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2D and 3D artist Alex Ronay: ‘designing for the new generation of gamers is a lot of fun’

We recently caught up with talented 2D and 3D artist Alex Ronay to talk about game design and the vital role Affinity Designer plays in his workflow.
Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am 34 years old, a husband and a father. I have been a graphic designer as an occasional freelancer for the last 15-20 years. I tend to use my artistic skills on a variety of projects ranging in custom jewellery design, website design, logo work, illustrations, and game design. Lately, my work has been more focused on gaming and app design.

How did you discover the Affinity apps?

I have used Serif’s products for a long time, starting with DrawPlus X3. I came upon it through a CD that came with a desktop computer my family purchased. As the versions updated, I kept updating with them.

What is your main focus with regards to design and illustration?

My main focus is usually planning out my workflow. Because of the scope of the projects that I’ve been involved with, there is usually a lot of graphic updating involved from one version of a game/app to the next. Without careful planning and consideration of things like character setups, a lot of time and effort can be spent on reworking an illustration.

Tell us about Toonkins!

Toonkins is a project that I was asked to be a part of in the early months of 2019. The project is set to be a virtual world for kids in which users have their own character avatars that they can customise while playing games and socialising with their friends.

What makes Affinity Designer your go-to app for game asset design?

I have used many other programs in the past, however, I always thought that the process of importing from one program to the other for post-processing was a pain. Affinity has the personas which make all of that possible without the need for other programs. When it comes to game design, there are always tweaks that need to be made, either to have an animation work or be exported in a different resolution. The Export Persona is a gift when it comes to this. The continuous export option allows me to create an asset folder that the game engine or 3D modelling software share.

If I need to make a quick adjustment to a UV map or an asset, I just make my adjustment in Affinity Designer and it automatically appears on my model or in the game engine. This not only saves a lot of time, but it also ensures that what is in my game project is current with what is in the game engine.

What would you say is your main strength as an artist?

My main strength would be in that I am fairly versatile as an artist. I can create new styles or come close to styles that are asked of me from a client. I am a 3D modeller as well, so there is also the strength in being able to do both 2D and 3D work without having to contract another artist for a project. Because of the genre of games that I create, a lot of my work behind the scenes is posted on my social media. Making games for kids is a lot of fun, but I am not always in tune with what the new generation of gamers like. I like to understand my demographic and have them be part of the process.

“Because of the genre of games that I create, a lot of my work behind the scenes is posted on my social media. Making games for kids is a lot of fun, but I am not always in tune with what the new generation of gamers like. I like to understand my demographic and have them be part of the process.”

I get a lot of great feedback from that and actively brainstorm on how things can be improved. I feel that I can reciprocate feedback well and be very flexible in not just figuring out how to illustrate something, but how to then communicate the function or purpose to the rest of my team.

Where do you draw inspiration?

Everywhere. I always use references of styles that I like, and I extrapolate what I like about them. It might be a colour pallet or a full landscape that would inspire me to create something completely unrelated.

What other game design projects have you been involved in?

I am currently involved in a game called Space Brawl, which is a ‘battle royale’ style game that is designed to give an illusion of 3D but using 2D graphics.

Since we’re discussing games, what are you playing at the moment?

I actually don’t play games. I enjoy creating them much more than I do playing them. If I do play games, it is at the request of the client to get to know a style of game or reference something they want in their game.

What would your advice be to someone interested in setting foot into game design for the first time?

I think for anyone interested in creating games my advice would be to get to know your audience. The artwork is important, but the functionality and ease of play are also very important. Many times artists who want to step into game design don’t fully understand the game functions or how a software engineer will be adding components into the game itself.

Workflow is key to developing a game; setting up scenes, characters, and assets correctly and having a thorough understanding of how something needs to be constructed so that it can appear in the game as planned. Think of it like this, you are illustrating components that don’t just have a function, but some of them will be at the control of someone else. That means that your design has to work in a variety of applications and scenarios. Something as simple in theory as putting clothes on a character, if not planned ahead, can easily become a nightmare in sorting layers afterwards.

Designing your own games: Episode 1, Character Design

For those who have an interest in game design but don’t know how to get started, I have started a series about understanding interactive games on my YouTube channel. The first episode includes character development, tips and tricks for setup, and a walkthrough of my workflow.

For more behind the scene insights on Toonkins Virtual World, Space Brawl and game design in general check out Alex’s Twitter feed and YouTube channel.

Spotlight editor

As editor of Affinity Spotlight Melanie oversees the stories, interviews and tutorials published on the site. Outside of work she enjoys travelling, reading crime thrillers, Pilates and dabbling in a spot of oil painting. Get in touch with Melanie if you would like to contribute or be featured on Affinity Spotlight.

Credits & Footnotes

All artworks are copyright of Alex Ronay and used with permission.