[ Hi, Sangmi. Can you introduce yourself? ]
Sangmi: Hi everyone, I’m Sangmi, Art Director and NFT Creative Director, and founding member of Planetarium.
“We are responsible for all the art in our company.”
[ What kind of work does an Art Director/Creative Director do? ]
I oversee all the art that our company produces, from planning and coordinating design-related scheduling with the art team while discussing direction with the game engineers and developers as well. I also take lead for special creative projects such as our upcoming NFT launch, where I work with our teams to plan and produce high quality artwork for the PFPs and work with various teams for overall product development and strategy.
1. I plan how to visually express aspects of the game art, individual levels, and fun elements that the game developers want to implement.
2. I work on planning the schedule with the art team needed to realize the initiative and divide and coordinate the work.
3. And we continuously hold discussions with the developers and team around the graphics created by the art team and if any updates or changes are necessary.
In the art team, we develop the overall vision of our company and the key concepts for the art both internally and with other designers. We discuss what type of art style and design would work best for the product we’re developing, create an overall strategy for implementation, then share the design work according to the plan we create. Then, when the visuals are completed, we do give the designers and illustrators feedback and make any changes necessary before I am able to confirm the final results. This process of creation works similarly for games themselves but also for PFPs: the story and overall concept of the world they inhabit always comes first, then with the feedback from the teams involved, we continually improve upon the final product.
[ How did you join the Planetarium team? ]
“I joined the startup team because I wanted to challenge myself in a new field of blockchain games.”
Two and a half years ago, I was working for another company as an Art Director. It was a great place, but since it was a large company, it was difficult to express in the final product all the unique styles that each designer and artist had. And because I was spending so much of my energy only being to create graphics in the direction that the company wanted.
I knew that coming to Planetarium and working on projects like Nine Chronicles would allow me to take a much more hands-on creativity-focused approach in how I work not just as an artist but as a Director leading a team. I welcomed the idea of being able to work really closely with the developers to be able to take part in the creative process from the very beginning.
I was really excited about the thought of being able to work dynamically at a startup, not a large company.
[ How did you decide to become a Game Artist, and now an Art Director? ]
It actually began with a game called Ragnarok. Before I started playing Ragnarok, I had a vague idea that I liked drawing, and maybe that this could be a career, but I had no clear direction as to how to pursue it. Yes, I loved the field and wanted to do something related, but I didn’t know how to get there.
Then, when Ragnarok came out, I got so into it! Then it occurred to me that I could jump into this field by drawing fan art. At that time, playing games and drawing fan art was literally my entire life. And as these works of fan art piled up, they also naturally became my portfolio.
Just in time, a Ragnarok fan art contest was held, and of course, I submitted my artwork. I won the competition there, and an acquaintance who had seen my work recommended me to pursue a career at a game company. That’s how I began my career as a game artist.
I remember not being 100% sure this was what I wanted to do, but thanks to the year and a half I spent in game background art, I was able to hone my skills to become a stronger artist who could think cohesively about both the characters and the background wholly. It allowed me to consider the balance of each artwork, and opened my eyes to think about various different aspects of the art, not just of the “character” or “background.” This overall allowed me to develop the skills to oversee all aspects of the art that goes into 2D games, and in turn directed me towards the role of Artistic Director.
[ What are some difficulties as an Art Director? ]
I think a key difficulty in working as an Art Director and Creative Director is oftentimes, as an individual artist, each person really wants to put their all into each part. Of course, the more care and time that is put into each aspect, the better the final product; but oftentimes, due to the very practicality of working with multiple teams and deadlines, you aren’t able to spend as much as you want on one task. So a lot of my role as is not only to make sure the schedule is clearly communicated, but also to help guide the team prioritize areas that should take extra care, and other aspects that are of lower priority to ensure everything is manageable in a timely manner.
Sometimes it’s also tricky to work with so many teams and ideas in play, especially in the planning process. In these cases, I have found it most effective to draw early drafts to share with everyone first. After that, working with the feedback from game developers and other teams becomes much easier with something on “paper” to materialize and grow further.
It’s also incredibly important to listen and communicate and always to try to understand fully where the other point of view is coming from. In that sense, it’s also been helpful to try to learn more about the work of each department on a more practical level, as it allows me to communicate with them and grasp their needs better.
[ What has been most important to you recently in terms of game design? ]
Nine Chronicle as a game gives users the joy of item creation and growth, and the pleasure of clearing each level to advance to the next step, so it’s always been important to me to be able to express this character growth as the player too invests time, energy, and gold. And as each level progresses, we try to strengthen each design level concept in order to make the character look stronger, reflecting its skills (weapons, equipment, etc.) directly. Done well, the user can feel how much he or she has grown by just looking at the character’s appearance.
The same goes the new NFTs we’re launching as they are based off of the character in Nine Chronicles. The images themselves are a direct reflection of the diverse personalities of every single player and character, so we have spent a lot of time refining each feature — ears, tails, facial expressions, accessories, and more — that make each one special. With each “reveal” of unique traits, we want to create a really exciting, colorful world of the D:CC!
[ When do you feel most rewarded while working? ]
Of course, it’s great to hear compliments from our players and also those who have just come across our game. There was an instance when we had a Nine Chronicle community streaming event where I drew requested pictures on the spot. Among the player-requested concepts, a Nine Chronicle Monster who was taking a hot spring bath seemed especially fun, so I drew it live during the event. We got a lot of really great feedback that day, and as I was able to hear ideas and positive input from players live; it was really great. It was obviously really rewarding to hear just how much they enjoyed our art style!
“I love your drawing style!” and “I’ve learned so much” are two things I will never get tired of hearing. I hope to be able to connect with our players and fan more in the future, so we can really create a community-focused game, growing the world — and art — together.
[ What is your dream? ]
My first love has always been to draw, to be an artist. I want to be able to draw whatever I want with ease, so I always carry with me the tools I need to be able to create art. In my spare time, I draw, and I hope to always have this as my passion.
I also want to support artists who want to go into the game art industry. I know firsthand how difficult it is to get that first foot in the door; you may have a lot of talent and passion, but it’s not always easy to find the path that you should take. It has been so rewarding being in game art as an Art Director and Creative Director and I hope to be able to share my path and my story to be of help to any budding artists who are considering this field.