Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Concept Art – Behind the Scenes

The role of a Concept Artist is the role of an explorer, tasked with charting a world without sunlight. Bear with me here:

You start off with your reference and research. These are well established base camps. They’re well lit, highly populated and safe. The better your reference the better your bearings will be. The artist’s job is to start at base camp with a bag of torches and run furiously out into the darkness. Every doodle, sketch, painting and storyboard is a torch lit somewhere out in the black. You mostly find weeds and rocks out there. But if you keep pushing you sometimes find a rich landscape that can hopefully become a new basecamp.

I was inspired by my friend Hethe Srodawa, who recently posted his most nitty-gritty of concept work: his paintovers (http://hethesrodawa.blogspot.ca/2013/05/local-watering-hole_21.html). We can tend to keep our less pretty, less refined work hidden away on our drives but I think it paints a disingenuous image of the role of concept artists. There’s a lot more to the job than the few polished portfolio pieces that get released. Hethe pulled his pants down and it has inspired me to do the same.

What follows is a smattering of rag-tag concepts.
Some saw the light of day, some were changed dramatically, some were scrapped entirely.

All were necessary.

Mass Effect

This was a very, very early idea for Shepard. In this image he has been forced to turn to Reaper technology to accomplish his goals (*cough* Saren *cough*) and he’s being confronted by the new human Specter, Ashley. 

When designing the Cerberus troops, there were a lot of requests for thickness. I tend to go thin by default (a handicap I have to constantly work to counteract). What I wanted to maintain was a slight “goofiness” to their appearance. I think that if you try to design something to be cool, it will fail. The best designs (especially designs for characters that are meant to be scary or intimidating) are ones that maintain a percentage of goofiness. Real world designs typically have this element because engineers and designers are concerned with function first. This tends to create unintentionally funny forms.

Bubblehead here was meant to be the ultimate stress test for this concept. He would show up looking like an idiot, but once he murdered a prisoner in cold blood and then ripped your health down to nothing you would learn to fear that stupid looking shape. I believe that the juxtaposition between the goofy appearance and deadly menace creates an iconic, lasting enemy. That said, it still wasn’t an idea that fit within the Mass Effect language. 

Two early takes on Kai Leng. Playing with Ben Huen’s idea for robot legs, and a battle scarred version. The scarred version was an attempt to create an evil Shepard (As though Cerberus had rebuilt him as well, but done a crappier job). 

Here were two early renditions of the Illusive man after he had overdosed on Reaper Tech.

This was an early take on Ashley’s costume. The idea was to create a hybrid of uniform and armor. I’ve always been fond of the idea of futuristic wet-suit armor. I wanted to try a suit that was flexible, but sturdy and protective. Flexible, futuristic armor is a concept that requires too much in-game exposition though. At the end of the day it was decided that players need to see hard-shell armor. 

This was an aborted painting of Jack escaping from prison.  I’m pretty sure it was abandoned because the level was already looking and playing great, so it wouldn’t be of much use to anyone.

 The same goes for this Legion image. By the time is was started, it wasn’t needed.

Here’s a version of Wrex on his throne that was never released. It was drawn to help give the level artists a starting point.

The Collector ship and the Human-Reaper both took a very long time to design. This biggest challenge was communicating the immense scale. These concepts were all part of the long discussion about scale, but also how abstracted the Human-Reaper would be. Early experiments leant more towards a fetus, others towards adult skeletal and muscular systems.

This one in particular was far too literal. I include it because the human-tube has been a long running and terrible joke between a few friends. Just imagine the deafening squeak of a thousand asses rubbing on glass.

 An unused alien idea. Thank god. I wanted to design an alien that was completely horrifying and was failing in every possible way to come across as relatable to humans. If we actually went this direction I would have loved it if you could see constantly shifting eyes and teeth behind his “Hue-Mon” mask. Just awful.

Early passes at the Shadowbroker.

This one is my personal favorite. I kind of wish we’d gone this direction, even though admittedly it's a bit more boring that the final version. This was a response to the description “He’s basically Ares, in space.”

This was a quick idea for the interior of a Turian structure. It was cobbled together from photos of abandoned planes. 

This was a sketch to try to describe the look of Reaper infection inside the Geth system.

Edi went through a lot of quick, early iterations. When you know a character is going to be a particular challenge it can help to explore a lot of territory quickly and early. We tried:
Plastic-skin, with and without glowy-bits. 

A more literal avatar of the Normandy.

A love letter to Blade Runner’s Pris.

Mechanical manequins, attempting to own the uncanny valley by creating a disquieting look.

I still find that concepting major characters in T-pose (or just standing there) to be challenging. When I feel stuck, it helps to put them in context. This image explores Edi being more literally connected to the Normandy.

These were early Reaper drone concepts that remain my favorites to this day.

Some drawings for Jack’s updated look.

Protheans were interesting. At first I was trying to design a creature that could conceivably be (if you squint your eyes) the genetic root of all the alien races in our galaxy (yes yes, just like that TNG episode). I was trying to stay as close to their original appearance in ME1 as I could (which had been kept intentionally vague for just this reason). That didn’t last long though.

Here I was trying to design a suit that was reminiscent of a Mass Relay.

 Okay, admittedly, I’ve kept these drawings far away from the internet for a while. That’s because they’re connected to controversy in one way or another. Please take them as they are: drawings done during development, posted for interest’s sake. I’ve been asked to comment on these subjects in the past but will continue to let the work speak for itself.

These were some of the first images drawn for the finale level. The original thought was to create a serene space in the middle of a pitched battle. I thought it would be interesting to create this golden lotus flower out of panels and protective foil.

Here are some sketches used to explore the different aspects of your final decision.

This image was purely speculative on my part. I imagined the galaxy changed by the synthesis choice. Because life and technology were joined (and I didn’t know the Mass Relays would be destroyed yet) I imagined that there would be no more need for space ships. Any creature could just link in with the nearest relay and jump to any world they chose, surface to surface. This would start changing the biology of every creature in the galaxy as they would no longer be limited to any one environment. Here are some Asari/Salarian/Human/? in the far, far future taking a carefree stroll in the grass.

The debate about whether or not to reveal Tali’s face was another one that lasted a long time. Versions of her were being worked on fairly often. These were three that I thought worked in their own way. Personally, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to push players to the edge. Tali was like a pen pal, or a friend you’ve only ever known online. Depending on how attached to her a player was, how well could they handle her appearance challenging their expectations? If she looked a little too alien, just a little too repellant, would they still feel the same way about her? Or did her personality and your history together trump appearances? It’s an interesting area to explore and I hope we can find other ways to ask that question.

To me, this has always been (and always will be) Tali. This was drawn during ME1 when she was first being designed, and when her appearance under the mask wasn’t a big deal yet.

Dragon age

Here’s a nice segue image. I had just polished up the ME2 armor when we heard about the crossover armors.  It was never built, but I forget why. Maybe it was a little too Mass Effect to fit into Dragon Age)

These were redesigns of Dragon Age Origins appearances. We were trying to reshape or reuse as many existing assets as possible. These were two attempts to strengthen the designs, making them more readable and practical.

We did a lot of simple stuff like this, attempting to address readability and the overall “final frame” of the game (Dragon Age 2 in this case). This was obviously very early on in the levels development, but it helped to establish the right ranges early on.

These were attempts to flesh out the city of Kirkwall in Dragon Age 2. The first is a bare-bones “quarried city”. We wanted it to look like much of the city had been carved straight out of the rock.

This shows Kirkwall’s slave prison as it would have appeared in the past, under Tevinter rule.

Quick and dirty sketches like this helped out sort out some of the more challenging architectural and sculptural elements. The central idea remained the same in game (that a giant chain kept the entrance to Kirkwall defended), but the slave driver/slave sculptures changed. And the chain was no longer covered in gibbets, sadly.

Here is a very early attempt to redesign Flemeth for DA2. We wanted her to be more imposing, letting more of her power show through. It was decided that this was still too restrained.

Early sketches of some party members. These are quickly sketched out as we read the character descriptions. It’s really nothing more than a way of keeping notes on various features, affectations, or poses that strike us. 

Designing Merril was a great exercise in Writing and Concept Art learning to speak one another’s language. In her early descriptions I picked up heavily on her willful dabbling with blood magic. On paper she was scary, so early drawings reflected that. After the writers understandably freaked a little, it was explained how those more deadly aspects of her curiosity would unfold and we reined her in a great deal.

Alternate versions of party members at different stages in their development. In order:
-          Giving some Dalish armor to Merril
-          Giving Fenris more armor and a better haircut (we were to late…god help us, we were too late…)
-          This was an early version of Isabela. Duncan’s appearance is my favorite from DAO, so I wanted to try translating it directly. A few pieces from this carried over to her final look.
-          Carver didn’t change much. He has tan stripes on his arms, which were a bizarre design idea and I couldn’t tell you why I thought they’d work on him.
-          This was my original costume design for Tallis. It turns out she has a guy for that so her final appearance was different, but that’s all part of the fun.

Fenris, Fenris, Fenris….The widowmaker. These barely scratch the surface of how many attempts we made at Fenris. Somehow he was just impossible to capture. He was like a game of musical chairs. His design kept changing until the music stopped and the version we had was the version we had to live with. I still would love to redesign him, but like him or not, Fenris is now Fenris.

Fenris’ tattoos (you never see this much, but we needed to know what they looked like under there)

Orsino and Meredith stood as opposing forces in DA2. Meredith’s design was pretty much finalized, and she looked like a heroic paladin (still one of my favorites from DA2). I took this opportunity to design Orsino in contrast, making him look as much like a Disney villain as I could get away with. I think it’s a nice contrast for his character too. He looks like a vampire but is a pretty nice guy

This lineup was drawn as part of a visual development project we tried. As a way of summing up all the design elements we wanted to bring together we made a simple animatic, trying to capture a slice of the art direction over all. These guys served as our temporary cast.

This was a hypothetical cast we used as part of an internal design fundamentals discussion. The idea was to take a cast of characters and design them together as a group. By doing this you start making choices about major shapes, color themes, etc… This was a relatively simplistic one, but it got the point across.

Early stages of Hawke’s evolution. Affectionately named “Biker Mage”,  our visual development guy ended up being a launch pad for our protagonist.

I don’t have many of these lying around as they tend to be deleted shortly after the fix has been made. I’m going to try to save more of them since they’re a key element in the process. There are very few concepts that get translated into 3D exactly as intended. You have to pick your battles, but it’s quite often helpful to send a quick and dirty paintover. 

Controversy again.
The Darkspawn redesign. Some people like them, some people hate them so much it probably hints a serious underlying medical condition. Here’s my thought process.
You only every know how to design your game when it’s done. That’s just the reality. We’re fortunate on Dragon Age to have the freedom to correct or finesse designs according to what we’ve learned in the past. At the end of the day, Concept Art is about telling the story of the game and we felt that the original design of the Darkspawn wasn’t doing the story justice.
Our goals were:
-We wanted to show that the Taint hadn’t just lead to pointy-teeth monsters, but that it was a sickness affecting people who used to be Human, Elven, Dwarven and Qunari.
-We wanted to show the brain-decay the disease caused by making their armor far less sophisticated (The Origins Darkspawn armor was more complex and intricate than most human armor)
-We wanted to show that it was the same disease effecting all members of the Darkspawn (We felt the Darkspawn in Origins were a bit too hodgepodge in their appearances)

This was an early pass that went too far. We didn’t want to go full horror show on it, but it acted as a starting point for the discussion. The strong reaction we got internally showed us we were on to something. By making them more recognizably human, it triggers your empathy more strongly.

Another aspect of the Darkspawn we considered was their roll in combat. They could appear in almost any environment so we wanted to make sure they were readable. The original design tended to blend into the background too easily. So, we designed the sickness and armor to create a high contrast design. The skin became pale and the armor was darkened. This way you could always spot them, and animators wouldn’t have to fight as hard to telegraph their attacks and movements.

Here are the design principles applied to the Hurlock and the Ogre. Both a little closer to their races of origin (though we had more restrictions with the Ogre), both following the same high contrast color scheme and primitive aesthetic. That was the intent. Execution is something else. But it’s all a learning experience and each step gets us a little further.

Concept art is a strange business. There’s all sorts of odd jobs, rabbit trails, misfires and victories. As I said earlier, you never know how to design a game until it’s finished. All we can do is keep running out into the darkness, lighting torches until we find something good.
If you read this far, holy crap. Congratulations, here’s an unused Qunari barbarian for your trouble.

Thank you!


  1. Matt,

    Great stuff. I really enjoying seeing the evolution of design. I want to thank you for showing some of your rougher drawings and paintings. As an aspiring artist its nice to see the in between phases. Keep it up!

  2. Thank you for this post. I know seeing some of the older stuff could feel cringe worthy, but this is incredibly educational for artists learning their craft.

  3. thank you very much for posting these images and taking the time to comment on them as well!
    I really wish more of these had made it into the art books - though I do wish that 'The Art of the Mass Effect Universe' was a 4 tome compilation (1 for each game and one for comics, the anime etc.) to begin with ;)
    and I cna only hope that we get a proper artbook for Dragon Age on top of the World of Thedas books.

  4. Amazing. One of my favs giving some insight into the biz, what a treat. Thanks a ton for sharing.

  5. Thank you so much for posting these! Especially the underlying reference for Fenris' tattoos. Is there anything laying around with how they run from the waist down?

    It's so interesting to see the ways characters came to life via concept art.

  6. I am a shameless process junkie. I agree, a lot of people just sort of assume polish art and final designes are cranked out that way- not so.

    Thank you so much for sharing these, as well as linking to other fantastic artists!

  7. I loved every piece of art and all the notes in this! I want to go into concept art/character development for a career, and everything I can find out about the job is extremely helpful, especially when it comes from people who work in the field.

    Thank you so much for these beautiful works of art and for making all the characters I love!

    BTW, thanks for the Qunari barbarian... XD

  8. Hello Mr. Rhodes!

    I really enjoy your art and your vision. I think you're very talanted. Which is why it kinda sucks to see your female designs. You have these strong, amazing personalities and yet you dress them in skimpy clothing and armour that revelas what it should protect, and then you place them in these ridiculous contortionist poses. I see this over and over again, and as a woman and a person who really enjoys your games, I find that kind of hurtful. You have this huge part of your fanbase who are just waiting for you to do right by them.

  9. Thanks everyone! Glad more people find this interesting than just me.

    Malin S Larsson, I hear you. My only explanation is that these were drawn when I was younger and very single. I'm excited to show off the concept art we've done for Dragon Age Inquisition. I have a feeling you'll be pleasantly surprised by the effect my strong, intelligent wife and beautiful little daughter have had on my portrayal of women. Taking part in the creation of quality female role models has become a priority for me over the last few years.

  10. Thanks Matt,

    very inspiring post.I love to hear about the process behind some of these truly amazing characters. Great concept of the "real" Tali without mask!
    As always, great work keep it up.
    Might do a pants down post like this myself! :)

  11. I loved reading this! Can't wait to see your work in Dragon Age 3.

  12. Hello Matt Rhodes !

    I’m Virak, a french illustrator, and I manage some Facebook fanpages with my friends from « Ultimate Chibi Team » (http://www.ultimatechibiteam.com/ ).
    We really like your work in Bioware games, and I wanted to know if we could make an interview of you for « Mass Effect France » (https://www.facebook.com/MASSEFFECTFRANCE ), and « Dragon Age France » (https://www.facebook.com/DragonAgeFrance ).
    Our people are very enthusiastic about the different works concerning those games, and they would be very happy to know more about you and your work.
    Let me know if you are ok or not.

    See you soon ! (I hope)

  13. Wow, this is fascinating. It's really cool to read about the thoughts behind the characters. I will never forget "Biker Mage".

  14. Thank you Matt! I always love following your work but I am so happy to get to read so much detail about the internal concepting process at Bioware. I'm really glad they let you release these, so much neat stuff to see. It looks like there were a lot of battles, and it's hard to see good work disappear into the ether. Great post!

  15. Matt, thank you for posting this! i always love seeing process work (especially for two of my favorite games!) really inspiring stuff. :)

  16. So amazing. Thank you so much for sharing all of this! Finding this blog entry and all the cool illustrations and insight into the thinking process behind them... I feel like I just stumbled across the biggest stash of loot EVER.

  17. very interesting post Matt.Thank you for sharing this "behind the scenes" look on the process!

  18. Like everyone else, I can't thank you enough for sharing this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    But I have one more thing to ask of you: How would you feel about this being used as examples in discussion and in art university?

  19. Thanks so much for posting this stuff! It's interesting your thoughts about Tali's appearance. I bought the art of Mass Effect book not too long ago and I saw a small thumbnail of that particular design (your favorite one) for Tali and I thought the same thing. THAT'S Tali!

  20. This is awesome! It's a shame that more of Isabela's concept in 66 didn't get to stick around, because that outfit is amazing. Thanks for sharing - it's always interesting to see behind the scenes.

  21. Alternate Reaper Shepard would have been kind of awesome to experience. Also, Control Ending Reaper God Shepard might have convinced me to go blue ending.

  22. Amazing post - thank you so much for sharing! I wasn't expecting to see much that hadn't previously been shared in the art book, so I was floored at how much additional art you posted up. I really enjoy viewing concept work from films and games, especially seeing how characters and ideas come to life. Most inspiring. Thanks once again!

  23. I gotta say, that last image of Tali that you said would always be Tali to you? That's exactly how I always imagined the Quarians, pale from generations living in bubble suits with slitted almond eyes. I think fans would have been perfectly happy with that. Appearance doesn't matter that much when you're dating an alien anyway (hence all the garrus mancers). Heck, anything is better than a stock photo.

  24. Is just me or all the concept work of pretty much all the characters look better in concept than their final version?

  25. Man, I'd love to see you draw character art for Resident Evil, including the movies.

  26. Some of these designs are neat, and the art is technically good, but I hated the visual redesign of Dragon Age 2. The darkspawn look stupid, the elves look hideous and overall it just seems not only generic and washed-out, but also unnecessary. It seems like the reasons behind the design changes were for all the wrong reasons and, like the changes to the game itself, more about branching out to a new more mainstream audience than about appealing to fans. Especially when we have characters from DAO looking NOTHING like their original selves when there's no real call for it (for example, human characters).

    Your art is, again, technically great. But BioWare have completely lost their way and seem to be making the wrong types of games these days for the wrong reasons. DA2 was a mess and ME3 barely an RPG any more, and both were a complete betrayal to everything the original games originally stood for.

    And I have no interest in the next Mass Effect or DA3 or any other BioWare games while they continue to treat the fans that got them where they are today with such disdain for the sake of mainstream pandering and constantly retooling and retconning existing IPs for the sake of it. Perhaps when BioWare want to make proper RPGs again I'll come back, but while player agency, narrative freedom and deep mechanics are being neglected for cinematic flow, voiced protagonists with forced roles and linear, forced writing and an overall trend of "Action! Action! Action!" and oversimplification being the focus, I'll just stick to Obsidian, CDProjekt and the like. BioWare are dead to me now. You're a great artist who should work for a better company. A company like BioWare USED to be once.

  27. Really enjoyed that. I loved all of the games start to finish. And am in the unfortunately small minority of players who thought ME3's ending was perfect.

    You folks do amazing work. I think Bioware creates the finest games in the world.

    Thanks for sharing the concept art. Hope you can again.

  28. I was going to leave a comment about my thoughts on your female characters' designs for DA2, but then I saw Malin S Larsson's comment and your response, which pretty much covers everything I wanted to say, and hear. So thanks for responding to that.

    Also, your Tali is beautiful.

  29. Hello,
    Thanks for the amazing post. Your work is amazing and a great inspiration.

    I was curious if you could explain how you came to the original prothean design vs what became final? I find both kind of fascinating. PErsonally for some reason I felt like the vague statues could be a kind of "science" class of their species so I've always been fascinated by it.

    Also I was wondering if there was a reason the more human reaper in ME2 was picked. It was a great design, but it always kind of seemed more monster and less alien and I wonder if that was intentional.

  30. Damn, Soo much awesome new work and process to look at! Great work as usual.

  31. Very nice!

    And now I really want to see the ME armor in DA3, it looks fantastic, and I'm quite sure it fits the setting just as well as the Blood Dragon set did.

  32. Art can be said to be a "result" of extensive culture of human emotions, sentiment and thought of an artist, supplemented with the artist's skill.


  33. You sir are a star. I have been watching your art for god-know how many years now and I've always loved your character concepts. But mostly I love the all your sketchy messes and lovely line work that translates everything I need to know beautifully.

    Please post more and often!

  34. Great insight and great design, many thanks for the post. At this point it is amazing just to see anything new from mass effect - I wish some of these concepts had made it into the game (reaper Shepard, tali's face - your original alien design).

  35. Minds and creative visions like yours are the reason I came to Vancouver to pursue a creative career path. Thanks for sharing this work, it's really a great inspiration for me.

  36. Thank you for sharing this lovely work! I personally thought the photo-manipulated version of Tali's face they finally went with was a very boring cop-out. This more intriguing alien appearance would have been far cooler. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-HiTPkHxeoB4/Ue6kzB8whYI/AAAAAAAAA9M/aft4uVjbzf8/s200/Tali_01.jpg

  37. I fully agree with you about the appearance of Tali. I love the latest concept and I hoped until the last that it was like that .. but I was a little disappointed..anyway, beautiful work! I thank you for these concepts, for the inspiration that you give me and for having contributed to the creation of Mass Effect

  38. Thanks for sharing these wonderful art and also a brief insight on the design process! This was a fun read!

  39. Very nice pics, thank you for sharing.

  40. This artwork is amazing! Your creativity is nothing short of inspiring, and it's especially cool to see this as a Mass Effect fan! I can see how your concepts really helped to form one of my favorite games of all time!

    Thank you for sharing this, and, especially, thank you for sharing the drawing of Tali! I really wanted to see what she looked like behind the mask, and this gave me some closure, if you could call it that!

    Anyways, thanks again and good luck with all of your current and future work!

  41. The artwork is amazing but your commentary is what makes this awesome.

    Thanks so much for posting this!

    I hate a lot of things about ME3 but the trilogy as a whole is just beautiful.

  42. Okay, Tali with hair is now officially my virtual crush. I mean come on, she is just so lovely. I think that ME trilogy would be much better if some of those concept's weren't rejected. Those are just great.

  43. Nice stuff. Loved the takes on Tali, can't say I saw her as any of those, but then again, I'm not sure WHAT I saw her looking like. Doesn't matter to me in the end. I dig smart chicks, so Shepherd would've...umm... you know...

  44. What a marvelous collection of works you have here.
    Really strong characters and silhouettes, and your have just the right style to pull them in such great presentations, great job Matt.
    Are you going to be involved in any possible future Mass Effect stuff? Would love to see more of your sci-fi designs come to life ;)


    An inspired and aspiring concept artist :)

  45. So almost every issue I had with Mass Effect's and DA's Art design is addressed here... I'd really like to have a word with those who decided against these concept arts. I threw a hissy fit about Flemeth in DA2, I hated the sexbot EDI was, and all these things could've been so much better. If Mass Effect looked like those designs, much more out of there and alien, it'd be in my Hall of Fame of true art in gaming, but someone had to decide that it'd scare away too many players, apparently. Almost makes me cry to see what could've been... But thank you for showing these wonderful artworks, now we just need a complete overhaul mod for the games. :(

  46. Another thank you for the fascinating piece - both the pictures and the explanation.

    And can I use you to represent all concept artists in film, games, wherever, and say another thank you. I see many behind the scenes videos where they casually show some concepts which weren't used, and I always think of these talented people who must spend hours crafting these art works - many would look great in an art gallery - which are binned shortly afterwards.

    It's good to see that so many buy the art books so not everything is wasted but all concept artists have my sympathy and thanks. Again.

  47. Lovely work. Great Ideas.

    Just say: "They no longer built spaceships. They were spaceships." :)

  48. This was a great read, you can read my fan fiction on the world of mass effect at my blog ciaranhiscox777 mass effect, please take a look and enjoy

  49. Hello Mr. Rhodes,

    thanks for sharing those awesome concepts with us. I'm a huge Mass Effect fan and it warms my heart to see these amazing concepts. Concepts always show a world for itself. In this case it's a world full of amazing characters and locations.

    I especially like the concept of the bubble-head, it gives me many imaginations about a Darth Vader-like character. My idea on it was that the Illusive Man made him a computer-like individual after a serious incident. Imagine some holograms and tubes in the bubble connected to a machine mounted on his back. It would give a great character I suppose.

    My other favorite is your concept of the Citadel room. In my opinion it fits perfectly well to Mass Effect and looks better than the one we see in the current game.

    I really hope others of your fellow colleagues follow your example and release their concepts as well.

  50. Comrade Matthew, I am sorry for disturbing you, but there is a question that bothers me very hard. I do not know, if you are the creator of Illusive Man"s chair, but I, at least, hope, that you are familiar to one. The question, that disturbs me so much, is how this chair rotates? To me, as I am able to see in the cutscenes, it is completely solid construction, with no rotating parts (even plates) beneath. I strongly and sincerely hope to hear the answer.

    With best wishes, Alexander.

  51. Man, even if I didn't like the ME3 ending myself, I wish the Bioware team stuck with your concept for the Crucible. That painting, though rough, is really beautiful.

    May I ask if you took the inspiration for the Golden Lotus from the divine comedy? Seeing how the whole return to Earth run thematically fits it so well I'm just curious.

    Great work as always :)

  52. Thanks for taking the time to post this Matt, I wish there was more of this type of thing coming to light. Great stuff.

  53. i like.... nice work ....but i am an artist too and i have an opinion on tali's face ... i always imagine her as a little Innocent strong girl ...
    and your concepts show her as a lady ... even her voice don't Match the look ....so i wonder if i can send or share my concepts ^_^

  54. very beautiful ...Somehow I felt that humans is America Asari Europe Turians Russia Quarians Japan Krogan Arabs Salarians China Volus Gulf

  55. Matt,

    Impressive. Are you guys thinking of doing some publishing of this material? I find concept art as fascinating as the game itself, and your 'insider knowledge' (and that of your colleagues) would certainly make this an interesting book to read!

    Best regards,


  56. I really wish some of your previous concepts made it into the mass effect games. I feel that some final choices were poof your prothean armour and reaper drones just seemed to fit more properly in the ME universe. I dont know but i really enjoyed seeing the concept and eat couldve maybe even should have been, keep up the good work!

  57. I am curious in the Dragon age section in the picture of the drawings you did based on the descriptions are those from left to right Fenris ,Merril , Bethany, Varrick, Anders,Carver,Isabela, and Aveline?

  58. Thank you so much for posting these! The art process is so very interesting!

    As a huge Bioware fanboy and fellow EA employee, I want to say thanks for helping to make some of my favorite video game moments.

  59. Great stuff! Thank you for sharing.

  60. I started to dive in to this topic all-around 2003, and got distressing experiences back then, squandering a lot of time for nothing. I stopped when I did not fully grasp much about it having myself buried inside other things. Now I am back again. Your blog post is a great motivation to me and I will probably let my granddad know about this.

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  61. I really like the concept of this blog the idea you share is more useful for me.

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  62. Matt, been following you & a lot of other Concept artists for a long time & just have to say, you & Feng are my Concept Art heroes.

    I love your stuff.
    I mean part of the reason I even love the visual style of D.A.II so much is because the actual in-game look of the models & environments almost mirrored the amazing art you did for the game.

    Keep up the great work man, I wish you all the best.
    & looking forward to when Inquisition comes out so I can get the art-book & add it to my collection of your stuff


  63. Very nice animated. you are well animator who has nicely created such a good cherecters.

  64. I like this style. Nice art. i wish i could draw like this :)

  65. Hello... Matt Rhodes i love your blog and you have really awesome blog. Artturquoise is providing art techniques and Art Effects.

  66. This is great. Love the goofiness of those villains. Such a great idea to put heroes in a position where they laugh and then fear.
    I also liked the human-fetus concept.
    I'd love to hear what you like and dislike about the different genres of sci-fi and fantasy design.

  67. Impressive, definitely great material. This blog is absolutely awesome.

  68. The Mass Effect concept art is amazing it takes me forever to come up with artistic work for my story it must help having a few people, on the team to brain storm different ideas I think it’s pretty amazing that the human mind can come up with almost anything. It really inspires me to see fresh and creative art work that stands out form most people’s ideas. I really like the concept art for the Illusive Man is amazing after he is overdosed with reaper technologies. I was curious if anyone know the Illusive Man’s real name it has always eluded me?

  69. Hi Matt,
    Thank you very much! I only look on the ME ones since I only like ME... I can say that more than half of these are inferior from final design and there are like 1/3 of these that looks crappy.. like I don't like the shadowbroker concepts but here I got your message: the process to find perfection involve a thousands of sacrifice...
    Also I am female and I don't feel offended with the art of Mass Effect. What so wrong with sexy women? I am pretty sure that females on Bioware have put theirs input. A bit cringe on Jack's style but that is because I'm just don't feel related on gangster-like characters (even tho I nod and understand her when she expose her stories).

  70. Matt,

    Thank you for showing us what concept art _really_ is like. It's very helpful to aspiring concept artists who are trying to do work that are more aligned to what is really in need to break into the industry. Thank you so much again! I read everything to the end.


  71. It's really fascinating to see how concept art works!

  72. I am 40. Looking through the body work now brings me as much excitement as if I has 14.


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