When it comes to designing characters its usually pretty obvious. Almost everyone tries to sketch out a character first before doing anything else.
Here's an example: drone design for Red Rust. And below is the initial idea sketch for those curious:
But we conceptualize not only characters and sets. We do the same for pretty much everything. Red Rust is primarily a fighting game, but here's the concept design for the flying stage we want to implement:
The flying level may have started as a vague idea, but now looking at this image produced by our artists, we can come up with more pronounced ideas on how we can approach this level and what hazards we can put in! These ideas would not be generated without this visual aid.
Sometimes designs are not produced by just one artist. In the case of the image above, we used three artists. One did the background (later adjusted by our art director) and the rocket, a different artist did the lineart for the girl and yet another artist did the color drawing of the girl. It is very much a team effort.
Here's another design of a different level:
It's the same level you can see right here in our prototype:
We also sometime do additional sketches to further develop the characters even when it is not strictly necessary. Like this pin up sketch (still WIP):
3D animation can also greatly benefit from planning on paper as any animation student will tell. We don't always do sketches for animation, but when we do it looks something like this:
Its an animation of an enemy being violently thrown and it's much easier to envision it first as a series of thumbnails.
All this extra design work pays off big time when it comes to the final result. This type of planning as you can see works great for set design and level design, for animation and for character development. 2D artists in other words do very important work.
Let us know what your thoughts are on concept design for games?
To learn more about Red Rust check out our Press Kit.