Developer Diary | Art & Achievements
Hello, and welcome to this week's Dev Diary! I am HOI’s 2D artist and am the one who makes the little buttons, icons, and whatever gets thrown in my way for you to look at and push on, and today I have gotten the opportunity to talk about my work! So let’s start at the beginning, how does a project start, and how and when do artists get involved? Being an artist on a project such as Hearts of Iron is not an easy piece of work. You need to be on your toes and ready to adapt to whatever task your colleagues want help to solve. It usually involves a bit of text and a ton of reference material. And to gather all of these things we use a tool called Miro. It’s essentially an online whiteboard that can be used however fits you and your team best. On our Miro, we separate the features into columns that give you a quick overview of what we need to complete for the upcoming update. The columns are usually divided into Focus trees and Features that are expected to get art during the project. As the project starts it’s not uncommon for the Miro to be a bit empty. A lot of the research for what can be used, artwise, is a pretty heavy task to bite into with all copyrighted photos out there. Our amazing content designers spend quite a lot of time on valuable research, sorting out what is necessary for the game to make sense as well as adding flavour to your gameplay. And yes, this takes a fair amount of development time to gather all this valuable information as well as imagery that will communicate the right thing for you when you play HOI. As time goes on, more art tasks will fill up the Miro board. So, for an artist at the beginning of a project, it can range from doing some cleanup work on older icons or portraits, starting to work on loading screens, continuing setting up the Miro board for the DLC to their taste or helping with another project that needs some extra art-hands. But back to BBA and our work there! We already know what kind of art we want to have for each focus tree, it's more the quantity that is a fluctuating number at this point and it's still uncertain how much we can make in-house. I always try to convince my CDs to ask for art to their heart's content because we always prioritise what needs to be done so the things that matter the most get the art it deserves first. When all High Prio art is done, if time allows we continue with Medium and last of course the Low. We also have, for whenever we manage to wrap up art in a timely manner, a special section that is called a “wish-list”
or Corner of Shame. It's essentially Low Prio art but stuff that maybe was more of an afterthought or just forgotten for a Feature or a Tree that would be extra sweet if it got some new shiny textures.
Without giving too much away, here's a heavily zoomed-out version of how a Miro board can look like that I as an artist work with. And yes, I was in charge of all the Focus trees and the Plane Designer for this DLC (granted I did not make all the art, we also outsource).
We use a colour code to communicate what's going on on the board! All of them also have a little stamp on them to mark what Prio it has as well as a text section where CDs write what they want to communicate with the icon they request. As you probably can see, there's quite a lot of information that needs to be shared between the departments before art can be worked on.
It’s our transparent way to communicate with each other, CD’s can see how much I have done and how much I have left. They can also see my schedule on what I’ll be working with each day. This means that CDs can also ask to get prioritisation over each other if their Focus tree or Feature requires art sooner rather than later and this is constantly brought up and talked about on our syncs together.
Communication 👏 is 👏 key!
Here is an example of how a request turns into an icon (that you may or may not already have seen):
This is a typical request.
It has an in-game name displayed, reference images provided as well as a description of what my CD wants out of the icon. It is also prioritised!
And this is how it ends up looking!
Since we have quite the large art-library by now I can quickly iterate on what type of background works the best as well as reuse different layer styles to make the icon feel cohesive and on-style with the rest.
I also made sure to hit all the marks from the requests such as;
- At least one donkey
- The donkey should carry (at least) a supply
- Add wheat bundles without overcrowding the icon.
- I have the silhouette of Africa
- And industry
- And of course, a background to frame it all on
- Immediately crowded
- Silhouette of Africa is no longer a focus and is hidden
- The coins stealing the show