Concept Art (The Unknown Patient)


Set in 1928, ‘The Unknown Patient’ is a real-time interactive VR story based on the remarkable true story of a man who was lost and forgotten for twelve years in a mental asylum and how the search to find his true identity brought hope to a nation in mourning.



  • The concept art is the defining visual representation of what your piece will look like. The 3D artists, environmental artist, and dev team will refer to it for everything-It’s the rock from which the project is build on. Have a good sense of what you want. What kind of windows? how is the room shaped? what props do I want? Sort all this out before you hire a concept artist so that your brief can support their talents.
  • Find yourself an artist you can get behind. Somebody that speaks to your narrative and enhances your vision. Art Station can be a black hole of similar stuff but it’s the best resource I’ve come across when looking for concept artists (especially if you’re new to the industry). I was fortunate to find (on art station) Richard Healy, a talented concept artist and painter.
  • Speak to your dev team and make sure that the assets in the concept art are all inside the frame so that they can refer to it for their builds. Have a good understanding of this as it will save you once you enter Alpha. Having a visual representation of what you want is far easier to define than a vague and subjective description.
  • Define with your artist how to give feedback and when. You don’t want to give him ‘freakout’ feedback after he sends you a sketch. There’s an element of going along with the artist to see where they end up, it might open ideas, give it some breathing room.
  • Sketches are a great way to iterate on the board and to define the details. Make sure your process enables that. Last thing you want is your artist to provide what he thinks is a finished board and for it to be in the complete opposite direction.
  • Somewhere along the way your vision will get a little middled and off centre, but don’t worry it’s natural and is a great way to understand what’s not right. It should be an exploration, although at the time you’ll think you’ve both lost your war.

The above image was one of the first boards the concept artist envisioned. I loved it but we found that it was too steeped in realism and also completely impractical with the scope of our project. This would be insanely expensive once we moved into Alpha. We also thought we wanted to experiment a bit more in creating something that represented the patients mind and how he saw the world. So we went back to some of Richards earlier work, simplified things, and decided to explore a more painterly aesthetic. 

Playing with the gestures of the art itself started to bring in new ideas and accents to the piece itself. It was in this moment that the style began to become symbolic of his world and we began to find new meanings within the piece. We found ourselves embracing the limitation and it started to inspire other ideas within the dev team and how the shaders might react to the world (a post on shaders some other time).

We began to mock up some samples on how the world might begin to tear away as he encounters memories of his past. Concept art is an evolving form but if you don't have a basis to start and understand the scope of a project you can become dangerously lost in the details. 

We were happy with the above concept art and found that it best represents the style we were looking for and that it was enough for the dev and 3D artists to latch on to. I really loved the collaborative effort of working with a concept artist and although when you're. 
Now onto the next stage. Beta. Where 3D artists, sound designers, and the dev team begin building the world and bringing their own flavours into it.

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