As I covered in the feature on box art and game logos I did last week, putting together a game's cover isn't as easy as you'd think it is. Especially when you take a look at a work in progress.
Rokkan, the company I spoke with putting the piece together, were kind enough to share with us its work on designing a game cover from scratch. The game in question is Civilization IV, Rokkan having been hired by publishers 2K to do some "concepts" and "exploration" for different kinds of box art, which would then be taken by another team and worked into the final product.
See? Complicated. And fascinating. To your left, you'll see five completely different types of art the team at Rokkan came up with, each designed to tackle Civilization - and what it meant to consumers - in a different way. The description of what each piece of art was meant to convey has been provided by Rokkan's Charles Bae.
"A simple yet striking concept that tells a story using the working hand. There is certainly a divine reference to the hand, because it is the hand of creation, albeit manmade. It's positioned top-down as if the viewer is seeing the hand on a standing figure in a relaxed and almost tired position. If it was turned down-up it would denote something totally different, a la Left 4 Dead, and the resemblance even of the post-production of the hand itself is very similar. The top-down view also suggests the player of the game being the prime creator, again a slightly divine tone."
This is obviously the most basic approach. Even the defacto character line-ups need exploration in composition. While this is an obvious formulaic concept, seeing it as a story board helps us to compare this side by side to the other concepts. Although this concept was proposed in 2005, you can clearly see similarities from this to the current Civ Revolution box art in terms of characters lineup and the circular earth, which was put in the foreground.
A more abstract approach using the earth. The viewer is not supposed to know what the object containing the earth is. It could be a telescope or it could just be a container that distorts the scale of the earth, and makes it actually appear to be very small. The formally objective view of the earth suggests it is something that you are in control of, something you can almost put in your pocket. We wanted to deviate from the warm tones traditionally found on Civ covers and opted to go with a simple and cold white treatment. The blood and the over-growth represent the struggle between man vs man vs nature. Whether these metaphors shine through are debatable, but they were the basis for the concept nonetheless.
A more literal interpretation of the growth of civilization, from organic roots to manmade structures. Again, employing a white theme which is in stark contrast to previous box covers.
This is the closest to the final Civ IV box art, and was used as a reference for the final cover. This concept alone could have used further exploration, but it was enough for the final artists to reinterpret into the final art. The main idea was to showcase historic locations and structures around the world mashed up into one landscape...kind of what you would see in the vegas landscape. We thought it would be interesting to see the statue of liberty juxtaposed with other landmark structures. You can see the artist's interpretation of the final Civ IV cover really refined the composition and coloring to put it into a finished state.