Early Key Art Development
“Key Art” is a term used to describe game imagery that is displayed on store pages and social media and is often used in conjunction with the logo, something we covered the development of here.
For this two-part series, this post will look into some early concept development when we were trying to establish our key art, the final versions of which ended up like this:
As with anything in game development, it’s crucial to establish a specification of what we are trying to achieve, which will help keep us on track during the task. For key art, the important elements were:
- People seeing it felt that the game looked cool and was made to a professional standard
- It looked like a game where you shoot and gave the impression of being sci-fi
- That it stood out when seeing it on a random Steam page, and encouraged people to learn more (i.e. click on it)
- A technical requirement that the image worked in both portrait and landscape formats
This should help frame why the images below didn’t get progressed further!
In the early stages of concepting, you take the brief and create a lot of fast and loose variations – this is the art-based equivalent of chucking a bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks! Several interesting ideas can come from this process, and you cherry-pick the elements you like to develop further.
These images felt a little too close to other games for us to progress:
On the left, the guns forming angel-like wings was akin to the first Gears of War cover, while on the right it had a very Doom-like vibe (this one was a real personal fave, and very hard to dismiss!)
Next up are playing around with some variations on enemies, players and deployables:
Both have an interesting composition, but neither worked immediately well in landscape format. The left image clearly showed the protagonists and antagonists, while on the right shows more of a chaotic snap of gameplay; the player, a co-op buddy and deployables defending a broken doorway against encroaching enemies. This was cool, but hard to parse.
The images below focus on some of the prominent mechanics in gameplay:
The left image has a SENTRY looking back at a damaged core (what the player is defending in some levels). The right image shows the venting gameplay mechanic. Both didn’t feel right for the sort of game we were making though, feeling more suited to the survival horror genre.
These images revolve around another aspect of the game: the pods a SENTRY uses to enter levels:
Again, both of these were cool images in their own right, but didn’t convey the other elements of the game that we wanted. You can see some inspiration from the Olly Moss film posters creep into the images 🙂
We also used this clean and simple design for the next two concepts:
Again, these were cool but didn’t clearly communicate all of the aspects we needed to.
These final two show the player character front and centre, while also showing some enemies:
At various points we wanted to include enemies to help reinforce the sci-fi and combat elements of the game – and while we moved away from these specific designs, you can see aspects of them in our final capsule art – for example, the up-close view of the SENTRY visor, a strong-posed character with stark, simple colours.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed looking at these early concepts for our key art. Keep your eye out for the second part of this series where we’ll show how we started to hone in on our final design!