Game Art : A History

As a game artist, I’ve worked on many games in many genre’s over the last 20 years. I started with life drawing and portraits, and went onto Computer Aided Design (CAD) and technical drawing. Then I landed in the games industry in the earlier 90’s.

There have been staggering leaps in technology, especially for the game artists who produce the wonderful visuals, environments and characters that we have come to know and love. One area in particular is 2D art.

In 1994, I was creating textures for games on a Commodore Amiga, which was at the time, a very powerful 32bit computer. It had all of 8 megabytes of memory. That was a lot !!! The real win at the time was using an art program called Deluxe Paint created by Electronic Arts.

The program cemented its place in history and in my heart, as it allowed me to work with multiple colour palettes, colour cycling, and design my very own brushes that I could use to create characters, vehicles and visual effects. If you love retro art check out Rosco McQueen, Firefighter Extreme on the Playstation one. I created the 2D texture art for the game using Deluxe Paint. The  brushes I created can be used in the same manner as any other brush or pen tool that you would find in Photoshop today. Deluxe Paint was very ahead of the curve — it even allowed for 2D image animations.

I worked on other art packages that were revolutionary as well, such as Degas Elite, Aegis Animator, Art Department Pro and Neo Paint. These are the forerunners of the Adobe products, Illustrator, Premiere and Photoshop, which we use today. The skills that I learnt when I started are still being used today by myself and artists in the games industry, which is encouraging for us all. As we grow older, we learn new skills and adapt or drop older skills to meet the challenges of the new tools that we are now using.

In my classes I often refer to these art packages from the past, and demonstrate both old and new techniques on current software. I also explain that game artists will use a tool, package or technique for a long time if the results stand up in the game. This is strongly supported by constant research to find better tools and techniques to keep us ahead of the curve.

Another thing I spotted in my trip down memory lane was The Atari Touch Tablet, a possible forerunner to the popular Wacom tablets we use today.

OK, I feel some art work is needing my attention, so I will leave you with a quote from my personal note book:

“In art, as in life, you can’t know where you are going until you have seen where you have been.”

Until the next Game Art post. Bye.

Roger Mitchell teaches 3D Modeling