As a medium videogames have in recent years officially earner the status of Art, this may sound pretty straightforward to many passionate gamers that have grown up playing iconic characters, intense stories and wandering wonderful worlds.
As gamers we all have fond memories of the first games we played, we have favourite characters, stories and places, just as we may have in regards to movies, books, music or paintings.
A piece of art should convey emotions and feelings and this is something games are very good at, in fact, being an interactive media that involves the consumer, they may even be particularly good at it.
While the debate is still going on the matter, even within the industry itself, the European Union officially recognized them having cultural importance back in 2008, while the US made a similar move in May 2011, when the National Endowment for the Arts (that funds artistic projects) decided to accept them under the “Arts in Media”.
In 2012 the Smithsonian Museum was the first to host “The Art of Videogames” event that is now touring the US. Currently you can find it at the EMP museum in Seattle until May 12th.
It will take time for the public at large to really see and accept videogames as art, but that’s what usually happens to new media and forms of art. It’s happened to the cinema, photography and do on.
We should also bear in mind that accepting videogames as a form of art does not mean that each and every game is a piece of art, just as not each and every song, book, painting, photograph or movie is.
Regardless of the debate, it’s unarguable that many artists contribute to the creations of videogames: concept artists, 2D artists, music composers and, of course, 3D artists.
3D, as we intend it today, entered the videogame industry during the ’90s (what is called the fifth generation of consoles) and from there it kept raising in importance and developing.
Nowadays most games rely on 3D since it offers an experience that can be very realistic and immersive; graphics, whether cartoony, stylized, realistic or anything in between do drive the immersion.
We all live in a 3D world and games and 3D art at large, keep pushing the boundaries toward beauty and complexity.
We could even go as far as saying that 3D is nowadays taken for granted when talking about games, with 2D games being, at this point, “something different”.
Every major gaming launch is preceded (and followed) by the release to the public of amazing artworks, what’s more interesting to the gamers though, it’s the screenshot, taken directly from the game running, that show the characters moving in the gaming world.
That’s the Art of games in action, not just the concept and covers, but the very 3D world and characters exploring, feeling emotions and living in their 3D environment.
What’s even more interesting to 3D artists is the behind the scenes, seeing how those characters were build, textured and animated. Peeking through the pipeline of videogame makers and maybe catching some tips and tricks along the way.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful games released since the beginning of 2013.
January: Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry
Devil May Cry is a Japanese gaming series whose first release dates back to 2001, while the title has always been very popular, publisher Capcom decided it needed a reboot and chose a western developer for the task.
In the gaming field Ninja Theory (based in Cambridge, UK) are renowned for their focus on characters-driven stories, for the amount of action they put into their games and for the bright and brilliant palettes.
Every Ninja Theory game is an explosion of vivid colors that topically paint the gaming world.
Devil May Cry has outstanding animations since is very much focused on the character actions, Ninja Theory’s used the same mocap outlet used for the movie Avatar.
Another interesting note is that Ninja Theory decided to radically change the classic look of Dante, getting rid of his white hair for a more aggressive, westernized look. This caused an outcry among fans of the series, but Dante didn’t seem to care.
February: Crytek’s Crysis 3
Crysis has always been a benchmark for graphics and it keeps going strong. Crytek (based in Frankfurt, Germany and with studios also in the UK and other European countries) develops its own gaming engine, which allows them to run amazing graphics at high resolution with spectacular lighting and special effects.
Crysis 3 is gorgeous to look at, with a complex environment that fuses ruined cities and wild nature and with the unmistakable main character wearing a nanosuit, a character concept that took months to develop and refine.
Look at this in high res: http://www.mycrysis.com/sites/default/files/gallery/image/nanosuit_walking.png
The nanosuit is definitely Crysis’s trademark, but all the armors and weapons concept and modeling work is really impressive. Crysis weapons (aliens and not) are likely among the most good looking and detailed one can find in shooter games, and the alien ones sport some amazing animations and effects.
Crysis 1 and Crysis 3 nanosuits comparison: http://crysiswiki.wikia.com/wiki/Nanosuit?file=Nanosuit_comparison.png
February: Sanzaru’s Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.
Sly Cooper is one of those “classic” games everyone can love, from the young kid, to the grown up.
It’s a game that it’s fun and it’s beautiful to look at. The series (initially created by Sucker Punch, now working on the Infamous series) it’s at its fourth title and brings us back and forth in time the connect with Sly’s ancestors while trying to mend a damaged timeline.
What’s also interesting, Sly Cooper’s characters were developer at Sanzaru (based in California USA) using Modo. The style is cute and cartoony but the environment layout and use of lighting are absolutely top-notch and moody.
Luxology’s website: http://www.luxology.com/press/media/media_images/index.aspx#20120614luxologyslycooper
March: Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider.
Lara’s origins finally get explained in this prequel to the series of the most renown videogame heroine. Lara herself has come a long way since her low-polygon days, losing some stylized curves on the way and becoming a more realistic young woman, for this reboot, she was based on model Megan Farquhar.
Lara is in action for the first time in her life and he gets her hand quite dirty (well, not just the hands!).
Crystal Dynamic texture artists, in fact, did quite a good job, making her all dirty and wounded.
The 4-years development journey is detailed in “The Final Hours of Tomb Raider” app, although you have to pay a little money to get it.
March: Irrational Game’s Bioshock Infinite
The new Bioshock has snatched the headlines of major gaming websites since he was revealed in August 2010 and now that it’s been released he has also garnered general consensus from the public and media for its story and the beautiful graphics and style.
Bioshock: Infinite was in development for five years and stylistically speaking was a huge change in style and palette from the previous Bioshock games.
Columbia, the floating city where the adventure takes place presents the players with an airy environment where bright blue skies often act as a contrasting background.
The stylized yet somehow crude style is all still there although we’ve left behind the underwater world of Rapture to fly high into the skies, leaving behind some of that claustrophobic feel for some breathtaking ride between floating buildings.
Conscious that Elizabeth, the female character who is with you throughout your journey, would need to take the place of the iconic Bioshock’s 1 and 2 Big Daddy and Little Sister respectively, Irrational Games took their time perfecting her look and, especially her face, that needed to be stylized yet mocap compliant. It was very important, in face, for her to clearly show her expressions and emotions even from the other side of a room.
April : NetherRealm Studios’s Injustice: Gods Among Us
Set for release on April 16th in North America and later in the week in Europe, Injustice features iconic DC characters in a Fighting game that will see heroes and villains use their moves and tricks to prevail on each other.
One of the most interesting aspects is the new and original looks NetheRealm Studios have realized for the characters. Most of them have left their catsuits in the drawer and opted for more good-looking and futuristic armors. While we have already seen Batman reinvented in the movies and his own game series, it’s certainly refreshing to see Superman and Flash wear something more up with the times!
This is a game that is completely character-focus so most of the effort went on the character concepts and looks and their moves and powers and, of course, on balancing the game!
This was just a quick ride through some of the most amazing and good looking games released this years, but every month brings new goodies.
This is what I’m mostly looking forward to for the coming months: Insomniac’s Fuse, Naughty Dog’s the Last of Us, SCE Japan Studio’ Puppeteer, Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls. Each of them will feature breathtaking graphics and a unique game experience!
(By Emi from AlfASeeD)