How do you bring a game to life visually for football's five billion fans? That's the challenge for Matt Jones and Pavel Cresenco, Art Director and Art Lead respectively at Matchday.
They're working towards shaping how our upcoming games and experiences will look for our users, and recently talked us through what they're working on and how they're creating an entire graphical identity from the ground up.
Matt has worked on various projects since 1997, with his most recent role spanning two decades at Electronic Arts (EA), helping create games in the legendary FIFA series.
Pavel, meanwhile, has been part of the industry for nine years, including with leading brands such as Miniclip and King, working on the iconic Candy Crush with the latter.
"We want to have an authentic tone of voice," explained Matt. "We want to break barriers. We want to be super inclusive. We don't care who you are or where you are in the world, we just want you to come into our world and have a good time and connect with people."
So how do you shape that into a visual concept?
"We're looking at what we want people to say when they see the visuals. One we're using is, 'Wow, I'd love to have a real model of that sitting on my desk', or, 'That feels really inviting. I can't wait to play'. Statements like those are really useful.
"I'm trying to design a gameplay environment and a stadium. Does it feel charming? Does it feel like I can reach out and touch it? Would it be something I'd want to buy as a little model and have it on my desk?"
There are multiple stages involved with every design prospect, as Pavel notes, with sketches fleshed out into more detailed renderings to help give a clearer idea of which aspects may make it into the final product.
"As you see in this trophy – we have an idea, and we start sketching different variations. This kind of stuff is just to experiment because we’re thinking about potentially having 3D, and this is where I decided to build a very simple, raw version of this 2D concept.
"It helped us to understand more about what kind of visuals we want to use. Do we want to maybe use render images? Do we want to use 3D space? So it's sketching, it's colour sketching, it's modelling, and when we get to a point where we have no doubts about the vision, that is where we start polishing and creating something more mature, I would say."
One of the key aspects of Matchday is building as a community, with games and experiences for the fans helped shape by the fans.
"I treat it as a gift," says Pavel of user feedback. "It feels like we are united and all in this together: us the team, and the fans. I think about this a lot, how crazy fun and good it is we have the luxury of testing every idea. If we think it's good enough or it makes sense to release and share it, we can gather feedback.
"I think it's an amazing approach and it feels more alive. Whenever we go to Discord and read all the comments on our latest sketches etc, it gives us a fresh perspective."
Matt added: "Right now, it's really early on and there's nothing there, but there's a lot of ambition from everyone involved. I love seeing that passion and energy. This is what we want to bring to billions of football fans.
"This is how we want to try and do it. I'm on board with it. It's really exciting. We want to come and help with our skills and build games that people really want to play."
Your comments and suggestions on the work-in-progress artwork we share is hugely important to us, so make sure you get in touch on social media and Discord.