– Art Director and Visual Designer
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Concept Development by Lisa Liljenberg

Concept Development by Lisa Liljenberg creating an expansion idea for the classic FPS game Counter Strike aiming to create a gender neutral and including concept.

 

Final design project at Berghs School of Communication based on personal interests and reflections. I wanted to work with strategic design and concept development but also make a project of impact, fantasy and storytelling. My personal goal of working in the game industry led to this project.

On this page I will guide you through my process and the result – mood boards, character design, logo and a trailer/introduction of the game.
 

 
 Updated Logo Design

Updated Logo Design

 

PROCESS STEP 1: RESEARCH

 
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The global market of video games is constantly growing and so is the number of female gamers. I started researching gaming motivation and found that female gamers enjoy games of "Action" and "Destruction" but prefer when there's also a level of "Fantasy" and "Story" involved.

When it comes to FPS games (First Person Shooting) only 7% of the gamers are female. This was a huge trigger for me and I started to wonder if it was simply because of lack of "Fantasy" and "Story" or if there were more factors involved?


I dived into the market of FPS-games and started comparing them to each other...


I made a positioning map and compared some chosen games based on if there was a story or not and if you have the chance of choosing female/non binary characters as protagonists or if there are only male characters.
(OBS. This is how I perceive these games and their content.)

The games Mirrors Edge (DICE) and Counter Strike (Valve Corporation) are according to this positioning each others opponents and I can't help but wonder: "What happens if we combine them...?" 


WHY COUNTER STRIKE? 

I saw plenty of opportunities working with concept development for Counter Strike, here are some:

  • A classic game in need of an update. Ruling the FPS scene since 1999 CS is a classic with an established fan base. The last update (CS-GO) came in 2012 so updates and development is needed to stay on top.

  • Hostile community. Research and forums told me that female gamers avoid CS because of its community. Hostile and violent language from other players are unfortunately very common.

  • Men only. The majority of players are men and also the characters you play are men.

  • E-sport. 400'000 Swedes are daily following/watching e-sport, making it the second largest sport in Sweden after football. This is exciting stats and based on how the gaming industry is constant growing I believe there's plenty to do to include women and non-binary in this arena to keep a steady growth and positive impact.

  • No story. CS's lack of story is actually rather rare and many other FPS games has a well developed story behind it. CS instead has it's gameplay where teamwork and skills are prioritised. Although I fid I t very interesting to involve a story into the action to make it even more interesting to play and watch.

Mirror's Edge is quite different from CS with it's contemporary design, female protagonist and intriguing plot. This I wanted to keep in mind for my own concept... 


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Insights should be based on research and not assumptions and I really wanted to know what female gamers actually think of Counter Strike. I made this survey which I shared on the Facebook Page for "Female Legends" and here I got stats and comments that the main reasons they choose not to play CS today is because of its hostile community, lack of story and lack of character variety. My thoughts and insights so far got confirmed.

 

PROCESS STEP 2: CONCEPT GENERATING

So I was aiming to create a concept with an interesting story and gender neutral characters, with plenty of action and a clear connection to Counter Strike. I started out with six different concept ideas and had a couple of gamer friends helping me rate the ideas from categories such as "Interesting" "Fantasy" "Action" "Story" etc.

 Concept ideas: "Warang", "Battle of Enguazo", "Special Force of Retqoy", "Zuveli", "Destruction of AI" and "Surviving Valeribard".

Concept ideas: "Warang", "Battle of Enguazo", "Special Force of Retqoy", "Zuveli", "Destruction of AI" and "Surviving Valeribard".

 First draft of the winning concept "Destruction of AI"

First draft of the winning concept "Destruction of AI"

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With my concept starting to take form I wanted help from the best – so I contacted Swedish game developer DICE to get feedback on my idea and get guidance and advice about how to get into the process of game design/development. 

 

PROCESS STEP 3: DESIGN

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I started off with keywords describing how I wanted my game idea to be experienced and communicated. I ended up with the primary words DRAMATIC, FUTURISTIC, REALISM which has been there through every choice throughout this process. My secondary words MINIMALISM, COLD, TECH are mainly there in designing the world where the game thakes place. I got the recommendation from DICE to make mood boards on all of my keywords, so that I did.

 
 DRAMATIC (Smoke/fog, shadows VS light, high concrete walls, eccentric fashion etc)

DRAMATIC (Smoke/fog, shadows VS light, high concrete walls, eccentric fashion etc)

 FUTURISTIC (But NOT Sci-Fi. Avoiding space-ship shapes and turquoise/purple/silver. Aiming towards straight lines and "new" materials.

FUTURISTIC (But NOT Sci-Fi. Avoiding space-ship shapes and turquoise/purple/silver. Aiming towards straight lines and "new" materials.

 REALISM (Materials, colours, light and shapes anchored in our modern reality.)

REALISM (Materials, colours, light and shapes anchored in our modern reality.)

 

 Color palette. Dark base and sharp contrasts for a dramatic effect.

Color palette. Dark base and sharp contrasts for a dramatic effect.

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When picturing this world (a futuristic reality of our world entirely ruled by AI) I wanted a powerful and insensible world without too many impacts of "life". The law is power and the world is urban and concrete and enormous. It's divided in three parts; "The Underground", "The Market" and "Panorama".

 
 The Underground. Cold, dark, hostile, empty. This is where the humans live and for centuries has developed new weapons to destroy the AI's.

The Underground. Cold, dark, hostile, empty. This is where the humans live and for centuries has developed new weapons to destroy the AI's.

 The Market. Inside arena, endless passages, electric light. This is where the humans work to provide fashion and "surgery" for the AI's who are inspired by the human appearance.

The Market. Inside arena, endless passages, electric light. This is where the humans work to provide fashion and "surgery" for the AI's who are inspired by the human appearance.

 The Panorama. High walls, dramatic light and long shadows, a dark sky and lots of contrasts. This is the power society of AI's and humans do best in avoiding this place...

The Panorama. High walls, dramatic light and long shadows, a dark sky and lots of contrasts. This is the power society of AI's and humans do best in avoiding this place...

 

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The game has the same arrangements as Counter Strike has always had; Two teams of five are playing against each other in 30 rounds. Instead of playing as terrorists you are the AI's and instead of police/counter terrorists you are the Human Rebels. The maps are based on the world described above on its three levels and the players are rewarded based on their performance and can buy new weapons/equipment throughout the game and design their character.

 
 Human Rebels. I was going for a genderless and androgynous character with lots of attitude and a dramatic appearance with elements of technology but keeping the realism by choice of materials and clothing.

Human Rebels. I was going for a genderless and androgynous character with lots of attitude and a dramatic appearance with elements of technology but keeping the realism by choice of materials and clothing.

 AI's. Inspired by the human appearance and our fashion I was aiming for a dramatic and fearsome look for the AI. I also got the information that it's very important in Counter Strike that the opposite teams are equal in their look (size = target) and therefor it's very thought out that the AI is not a huge robot but instead a human-like character.

AI's. Inspired by the human appearance and our fashion I was aiming for a dramatic and fearsome look for the AI. I also got the information that it's very important in Counter Strike that the opposite teams are equal in their look (size = target) and therefor it's very thought out that the AI is not a huge robot but instead a human-like character.

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I had visions about creating unique characters for this game and therefore I couldn't think of anything better then having a skilled illustrator on the project. Through a Facebook group I got in touch with the very talented Malin Forsberg Kåre who was excited to join the project. Based on my mood boards and guidelines she created the following designs which laid the foundation for my upcoming production for the "trailer". I have no words for how much I appreciated this collaboration and Malin's talent and the styles she created. It's simply amazing to have an idea in your head and then get in on paper from someone else's hand. Wow!

 

Malin also helped me out with the logo character. (below)
The CS-logo is a classic which has developed together with new expansions of the game so I found it natural that the logo should be remade for my expansion idea. I wanted a more androgynous character for the logo and we got these two examples. I finally landed on the one sitting down aiming towards its target. It felt strategic, seeking and more thrilling and different from the previous character. 

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 Logo for CS-GO

Logo for CS-GO

 Logo for CS-AI

Logo for CS-AI

 

PROCESS STEP 4: TRAILER

Finally my goal was to .visualise my concept and my characters in a trailer. I have a passion for movies and games and was inspired by the fact that the movie industry is using more and more 3D and CGI while the gaming industry is aiming towards realism. The two worlds are growing closer and I wanted to make a live action film that looks a bit unreal to position myself somewhere in between. 

In front of the camera is the talented actress Johanna Löwenborg. It wouldn't be the same without her – she really brought life into the characters! The shots are made with green screen at Berghs School of Communication.
A big thanks to Mitch Martinez - CineStock who has shot the particles and smoke and shared for free downloads with I have used in this video for effects. 

Design and styling by myself as well as filming and editing. 


I'm so happy about this project and how it all turned out! I'm both satisfied and proud over the result and for how much I accomplished over these six weeks. The attention, feedback, comments, time, participation, engagement and encouragement I have got from both people in the business, teachers, friends and comments online has been such a boost to keep working hard. Let's see what comes next!

Thanks for reading and watching!!!

 

PROGRAMS USED IN THIS PROJECT

Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Premier Pro
Adobe Audition
Keynote