Game artist

Game artist

The artistry behind high-quality computer games is an acquired craft

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Zhang Lei is game art manager at Yingpei Games.
Zhang Lei is game art manager at Yingpei Games.
Photo: Yingpei Games
Just one last blow - but the warlord is drained of energy. As he drops his sword, the ogre shoves him off the cliff, sending him hurtling into a digital abyss.

The masterminds behind such fierce digital battles are game artists. They make every character, weapon and action scene come alive in fantastical worlds.

Young Post meets game art manager Zhang Lei from the Shanghai-based Yingpei Games Company.

Requirements

Zhang's team of game artists are all video games fanatics who have turned their hobby into a profession. After spending years waging battles in front of televisions, consoles or computers, they know exactly what gamers want.

Game technology is always changing and improving, so game artists need to stay abreast of weekly updates. They should enjoy learning new skills and technologies. There are all kinds of graphics software and they are regularly upgraded. Larger game development companies employ big teams of programmers and designers. Game artists need to keep in touch with all the other team members during production.

Qualifications

A background in costume design, environmental design, stage design, animation or graphic design will be helpful. Game artists also need to be familiar with computer graphics software.

Yingpei Games provides a three-month, in-depth training course for newcomers. Following that, new workers are paired up with senior staff to monitor their progress and give them a hand when needed.

Work prospects

The game art department can be divided into seven job categories: 1) User interface designers are in charge of the platform in which users can interact with the game. 2) Special effects pros deal with visual effects like blizzards, sandstorms, explosions and fireworks. 3) Concept artists create characters, weapons, props and settings. 4) 3D environment artists define the style and overall look of the game's environment. 5) Level artists integrate various art data for optimal use. 6) 3D character artists design characters like monsters and heroes. 7) Animation artists give the characters lifelike movements in running, walking, jumping, climbing and falling.

Finally, the art director oversees the overall style and progress of game design.

Globally, the game industry has been changing rapidly. In the past two years, multi-player games and console platform games have become the industry's hottest items. On the mainland, online gaming remains popular and has great development potential.

"Yet no matter how the industry changes, the pursuit for high-quality game content and imagery remains unchanged," Zhang said.

Long-term prospects

Trainees need to do well in their selected or appointed field of work. They can then try their hand at other parts of the creative process like character design or special effects. Once they are well-trained in all types of artistic work, they can move on to become art director or manager.

Average pay

Trainees start at 2,000 to 4,000 yuan (HK$2,400-HK$4,800). After two to three years, the salary can double and go as high as 10,000 yuan. Management-level workers get more.

At a glance

Zhang takes over the project after the pre-production team has finalised the game concept.

He will explore the story background and visualise the characters and setting.

He uses design software to create different art resources in line with design sketches and production standards. Then he pulls the art resources together to enhance the game's visual impact and entertainment value.

Finally, he tests the game to see if it is player-friendly and runs smoothly.

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