Minecon 2011: A look At The Art Of Scrolls

Though the big news coming out of Minecon was the long-awaited and finally-here launch of Minecraft 1.0, the lengthy peek into Mojang’s next original game, Scrolls, grabbed our attention handily.

I had the chance to attend Minecon’s The Art Of Gaming panel for a lively discussion of how developers make the games we love look just right, and the Scrolls artistic team – Art Director Markus Toivonen, and artists Henrik Pettersson and Mattis Grahm – were on hand for a fairly detailed (and hilarious) look into the still-ongoing development of the game. Oxeye Game Studio, developers of Cobalt, were also present, represented by ‘Kinten’; He didn’t get the chance to discuss Cobalt in great detail, but he was able to offer some interesting insight into the process of creating art for games.

As befits a game only announced early this year and developed by the company that brought us Minecraft, the Scrolls development process is still very ad-hoc. “We still don’t even know how the final game is going look”, Toivonen made clear, particularly at this early point. However, they insisted that this is all according to plan and applicable to the development of both Scrolls and Cobalt. “The number one trap” artists working in games need to avoid, according to Kinten, is expectations. “You don’t have to set out to make everything look AAA,” he said, adding that artists should “set your goals to what is reasonable.”

Henrik Pettersson agreed. “It’s extremely important to actually see your art in a game”, he said, in order to see how it’s fitting into it and to adjust accordingly. Of course, this relatively lackadaisical approach doesn’t mean there’s no structure. Mattis Grahm mentioned that the Scrolls team has a loose goal of “3 days from concept, to finished product ready for animation”, though when asked how realistic the goal was, he admitted “I think we got there once. This one time.”

Hilarious yes, but understandable, as Scrolls will have ‘hundreds’ of animated characters. What I found most genuinely surprising is that each of these characters, and all of the environments you’ll see in the finished game, will first be drawn by hand before being animated with Flash*. I had expected to hear that Adobe Illustrator played a large role in the process, however the artists confirmed that though they like to use ‘the latest and greatest’ tools available for artists working in gaming and that “we’re all really bad at Flash”, they prefer it for the work they’re currently doing.

During the discussion, the Scrolls team showed off several illustrations depicting the ongoing development of the game. I managed to snap a few pictures, and with apologies for the quality, I’d like to share them here. Check out page 2 to behold them in all their (dubious) glory.

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