It may be an eye-stimulating graphic which firstly draws attention of users out of many components composing of a game. It is also a graphic which is mostly influenced by development of digital technology having a close relationship with development of a game. Online games of Korea, with 'The Kingdom of The Winds’ as a start in 1996, exhibited much development in terms of graphic for 15 years. But, there is one thing that should be mentioned inevitably; it is illustration, which is a design of a game serving as a framework of game graphic.
Illustration Deciding the First Impression of Game
In 2008, when new product of NC SOFT, 'Blade and Soul’ was firstly opened, it drew significant attention from worldwide users as well as Korean users. It was a graphic which gained the biggest attention. The graphic which expressed the attractive characters of the famous illustrator Kim, Hyeong-tae who gained fame through‘The War of Genesis’ and‘Magnacarta’ series as a digital image as the illustration itself astonished users and parties concerned.
At that time, a part of game play image has been opened, but users had interests in graphic only. This is the power a visual effect has. It is deemed that games with excellence in graphic have been equipped with strong weapon. When a game gains passing marks in terms of visual effect, there will be less hindrance for users to start a game. Such positive effect starts from illustration.
When opening a game, one of the things shown first is illustration, Level of completion of illustration sometimes decides first impression of a game. The power of illustration played a pivotal role for Japan's so-called national game, 'Dragon Quest' series, to gain popularity. It was thanks to illustration of Toriyama Akira who gained the top-level popularity at that time with 'Dr. Slump’,‘Dragon Ball’ that users could feel friendly with the rare game genre, RPG, and a game with an unfamiliar title.
As the Korean online game, 'Ragnarok Online’ can be referred to as the first case which earned success with illustration. 'Ragnarok Online’, which was developed based on 'Ragnarok', a cartoon of a famous cartoonist Lee, Myeong-jin, gained popularity thanks to illustration with cute style characters and game graphics based on this illustration. Illustration and graphic with bright and cute concept, which were differentiated with other online games, served as a foundation to gain big success in overseas market, especially in Japan. Various goods with diverse characters including 'Poring', a representative monster of 'Ragnarok Online,' sold well at that time.
Online Game at Initial Stage
‘The Kingdom of The Winds’,‘Lineage’,‘Ragnarok Online’. These have something in common that they are games which became a landmark in Korean online game history and also they are created from a cartoon as their original. The important thing at the online game development market at the initial stage was degree of completion of a system. To be equipped with a scenario writer and game illustrator was deemed to be extravagant in consideration of environment of game development. Therefore, many game developers chose to borrow and recreate original works.
When a game is developed based on a cartoon as its original, it is not required to separately design a view of the world and a scenario, and it also has an advantage that illustration of the cartoon can be used as it is, and thereby it is deemed efficient. It also has an additional effect that the fans of the original works can be attracted to the game. In case of‘Ragnarok Online,’ the popularity of this game was higher than that of the original cartoon, and there were many people who came to know the cartoon from the game.
However, in the case of the games at the earlier stage, it was hard to find out the atmosphere of original works in their graphics different from illustration. It was because of the fact that there was limitation in terms of graphic technology to express the feeling of the original works in the game. It was not the only matter of the game based on the original works. Users start game thanks to nice and pretty character illustration, but the characters in the game failed to satisfy the users, making users feel a gap.
Development of Graphic and Advancement of Illustration
In the case of 2D game, illustration was used at the cut-in of characters from the earlier stage, but there were a lot of difficulties to make characters of illustration realized in a game. It was same when the graphic technology moved to 3D as well. Characters making boast of their pretty and splendid appearance at the illustration could not help being expressed as uneven and rough characters in digital world. It was limitation of then graphic technology. Downsized characters such as three-head-figure or six-head-figure, not real size characters, were popular at that time to reduce such limitation of expression.
Fortunately, digital technology exhibited rapid growth, and the game which is a front-runner of digital industry was benefitted first. Including 'Lineage 2', which is the formal successor of 'Lineage', 'SUN Online' of Webzen, which lead 3D online game with 'Mu', 'Granado Espada', which employed Japan's famous illustrator, and 'Ion', Korean online games exhibited remarkable graphical growth and began to express real graphic as illustration itself was shown in the game as it is.
In the past, graphic factors were important, but they were not in the priority issue in evaluating a game. But now is the time when game graphic which is similar to real, and thereby the weight of graphics on degree of completion of a game became higher. Even, many users evaluate a game with graphics only, and this sometimes exert serious influence over service of the game.
Development of graphic technology also affected illustration. In the past when there was limitation of technology, simple illustration was drawn so that the illustration could be realized in the game. But, given that there are more possibilities of expression thanks to development of technology, illustration became more sophisticated and drawings with unique concept began to be accepted.
Role Playing of Illustration and Graphic
At that time when online game was composed at the earlier stage, an illustrator covered game graphic works as well. Most of the game developers had no room to have a separate workforce for the graphic work, it was common in game industry. But, things have been changed when game graphic moves from 2D to 3D.
It is not easy to do 2D work and 3D graphic work together, and thereby work between an illustrator and graphic designer began to be divided. Of course, there were graphic designers who handled both illustration and 3D design, but in general these two areas came to be specialized and separated.
Illustrators who were free from graphic work established a base to complete there own illustration which is more free and professional. Actually, many games draw attention of users with their illustration only. Along with this, illustration itself came to have its own value.
Given that there was environment that illustration could have wider scope of expression and higher expertise thanks to technical development, game illustration saw rise in commercial effect and artistic value. As such, game illustration became an area as a professional field, and many people graduated from arts major tried to participate in game industry. Through them, Korean game illustration area enjoyed continuous development in terms of both quality and quantity.
Game Illustration Showing Artistic Growth
In the countries abroad, job of a game illustrator has been recognized as a professional occupation. In case of Japan with advanced game and contents industry, as the afore-mentioned example of Toriyama Akira of 'Dragon Quest', there were many illustrators who became a symbol of a game series. As for Korea, amid rise in the level of game illustration, famous illustrators are appearing and there are cases that these illustrators represent a certain game.
The illustrator of NC SOFT Kim, Hyeong-tae cannot be forgotten when mentioning about game illustration of Korea. Beginning from‘The War of Genesis’,‘Magnacarta’, and 'Blade and Soul', his characters were appearing in the representative games of Korea. Working as a game illustrator for a long time, he completed his own drawing and earned fame from overseas as well. He published a book of illustration in Japan, drawing high popularity.
There is an awarding ceremony called 'Dominance War' through which game illustration is evaluated and awarded. In this ceremony where game illustrations gaining worldwide attention are submitted, Korean illustrators won the grand-prix in 2008 and 2009. Also, in the 'World of Warcraft' which is gaining worldwide popularity,' Korean illustrators have taken an active role. In the 'G-Star 2010' exhibition, the booth of Blizzard invited Korean illustrators and had a signing event.
Position of a Game as Comprehensive Contents
Korean game illustration exhibiting gradual growth has gained worldwide recognition. In fact, an English-speaking game wallpaper site overseas gave inquiries to us, requesting that they hoped to make an wallpaper with illustration used in the article regarding game which was covered by our media. The games whose illustration was requested by this site were not the games made by famous illustrators such as Kim, Hyeong-tae nor they were not the games gained recognition or popularity. These were FMStudio's web-game 'Lord War' and 'Diving Soul' of GamePrix, which is preparing for service targeting North America. They contacted us by seeing the illustration only. This is the good example that illustration can be used as means to represent and advertise games.
However, it should not be forgotten, even game illustration gained artistic recognition and earned good external reputation, that the own purpose of game illustration is to well represent the game and it can be mingled well with the game. If the illustration is much more excellent than any other artistic work, should it is not related with actual game, this work will not have value in terms of game illustration. Illustration that will be used in the game should consider the appearance the illustration will take in the game.
Game illustration is not easy field. It requires a lot of consideration and agony between practicability of illustration and artistic feature of the illustration. In this expert field, Korean illustrators have begun to stand out. In the other aspect, it can be said that Korean game market, which was limited to single contents of game, could find out another possibility.
In reality, game is the complicated contents where technical factors, literature, and artistic factors are applied. There are many factors that can create synergy effect by combining with other areas in terms of future contents business. Development of game illustration becomes a good example showing that Korean game industry exhibited advancement of game itself and also saw growth enough to create new contents.