Category Archives: Articles

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.

Got Hitched, Got A New Name!

Got Hitched!Last week I married the most amazing man I could ever hope for.  This week I have a million places where I need to change my name!

Hopefully this blog post helps explain why all of a sudden I am going by a different name, Jenny Brewer.  I have already experienced some phone calls which start with me getting confused when they ask for a Mrs Brewer.  The quicker I get my new name updated everywhere, the sooner I will get used to it!

Photography by Karl Baker.

Games And The Uncanny Valley

A rather entertaining video, created by Daniel Floyd, explaining the Uncanny Valley and why this is effecting video games. Also looks at stylisation and photorealism aesthetics, which relates to my recent essay about this topic found here.

[photorealism] “… you may have noticed, it’s very brown looking over there!”

Stylistic Versus Photorealistic Aesthetics in Computer Games

“How do stylistic games offer a greater depth aesthetically while providing a deeper play experience than games which boast photorealistic visuals?”


Brilliant graphics are not essential for a successful game, but they do have a certain amount of importance when creating an overall game experience for the player. The game industry started with games that had no choice but to be highly stylised due to the technology available at the time. However, today’s technology has advanced to a point where photorealistic and hyper realistic visuals are possible, giving the game industry new windows of opportunity. Despite these stunning hi-res scenes and insanely high polygon models there are some elements which are yet to be achieved successfully. Stylised games have been using certain techniques to their advantage and have been doing so for years, this has played a huge part in the successfulness of video games.

I have always been naturally attracted to games with fantastical worlds, emphasised characteristics and highly stylised visual appearances. I find that games with highly stylised visuals offer a unique and far more rewarding experience allowing you to immerse yourself as a player in a new world. I will be investigating which elements work well together to achieve this and why many photorealistic games struggle to achieve the same experience. To illustrate my arguments I will be analysing and closely referring to the Sony PlayStation 2 game called Okami (Clover Studio, Capcom, 2006) due to its captivating game play and unique Japanese Sumi-e art visuals. For the photorealistic side of the argument I will be referring to a number of different games include Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream, Sony Computer Entertainment, 2010), Bayonetta (Platinum Games, Sega, 2010) and Vanquish (Platinum Games, Sega, 2010), which Okami creator Atsushi Inaba is currently producing.

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Emotional Realism In Computer Games

Been meaning to publish this for some time.  It is an essay I wrote recently about the emotional realism in computer games…

“While photorealistic animation and gaming visuals offer a graphic realism, in what ways have contemporary titles such as Half Life 2 (Valve, 2004) succeeded or failed in expressing an emotional realism?”


Computer games have achieved many realistic effects and are constantly improving each and every day as they continue to define and push new technology to its limits.  Game developers have already acquired the skills enabling them to create photorealistic environments, characters and experiences in game worlds but how do they successfully create emotion?  There are a number of ways emotion can be expressed in a game; the most obvious is through storyline.  However, other effective techniques are more subtle and can be created within the character design, the environments, animations, audio and how the player portrays the game world as a whole.  To explore this question I will be looking at the series of games created by Lorne Lanning at Oddworld Inhabitants, Abe’s Oddysee (GT Interactive Software, 1997), Abe’s Exoddus (GT Interactive Software, 1998), Munch’s Oddysee (Microsoft Games, 2001) and Strangers Wrath (Electronic Arts, 2005), with particular focus on Abe’s Oddysee.  While looking at these games, as well as a number of other references, I will explore the different aspects of the game design and look at how they trigger different emotions within us as a player.

Emotion is an important factor in good game design as it makes the player believe in what is happening and feel involved with the events that occur during game play.  It helps give the feeling of urgency and reinforces the actions in which the game is instructing us to take.  The Oddworld games are an incredibly popular series.  I believe a huge contributing factor to their success is the way they invite the player into the unique game world.

Emotional Triggers in Game Characters

Characters are often an important part of a game and being able to relate to the characters, especially the main playable characters, is essential.  A number of conscious design decisions have been made for all of the Oddworld characters with close consideration to their roles in each of the games.  The most widely known character is Abe the Mudokon, the main character for the first two games; Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus.  I will use Abe as my example as I discuss the character design aspects and how they enforce emotion upon us.

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The Specifics of Level Design in World of Goo

World of Goo is a 2D puzzle game that requires the player to build a large variety of structures made up from the characterful goo balls that inhabit that world. The aim is for the player to create a path out of some of the goo balls enabling the rest of them to safely travel to a pipe situated in every level. I will be discussing the core specifics of the level design as well as looking at how meaning is added into the game and how a successful play experience is created.

World of Goo boasts a strong surreal world full of character and emotion. Its smooth dreamlike landscapes, pastel hues and deep darks make for a pleasing aesthetic which compliment the games theme very well. A strong technique that has been used in many of its levels is something called the savannah paradine. Savannah paradine is a term that is used to describe the arrangement of the colours on screen and their relation to the setting. If you imagine a savannah landscape, you have a rich blue sky, lush green on the horizon and a tan brown ground. It has been biologically proven that humans find this environment the most pleasing and sought after, for example many people travel abroad to hot countries where a similar environment and/or colour base can be naturally found. Judith Heerwagen, in her article on the Psychosocial Value of Space states “Drawing on habitat selection theory, ecologist Gordon Orians argues that humans are psychologically adapted to and prefer landscape features that characterized the African savannah, the presumed site of human evolution….

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