Success Stories is a blog series where we talk to artists on Dripbook about their recent successful projects, providing industry insights from top creative professionals.
Continuing with this series, we hear from Carlos Cuesta Dolz, a freelance illustrator, animator, and character designer based in Valencia, Spain, who created concept artwork for the video game "Starriser". Read below to see what he had to say about this project:
"I was approached by Arpic Games' founding team to take care of Starriser's visuals. Though they'd been working on the game for some time, and one of them was proficient in 3D modelling, they'd noticed the need for a focused illustrator to properly present their game concept.
My work for Arpic Games was rather unusual in that I was my own art director. Being a small indie developer, the art department consisted of just me and amazing UX/UI and graphic design wiz Quique GarcÍa, and it fell on the two of us to bring the game designers’ ideas to life."
"While this was a really liberating experience, it also meant a great responsibility for me, as I had no expert feedback except from Quique and a few friends. Art direction ain’t easy! In the end, I think we developed a pretty cohesive and interesting visual universe for the game, and I gained a whole renewed respect for an art director’s job.
We developed visuals for two vastly different games for Arpic: 'Starriser', a space- opera themed strategy online game, and 'Hipsters vs Zombies', a 2D shoot ‘em up with a very cartoony look. Obviously, 'Starriser' demanded a very epic scale in all its images, and my usual whimsical style didn’t fit in, so I looked for genre classics for inspiration. Chris Foss, Moebius, and H.R.Giger’s concept work for Jodorowsky’s doomed adaptation of 'Dune' was my first reference, followed by classic RPGs and tabletop games such as Warhammer 40k and Megatraveller. I tried my best to stay away from more current interpretations of sci-fi, since I didn’t want 'Starriser' to get lost in a sea of similar-looking games."
"From that premise, I took a hint from car designers for my ship designs, and modelled them after animals: explorer ships would be inspired by owls, destroyers by beetles, and so on. This more organic approach lent a certain deal of originality to the designs I was very proud of, but at times proved to be a considerable test of my ability to work from reference without merely mimicking it.
The other area I had to work on as an illustrator were the buildings. I wanted them to look otherworldly and very high- tech, while having some weathering on them for realness, so I took to modern vehicles for reference. This is where I applied a technique of “happy accidents” I learned from current concept artists: I created several digital brushes with relatively simple, tech-looking shapes and textures and random values in the spacing and direction of each stroke. Painting with these uncontrollable tools provided very interesting overlapping shapes that I would later treat with more traditional brushes to make sense of the whole mess and provide unity to the building design."
"This 'automatic' approach may seem easy, and so it is for most simple designs, but one needs to apply great restrain, or risk ending up with shapeless masses of meaningless texture. In order to also have a sense of scale, I was very deliberate in placing the buildings in relatively familiar contexts, such as mountains, jungles, and rivers, and added the occasional human figure (in hindsight, something I should have done more often, but hey, live and learn…). I’d also add several colored gradients to these for variety’s sake, as well as to make them look more alien and mysterious."
"All in all, 'Starriser' was an incredible experience: I was forced out of my comfort zone daily, experimenting with new tools and approaches, while being fully responsible for the whole look of the game. I consider it - along with Arpic’s other project, 'Hipsters vs Zombies'- one of the most rewarding enterprises I’ve embarked on."
It's always interesting to see the variety of projects that illustrators on Dripbook apply their skills to. Thanks for sharing your story with us Carlos.
Make sure to check out Carlos' portfolios on Dripbook !