Gamesmith Q&A

I recently did a little Q&A with Gamesmith about some of my experiences as a User Interface artist in the computer game industry.

Gamesmith Logo

Give it a read on the Gamesmith Lowdown blog here: The Work of a uI Artist- Much more than menus and buttons


1:​ ​Hello​ ​who​ ​are​ ​you​ ​and​ ​what​ ​are​ ​you​ ​known​ ​for?

Jenny BrewerHello, my name is Jenny Brewer and I am a senior User Interface Artist in the games industry. I started my career at Lionhead Studios in Guildford, Surrey where I worked worked on a range of titles from the Fable series including Fable The Journey, Fable Anniversary, Fable Legends and Fable Fortune.

After Lionhead Studios sadly shut down, I moved to Leamington Spa in search of new adventures where I joined the team at Pixel Toys on their VR project called Drop Dead and helped out on the mobile title of Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade. Nowadays I am at Radiant Worlds working for the Oliver twins, Andrew and Philip!

2:​ ​What​ ​advice​ ​would​ ​you​ ​give​ ​as​ ​a​ ​mentor​ ​to​ ​anyone​ ​entering​ ​the​ ​industry?

Talking from an art role perspective, don’t be scared to get feedback on your work and learn how to adapt it to make things even better! It is a constant learning experience and expect a lot of hard work coming your way, but as long as the feedback is constructive, there will always be something new to take from it.

As you progress, you will find yourself remembering bits of feedback from previous projects and learning how to apply the relevant bits of advice to your future work. It is all about gathering knowledge and learning how to execute it to suit what you are trying to achieve. I have been in the games industry as a UI artist for nearing 7 years now and am still learning new things in every task I approach. I also find that technology is progressing very quickly, so keeping up with that also helps spice things up a bit and keep things feeling fresh!

When I am not in my day job, I always try to have a personal project on the go for when I am at home, this could be some freelance work or just some digital painting for my own enjoyment. I find working on some extra projects really helps to keep your creative mind fresh and is a very good way to continue portfolio development. Recently, I have been helping out with some UI work on a new 2D sandbox RPG called Kynseed created by PixelCount Studios. LogoI love playing RPGs and Kynseed really appealed to me as a gamer as well as an artist. It gave me something different to focus on during my spare time and I got to try out a Celtic inspired UI theme, something I have not had the opportunity to attempt before!

Figuring out how Celtic patterns can be repeated and adapted to suit a user interface was a good learning project, knowledge which I am sure will help me in future work.

Kynseed HUD Concept Kynseed HUD Concept

3:​ ​As​ ​someone​ ​who​ ​has​ ​contributed​ ​to​ ​some​ ​iconic​ ​projects​ ​and​ ​studio’s​ ​such​ ​as Fable,​ ​with​ ​Rare,​ ​Lionhead​ ​and​ ​now​ ​Radiant​ ​Worlds,​ ​how​ ​has​ ​the​ ​team​ ​dynamics differed​ ​and​ ​how​ ​have​ ​they​ ​allowed​ ​you​ ​to​ ​grow​ ​as​ ​a​ ​artist?

I have been lucky enough to work in studios where there has always been a good team atmosphere. No matter what your role, your contributions will be part of a much bigger picture, pulling everyone’s skills together. Being part of a friendly team where everyone gets on, has a laugh but is also passionate for what they do and keen to put the effort in is a great mix. At the end of a project you can all stand together and share your pride of being part of creating something awesome together! Teams can change during projects, but I have always gained a new set of friends from each team I have worked in.

4:​ ​Working​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Royal​ ​Leamington​ ​Spa​ ​area,​ ​how​ ​does​ ​this​ ​games​ ​hub​ ​area​ ​in​ ​the UK​ ​compare​ ​from​ ​your​ ​previous​ ​hub,​ ​down​ ​in​ ​Guildford?​ ​Any​ ​tips​ ​for​ ​someone looking​ ​to​ ​relocate​ ​to​ ​either​ ​area?

Guildford Market.jpgI have found Guildford and Leamington Spa to be fairly similar in terms of them being known as game hubs. Both towns have a large selection of talented studios located within them, so there is always a good selection of exciting projects being worked on. In my experience, local studios who are in business competition with each other, are also happy to offer help and support to their neighbouring studios when needed.  My experience of the game industry in these areas is a nice creative atmosphere, and very supportive to the local talent.

5:​ ​Which​ ​title​ ​in​ ​recent​ ​history​ ​has​ ​really​ ​pushed​ ​new​ ​boundaries​ ​in​ ​gaming​ ​with​ ​their UI​ ​and​ ​user​ ​experience,​ ​and​ ​why?

I am a huge fan of CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3 and I found that its UI does its job very
well! I didn’t struggle with the usability, found things to be nice and clear as well as visually suiting the franchise. RPG’s often have a large amount of UI required, the importance of getting all the different screens and elements working well together really helps with player immersion. Bad UI usually sticks out and players can quickly get frustrated, in turn distracting from the game itself. I found The Witcher 3 married different elements really well and helped the experience to feel seamless – just what I look for when wanting to sit down and get immersed in a massive open world RPG!

6:​ ​Has​ ​working​ ​on​ ​a​ ​VR​ ​project​ ​changed​ ​the​ ​way​ ​you​ ​have​ ​had​ ​to​ ​consider​ ​UI​ ​usage and​ ​are​ ​there​ ​any​ ​”gotcha”​ ​type​ ​considerations​ ​that​ ​you​ ​might​ ​tackle​ ​differently​ ​if doing​ ​them​ ​again?

Working on UI for a VR environment was a huge challenge and learning curve! The firstpexels-photo-532559.jpg
problem being how do you show the player key information when they can be looking in any direction and not necessarily where you would like them to? I was new as a player of the platform as well as developer, so certainly felt like I was starting from scratch again!  I came across some constraints due to the technology available at the time. Working with mobile VR I found that aliasing of thin fonts and textures was really obvious and required a different approach. I tried to make use of thicker lines and bolder styling which helped minimise the visual problems.  Next time I work on a VR title, I will certainly keep these things in mind.

7:​ ​What​ ​has​ ​been​ ​the​ ​biggest​ ​zinger​ ​of​ ​a​ ​problem​ ​when​ ​working​ ​on​ ​a​ ​multi-platform title,​ ​particularly​ ​between​ ​PC​ ​and​ ​console?

While working on Fable Anniversary, we were asked to make the PC version after completing the xbox 360 version. In an ideal world, I would have preferred to work on the PC version first as downscaling UI art assets is much easier than upscaling. Luckily, over the years I have learnt it is always best to try and create work at a large scale or as vector images to maintain as much flexibility as possible. I often get asked to provide UI elements which can be used elsewhere such as things the marketing and social media teams are working on, usually requiring assets larger than 64 pixel icons that work well in a HUD.

8:​ ​What​ ​was​ ​the​ ​worst​ ​review​ ​or​ ​gamer​ ​post​ ​you​ ​read​ ​about​ ​one​ ​of​ ​your​ ​projects? How​ ​do​ ​you​ ​react​ ​to​ ​that?

Reviews from reputable gaming websites can be useful and highlight parts of the product as a whole. While working on UI, I often don’t have time to play the game fully or know much about what other departments have been working on – unless a feature requires a specific UI element to be made of course!  I don’t generally read comments about games I have worked on as they are very rarely constructive. lol!

9:​ ​How​ ​do​ ​you​ ​explain​ ​what​ ​you​ ​do​ ​for​ ​work​ ​to​ ​people​ ​not​ ​in​ ​the​ ​industry,​ ​say​ ​at​ ​a party?

Usually I will say something along the lines of “I am a User Interface Artist in the video game industry, it is my job to make sure the player has the correct information clearly shown to them as they play”. Failing that, simplifying and saying somethin[sic] like “making menus, buttons and icons” sometimes gets a better response. Either way, the assumption of “So you play games all day?” is often called upon, where the truth of it is I now have less time to play games and need to make the most of any gametime I have!

10:​ ​ ​Finally……Any​ ​advice​ ​for​ ​your​ ​last​ ​bosses?

I believe good project planning and time management is vital to minimising crunch, limiting wasted work and keeping team morale high.

Drop Dead

I worked as a graphic artist on the Drop Dead VR project at Pixel Toys.  I was tasked with creating a UI system from scratch for a high quality mobile VR experience.

The idea behind the UI styling was that the player is wearing a high-tech headset which they are given in game, this was to help justify the sensation of wearing the Samsung Gear VR headset in real life.  The UI makes use of a lot of digital style effects while still trying to maintain clear readability in a VR environment.

My work pictured below is how the game launched in October 2016.

Drop Dead HUD

Drop Dead Frontend

Drop Dead Pause Menu

I also created the game logo and marketing art which was used as part of the product launch in October 2016.  The artwork was created by using 3D in-game assets and posing them to suit.  There was a lot of positioning work to get a composition I was happy with and using Photoshop for layering different assets as well as some digital paint work to really make the image and logo pop!

Drop Dead Marketing Art

Publisher: Pixel Toys

Format: Samsung Gear VR

Studio: Pixel Toys

Year: 2016

Fable Fortune Card Design

Fable Fortune Cards

Fable Fortune Cards

I worked as a lead graphic artist on the Fable Fortune project at Lionhead Studios.  I was tasked with directing the UI layout and visuals while also communicating the Fable art style to an external development team.

 

Card UX Wireframes

Card design plays a massive part for a Collectable Card Game, especially a digital one.  The cards need to look valuable and pleasing while still maintaining clear readability.

The first step to solve this problem was to treat the cards as their own UI.  I drew up a number of wireframes to quickly explore different options.

Rough Card Concepts

The more successful wireframes were picked out and I started doing some rough concepts for how the card image and text could be framed.  I kept this stage as quick shapes to allow fast iteration and discussions with the team.

The designs went through a lot of iteration and discussion as to what the patterns and visuals could be.  But eventually we ended up with the result you can see at the top of this article!  In the images, my work was focused around the frame, card backing pattern and information elements only, the concept art placed behind the UI elements was provided by the concept artists on the project.

Sadly Lionhead Studios came to a close before I could finish my work on the project, but the cards looked as pictured in April 2016.

The project continues to live on as some of my colleagues were able to continue development working as a new independent studio. You can follow the progress of the game on its website : www.fable-fortune.com

Publisher: Microsoft

Format: Xbox One and PC

Studio: Lionhead Studios

Year: 2016

 

Fable Fortune Deck Building UI

Deck Building UI

I worked as a lead graphic artist on the Fable Fortune project at Lionhead Studios.  I was tasked with directing the UI layout and visuals while also communicating the Fable art style to an external development team.

Fable Fortune Physical Prototype

The deck building menu was an interesting task to tackle as I wanted the ability to sort cards and decks to feel as natural as if doing it by hand on a table top.  First step to trying to solve this problem was to get some physical cards and start arranging them on my desk, taking note of how I would sort the cards and arrange them.

Fable Fortune Whitebox Test

I created a test scene in Autodesk Maya and created some test animations for how the cards could magically move.  This was really useful when communicating to the rest of the team my ideas.

Fable Fortune UX Layout

Next step was to draw up some wireframes to start planning what features we will need and where is best to place them.

Fable Fortune Polished Whitebox

I did some concept tests with basic UI elements in place.  There was a lot of iteration at this stage to try and find the best combination of elements and layouts.

Deck Building UI

Once a layout was agreed on within the team, I communicated my ideas to the external developer and created a polished 3D scene with fluid card animations.

Sadly Lionhead Studios came to a close before I could finish my work on the project, but the menu looked as pictured on the left in April 2016.

The project continues to live on as some of my colleagues were able to continue development working as a new independent studio. You can follow the progress of the game on its website : www.fable-fortune.com

Publisher: Microsoft

Format: Xbox One and PC

Studio: Lionhead Studios

Year: 2016

Fable Fortune Frontend Menu

I worked as a lead graphic artist on the Fable Fortune project at Lionhead Studios.  I was tasked with directing the UI layout and visuals while also communicating the Fable art style to an external development team.

This example illustrates the first rough planning stages for an idea of what the frontend menu could be.  I was keen to make the menu a 3D scene as this would allow us to establish a suitable atmosphere in one of the first screens to greet players.

Fable Fortune Frontend Menu

I created some initial rough sketches followed by some 3D white boxes using Autodesk Maya to prototype my ideas. These tests along with the planning sketches were invaluable when communicating what I would like to achieve with both the internal and external development team. We went through a series of iterations and feedback sessions to create a very atmospheric frontend menu.

Sadly Lionhead Studios came to a close before I could finish my work on the project.  This is how the frontend menu looked around that time (April 2016)…

Fable Fortune Frontend Menu

The menu set the mood of a fortune tellers table top very well, I worked up the scene to create some key art which was used in online marketing for the game.

Fable Fortune Keyart

The project continues to live on as some of my colleagues were able to continue development working as a new independent studio. You can follow the progress of the game on its website : www.fable-fortune.com

Publisher: Microsoft

Format: Xbox One and PC

Studio: Lionhead Studios

Year: 2016

Fable Anniversary UI Videos

At the start of 2013 I got asked if I wanted to work on a remastering of the original Fable game.  It was the release of the first Fable game, over 10 years ago, which made me want to work in the game industry.  I am thrilled and privileged to say that I have been able to work on the same game that opened my eyes and filled my dreams.  I dont think many can say that!

Here is a collection of videos showing some of the UI work I did for Fable Anniversary.  These videos show the PC version of the game using mouse and keyboard as the control system.

You can read more about each video and my processes on my portfolio pages:

http://www.missjenart.com/fable-anniversary-frontend-menu/
http://www.missjenart.com/fable-anniversary-inventory-menu/
http://www.missjenart.com/fable-anniversary-hud/

Fable The Journey UI Videos

Going back a few years to 2012, fresh out of University I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work at Lionhead Studios as a UI Artist on the Xbox 360 Kinect title, Fable The Journey.

I realised I never got round to making some videos of that work, so here is a menu and HUD demonstration.

You can read a bit more about them and see some screenshots on my portfolio pages at:
http://www.missjenart.com/fable-the-journey-menus/
http://www.missjenart.com/fable-the-journey-hud/

Mr. Feathers

Mr. Feathers

I have vowed to do more painting and drawing in my spare time, this is the first finished piece of that vow!  It is based on a drawing I did in April 2015, imaginatively called Dragon No.8

I have learnt that painting feathers is hard…