cut out of the same painting. Many cards - zoomed in, zoomed out, party, guy from party, something left from the party. So you had one story (or rather lack of story) in the card itself - like "huh, that has to be some dangerous guy, he looks like testosterone bomb". You have another story, which binds various parts of the same image into restructured painting. Finally you have a history, real one, of a painter, hired of contracted, guys taking out parts of his big painting. You finally have this whole view of "painter of fortune" and his story meeting "Doomtrooper guys" and their story, with influences, lives, changes and outcomes. All hidden in noise.
I'm not sure I understood the problem really. What can't we do that needs to be done with a) cut outs and b) unified style?
I hope I'm clearer now.
Again after roadmap - the problem I try to foresee is not easy to describe. But when apparent it becomes unsolvable without glitches.
I'll try to solve this issues partially. My point is the style must vary from faction to faction, and composition from card to card. Just to keep things visually attractive, yet not chaotic.
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Re: Some thoughts on art

Post by snowdrop » Sun Nov 14, 2010 22:17

(22.32.14) snowdrop: Q_x: Read your post. I think I _almost_ understand what you're after now... =)
(22.32.40) Q_x: uhh, good to hear that snowdrop
(22.32.59) Q_x: Its not that I had right in the first post there :D
(22.33.39) snowdrop: Q_x: Though, it's still not crystal clear to me exactly what you mean with " My point is the style must vary from faction to faction" .... with style you don't mean the technical of the artist, but, rather - stuff like what posture a creature has of different factions? Or what's depicted mostly?
(22.34.20) snowdrop: Q_x: in essence, how do you use the word "style" in the above quote? Could you give 2-3 variables that would be an example of that?
(22.34.32) Q_x: I'll try
(22.34.44) snowdrop: that TOGETHER would make up PART of the "style" you suggest must differ.
(22.35.39) Q_x: ithe lineart is pretty smooth in elven stuff - may be thicker, little bit more rigid in Empire and feverish, unstable in undeads
(22.36.23) Q_x: the colour is in watercolor-like manner now, may be way more filthy in undeads
(22.36.45) Q_x: this is first thing
(22.38.07) Q_x: second thing is we mostly depict static scenes now, with some exceptions, there are rarely things showing a state or process, like the crumbling tower, even the guy who just stabbed and blood drips of his sword is pretty much static
(22.38.20) snowdrop: Q_x: Thats pretty major thing to change. That's what I called being in a different "universe" stylistically, in my reply, I think. I mean, isn't the lineart defining how we percieve the reality in Wesnoth? Doesnät what you suggested now compare with that you could look at me, and at the same time it wouldn't at all be like looking at a door when it comes to the contours...but, in reality, it is - we're all made of atoms etc. Eyes percieve all matter more or less the same way (ok, solids at least)
(22.38.52) snowdrop: Q_x: Yeah, i agree about the second thing - the lack of process - being a problem. 100%.
(22.39.12) Q_x: I see it organized more like language, where there are various parts of it and they show different things
(22.39.28) snowdrop: Q_x: However, again - it's also budget related: You have 1 guy or you have 2 guys, or 5 guys. Each additional guy would almost double costs.
(22.39.36) Q_x: qualities, processes or "things happening" and so on
(22.39.56) snowdrop: Q_x: IF we stick to guys. I mean, theres nothing saying that a process cant be composed of something else, and that would lower costs dramatically
(22.40.33) Q_x: with lineart - I'm not targetting revolution really, just a small, but significant change
(22.40.43) snowdrop: Q_x: But in this we agree fully - I've been thinking much about it, but haven't really found a smooth solution. It's mostly about lack of creativity on my behalf, and here I feel you have way more to deliver on that front than I have.
(22.41.57) snowdrop: Q_x: Could you find me ANY game thats heavy on graphics that does what you suggest with the line art, so i could actyually see how huge variations you suggest... i mean, its hard for me to picture it the way you do, since i have no reference a all = /
(22.42.38) Q_x: artist will know it without saying, this guys feels it even now
(22.42.58) Q_x: goblin = not sharp weapon
(22.43.07) Q_x: and so on
(22.43.09) snowdrop: Q_x: And now im not talking about a game where there is an apparent variation between how you depict a ghost and how you depict a human, clearly they're off different materials, ghost can be transparent, fuzzy aand so on. However, a human can't / isn't, unless you have eye problems... and, ofc, unless the whole style of the game is like that.
(22.43.28) snowdrop: Q_x: aha. so its pretty subtle stuff?
(22.44.25) Q_x: its happening right now, you don't even notice :D I'm saying that we may go little bit further, but to do so, we must know direction
(22.45.15) Q_x: Its like sticking few tags to each faction and translating it into art-stickable terms
(22.45.33) Q_x: pretty obvious would be elven=deep green
(22.45.54) Q_x: but elven = smooth lines, clean clothes, sharp weapon
(22.46.46) Q_x: goblins = blood-stained, not too sharp weapon, skin armor, dumbass, and so on
(22.47.22) Q_x: undead = chaotic, filthy, deadly-sharp weapon, rotting carcasses
(22.48.10) Q_x: step further with the undeads would be making this chaotic things apparent also in the style of the graphics as well
(22.48.21) Q_x: a little bit of course
(22.48.45) Q_x: and this guy feels it without saying, he maybe needs gentle guidance
(22.49.02) snowdrop: lol
(22.49.02) snowdrop: = P
(22.49.13) snowdrop: oki, interesting stuff
(22.49.28) snowdrop: as you write, nothing i have refelected over, and maybe never would... lol = P
(22.49.47) snowdrop: this is why you must start art directing, as soon as possible.
(22.50.30) snowdrop: its better you do that, and i sound the alarm if you do something really crazy seen from a laymans / average joes perspective, than you having to explain stuff toi me, and i to the artists etc
(22.50.50) snowdrop: after all, i have zero insight in this field of work.
(22.51.38) Q_x: I can explain it to the artist, but we must agree on that first
(22.51.59) snowdrop: so, if you wouldnt mind, I think you should start directing both this overall stuff, as well as the piece by piece stuff, with start already - i could just send the next piece's lineart to you when i get it and you will pick up from there.
(22.52.01) DaBASCHT: *yeaha* my framework works as well as this morning >.<
(22.52.06) Q_x: plus, I don't have a clue where you're taking your ideas from
(22.52.18) snowdrop: DaBASCHT: Code often doesnt degenerate by itself ; )
(22.52.27) DaBASCHT: yes ^^
(22.52.30) snowdrop: Q_x: Ideas about what?
(22.53.01) Q_x: ideas with what should be drawn
(22.53.31) DaBASCHT: I could implement drag&drop, but that's crazy, while deleting elements don't work ... and it's the only thing, which doesn't work ^^
(22.54.01) snowdrop: Q_x: Im not. Thats the oh so ugly problem here: It has almost been pure improvisation really, without any greater plan. And I'm aware that's a problem and would be one, and a more apparnt one the further along we progress...
(22.54.13) snowdrop: Q_x: hence I'm really relieved you are around =)
(22.55.38) snowdrop: Q_x: What was important to me was actually to a) check the skills of this guy. To do that I had to see a number of things and compare them with BfW stuff, hence some portraits. b) To keep the ball rolling, so that SOMETHING is ALWAYS drawn, no matter what, to save previous time, since this guy doesnt work full time for us. It takes him kind of like 1 - 1,5 week or so per piece.
(22.55.54) snowdrop: I didnt want us to fall behind too much in scheduele that doesnt exist ; )
(22.56.45) snowdrop: i think much of this discussion is also related to the style document you uhave begun, in wiki, right?
(22.57.04) snowdrop: think i saw a draft of it on your personal page.
(22.57.09) Q_x: its not yet
(22.57.22) Q_x: I mean the things are not yet in the wiki
(22.57.32) snowdrop: yeah, i know... but they seem related.
(22.57.46) Q_x: sure, this is how style is coined really
(22.58.21) snowdrop: and that "grand graphical plan" is really something i cant pull of myself, as said -- I'm clueless. I can just deliver the laymans opinion and my guesses on how the masses would take it (or reject it).
(22.59.01) Q_x: but, as we chat, you understand the things, right?
(22.59.07) snowdrop: yes, more.
(22.59.27) snowdrop: ill still reply though to your post when I get the time later this week... but i think we agree on most things.
(22.59.53) snowdrop: maybe we should dump this chat in there as a reply as well. lol.
(23.00.20) Q_x: I think this should be really heavily illustrated thread, but it would take months in this case
(23.00.26) Q_x: you may dump it
(23.01.23) snowdrop: yeah, ofc... i mean, all this graphics stuff MUST be illustrated
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