Last week in part 1 of our interview with F1 RACE STARS Art Director, Harvey Parker, we took a look at the influences that played a part in F1 RACE STARS character styling and learned about the “Automotive fold”. Read part 2 below to get an inside look on the process of creating the characters.
So from the initial sketches, have the characters changed radically would you say? Or did you hit the nail on the head pretty much at the beginning and it was just fine tuning?
It was funny, I was looking at going back through some of that art work fairly recently and the first drawing that I did of Mark Webber, which was just a little biro sketch on a pad that I did.
Do you still have that?
I do have that. It was by no means polished but there was a lot in there that had the same ambition that we ended up with even after the multiple iterations. As an art director I’m pretty much being paid for my taste but it’s important to make use of the abilities of the team so I don’t become the bottleneck for the entire art style for the game.
So that’s an interesting point, obviously each artist has their own individual style or gait if you like, of how they draw. How did you maintain a consistent style? Did you have to have just the one person do them all and then everyone else work off those?
It was absolutely essential, especially for a game like this where the style is completely new to find the right artist within the studio to work with me on every key area, the car, the characters and the environments. Historically, other Codemasters games have been heavily based on reference and realism, but F1 RACE STARS presented a whole new challenge in terms of style and ambitions that I talked about earlier.
we found ourselves treating the pre-production as you might a typical film pre-production.
To nail that high-end family entertainment quality, we found ourselves treating the pre-production as you might a typical film pre-production. We involved a storyboard artist to help explain the story of the tracks through with the level designers and things like that. It was a lot of work, but as soon as we found the right character artist for the role, working with that one person, directing the process and bouncing it between myself, concept and the character artists it moved on pretty rapidly from that point.
What’s the artistic process to making someone look like an F1 RACE STARS driver?
Early on it was all about getting that first driver right. We started with Mark Webber, he’s got such a strong face and he was going to define one end of the spectrum; the most square-headed, chiselled featured chap on the grid. From there we could take it all the way to the other end of the spectrum. When concepting the faces, we look for defining characteristics such as eye colour, hair style, definition in the face like cheekbones, a prominent or determined chin, eyebrows etc. We identified the prime features and played on those, but not in a cruel way. It was very important that we created desirable toys to play with.
Something else that I felt very strongly about early on in the art direction on this project was the fact we had this unprecedented freedom to present FORMULA ONE in a way that’s never been done. OK, we’re making a videogame but from an art perspective, that is almost incidental. We’re doing the tracks, the drivers, the cars, new logos – everything is being shown and designed in a brand new way and that’s the way I approached it. The first six months was spent looking at how we could make FORMULA ONE appeal to everyone, but primarily children. We took into account the most successful franchises and influences at that time and for this year – would there be a big Transformers film out that year? If so, it could affect the way things tend to look at a certain time. We looked at the Olympics and its branding too. It has a very bold design, with spiky, angular text for the font used. It’s strong, and fun, and although we knew it might split opinion, it’s an interesting approach. We decided to play off those angles and you can see this represented in our chosen font which is itself quite angular and spiky. As I’ve mentioned, it’s not just what do we make a videogame look like, but taking in influences beyond gaming and factoring those into the equation.
Who was your favourite F1 Race Star to draw?
There’re some really lovely ones in there, I think my favourite is probably Grosjean.
And why’s that?
He suits the style we created absolutely. He’s got a quirkiness about him that I particularly like. I think it’s a characterisation that would very much suit the lead in one of these big animation films.
Have you had any feedback from the drivers themselves?
Obviously for approval they get to see these and comment. We threw this totally new style at them and it could have been difficult if it didn’t sit well. Thankfully, we had only very few, minor amendments to make so we took that as a very positive thing confirming that they liked what they saw.
I was fortunate enough to take the artwork around to some of the FORMULA ONE teams’ managers and marketing teams and saw the first-hand reaction. There were instant smiles and laughing in a good way at the characters. It was delight to see their response.
The fans really warmed to the driver images. I don’t know if you’ve read any of the comments off Twitter and Facebook but they loved them.
Absolutely. It’s great to see that early ambition appears to have hit the mark. I read many of the comments and the whole team are delighted at the reaction. It’s definitely been one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on!