Art Direction - Concept Art

Role: Art director/concept art - Sony Cambridge

All the artwork featured on this page was created by Jason Wilson (2002-3).
Copyright Sony Computer entertainment.

In my role as Art Director and Concept Artist I work closely with the Creative Director and the Design Team to ensure that any game project has the best possible visual appeal and attention to detail.

I believe that creating art for games is all about the design of the game, and that the visuals are a vital complementary part of the overall language of the game. Creating art for games is not just a case of coming up with a bunch of pretty paintings. In my role as Art Director I need to understand how every design element functions, and how the art and design can work together.

A lot of my time is spent being very hands-on with the art and design departments as well as the code and technology groups to ensure that the final game presentation is of the highest quality possible  in a given time-frame and that the entire team is pulling in the right direction.

Below is a selection of examples of my work, most of the examples are drawn on paper with ink and coloured in Photoshop.


Ghosthunter (Sony PS2) came into development hot on the heels of our success with MediEvil 2, which had won the BAFTA award for Best Console Game in 2000. For Ghosthunter we wanted to recapture the spirit of MediEvil, but thematically place it in a more adult setting. James Shepherd, the game’s Creative Director, was aiming for a creative mix of ‘Ghostbusters meets David Fincher’, with a dash added of the subversive nature of comic book writer Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys, Adventures of the Rifle Brigade).

This was a brief after my own heart, and I embraced my roles of Art Director and Concept Artist on this project, deciding to leave the game design to a different group so I could focus  my energies on running the art team.

I designed more than 90% of the visuals in the game. I also worked with the  technology group who developed  some amazing lighting effects based on lighting mood boards and in-game mock ups of I had produced to show them what I wanted to see from the engine tech.

Ghosthunter received a lot of good press for its cutting-edge visuals (on the PS2). In a recent IGN article (2010) Ghosthunter was proclaimed to be in the category of best-looking PS2 game, up there with the likes of Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy.

This was the final (Europe) cover that I designed and created for the packaging and posters.
You can watch an entertaining "Behind the scenes" video interview/preview from 2003 by clicking on the following video link...

The Art Direction/Concept Art - Ghosthunter

At the start I would sit down with the creative director and just doodle lots and lots of quick sketches, as many as possible just to get the creative juices flowing. This is a fun time on a project before the real hard work begins.

This was one of the first drawings i did for the main character. He was based a little on Brad Pitt in the movie Fight Club. The thing on the ceiling is a Reaper Ghost, we had a good selection of enemy types that had to be hunted.

This is the most traditional ghost that appears in the game, known as a "spook." This ghost is the one most based on the idea of the traditional sheet ghost, but meaner.

This was probably my favourite creature - a giant skin and bones Teddy Bear nightmare monster. You had to shoot the stuffing out of him to destroy him. Sony even made a limited edition "plush" version of this monster that I still have!

In order to get across the vibe of a monster I would draw quick comic book pages to sell the concept of a monster to the team. They helped the team bond and get excited about the game's possibilities and i was happy to draw them.

A section of the game was played on a lost at sea WW2 battle ship. The player had to team up with a platoon of ghostly drowned soldiers and help them vanquish a sea demon that has taken up shop in the bowels of the ship.

This fella was the boss of the prison that the player finds themselves trapped in. This guy is the manifestation of a terrible criminal that was sent to the electric chair.

I did a talk at the Barbican center to a bunch of school kids and this was their favourite monster ever! This chap is all that remains of a child who was eaten by a croc, over the decades his spirit grows inside the croc until he is regurgitated as a puke monster!

This is a close up of the giant puke kid monster. In actuality he just wants to be loved and is only looking for his mom. Ahh bless!

There were a fair few undead knights in Ghosthunter, this was an attempt to add a visual link with Sony's MediEvil series of games. Pencil on paper.

Undead Knight. Pencil on paper.
A close up of the detail I would put into a character design. This amount of detail gives the artist a very good idea of what I want to see built into the ingame model. This drawing is of a giant monster made out of scrap yard junk.

This an example of a rough 3D model that I would build for the character art team, in this case a giant robot made of junked vehicles. We would use this rough model in the game's engine to check for scale and so on. The character artists would then use this model as a basis for the final version.
Another example of a rough 3D model that I would give to the art team. This guy was a robot that the player could control to become a sort of Ghostbusting Robocop.
This is a giant sea beast that lives in the engine room of an WW2 ship, this guy was massive and really pushed our tech team to create this on Playstation 2 tech.
I would draw almost every part of the environment in detail including all the props. I love drawing technology. The above drawing (ink on paper) is the player's work bench in their base that is useing old 1950s/60s technology. Ink on paper.
This was the player's ghostbusting gun. It had elements of an old petrol pump, camera equipment and a flame thrower. I love drawing and designing old technology. The artists would build accurate 3D models based on my detailed drawings. Ink on paper.
Top down elevation of the player's ghostbusting weapon. Ink on paper.

I designed a lot of weapons and various bits of equipment.

A side elevation of the sitting room in a haunted house. I would draw a number of elevations and probably even build a rough 3D model. This location had a sort of quirky "MediEvil" vibe to it, an earlier game I had helped create.
A part of a corroded boiler room on an old abandoned ship. Drawn ink on paper.
A disgusting basement kitchen.
One of the red-neck folk who actually turn out to be good guys and merely disguise themselves as monsters, the chap above would disguise himself as a hulking crocodile-man monster (see below).

The following examples are art direction pieces that I would create and provide to the environment and technology teams. I would paint over a very rough grey-scale 3D model of designer-built environment, and then paint in the texture elements such as wood, mud, water and the lighting effects that I wanted the team to emulate in the game.

The team were pretty much spot-on with translating my art requirements, and it’s fair to say that some of the environment art and lighting effects of this  PS2 game still rival anything seen in the likes of recent PS3 games such as Uncharted nearly ten years later (not to say a distinct similarity between Lazarus and Nathan)!

An example of an art direction piece that I would create for the environment and tech teams,their task would be emulate my snall concept paint overs. This scene is set in the swamp lands, lots of mud and rotting wood and filtered light.

An example of an art direction piece that I would create for the environment and tech team,their task would be emulate my concept paint overs.
An example of an art direction piece that I would create for the environment and tech team, their task would be emulate my concept paint overs. This is a scene on the deck of ghost ship drifting through a sea-fog.
An example of an art direction piece that I would create for the environment and tech teams,their task would be emulate my concept paint overs. This is the inside of a huge haunted WW2 ship that has a cargo bay holding tanks.

The environment team headed by Lead Environment Artist - Pete Giles.
An early design for Lazurus, this is a 3D Maya model that I had painted into as a guide for the character artists.
I suggested that the French movie star Vincent Cassel lend his voice to the lead character in the French version of the game. In order to get the actor excited, I created a number of comic-style storyboards that demonstrated key moments from the game, and even had them translated into French. Monsieur Cassel found the project fun and performed a great job as the hero character. He even signed my original artwork, but unfortunately the pages never reached me despite having been given photos of him signing the work...!

The following examples are versions modelled in Maya of some of the environments for the game. I would create basic models of characters and environments and put them into the game engine, so that the designers could move cameras around the components. This helped us to agree on elements such as scale and spacing, and I could get a good idea of the composition of a scene and where to focus the art team’s time and effort.

A joke card based on a Radio Times cover. I made this for the team for the game's launch.

All images except the photographs are copyright and property of Sony Entertainment