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How to make great key art for your game!

Updated: Feb 27

Crafting impactful key art for a video game is a pivotal challenge in game design. The image should vividly convey the essence of the game, giving potential players a glimpse into the world they are about to explore. While some key art succeeds in encapsulating the gameplay loop in a single image, many fall short, leaving players to rely on additional information from blurbs or box descriptions.

Let's dissect a couple of renowned key art images to understand their effectiveness. Take "Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom" as an example. The image showcases Link crouching on a floating island with a weapon on his back, armour, and a cape fluttering in the wind. The background hints at other floating islands, suggesting the possibility of island-hopping and aerial combat. However, it lacks crucial elements like Zelda, Ganondorf, or a narrative context, leaving much to the imagination.

On the contrary, "Mario Wonder" presents a key art filled with information. Mario reaching for a flower, various platforms, an elephant Mario stuck in a pipe, Luigi gliding with his cap, and Peach and Toad dealing with a bent pipe—all these elements provide a visual preview of the gameplay without exaggeration. Even for those unfamiliar with Mario games, the image communicates what players can expect during their gaming experience.

Here are 5 tips to enhance the effectiveness of key art.

1. Character Ensemble:

Ensure that key characters are represented to give players a glimpse of the game's universe. This helps in building familiarity and excitement.

2. Dynamic Gameplay Elements:

Depict key gameplay mechanics or actions to show the variety of experiences players can anticipate. This could include characters using special abilities, interacting with objects, or navigating the game environment.

3. Iconic Objects:

Highlight iconic objects or elements that are synonymous with the game. These could be items, symbols, or artifacts that hold significance in the game's world.

4. Story Teasers:

Provide subtle hints or symbols that allude to the game's narrative. This creates intrigue and encourages players to explore the storyline.

5. Balanced Representation:

Maintain a balance between showcasing key gameplay elements and leaving room for curiosity. Avoid overwhelming the viewer with too much detail, ensuring the key art remains visually appealing and informative.

By incorporating these features, key art can serve as a compelling visual invitation, enticing potential players with a clearer understanding of the adventure that awaits them.

As I strive to refine my skills, I've undertaken the task of creating new key art for "Let's go Burrito." The existing key art depicts the player in front of the White House with cheese dripping down their hands, portraying a moment of triumph.

However, upon reflection, I realised this image fails to effectively communicate the essence of the game. Questions arise: Why is the character at the White House, and what is their purpose?

In response, I crafted a new image aimed at conveying the fundamental mechanics of the game. Though the current iteration may lack perfection and requires additional polish (I am actively seeking a more skilled artist), it serves as a step towards elucidating the game's core elements and activities. Notably, I introduced a tagline to bolster the visual representation. Fortunately, the simplicity of the gameplay loop and mechanics in this particular game has proven advantageous.

As I anticipate the creation of key art for our next game, I acknowledge the forthcoming challenge of encapsulating more intricate gameplay and mechanics in a single, compelling image. The journey to improve and refine my approach to key art creation continues, recognising the evolving demands of visual storytelling in the gaming industry.

Let me know in the comments what you game you think has the perfect key art?


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