Being an effects artist I don't often get a good chunk of time to work on concepts. Sometimes however I have an idea I really want to illustrate, or I need to work up comps for myself so I can retain all of the ideas I want to convey in the project.
In the case of effects muzzle flashes and explosions can be so easy to just hop in the editor and start working on with no concept of relative scale. To avoid this mistake I spent some time mocking up muzzle flashes in Photoshop. I also wanted each flash to have some distinguishing characteristic that made it unique to that weapon.
All weapons of course need cause and effect visuals in order to communicate messages to the player. These are normally weapon impacts or squibs...I like to generate a visual scale reference for these items as well so I can just check my work against a concept.
Often times I need a particular look, or a visual that I cannot achieve on my own. Since I am a visual being and rely on lots of art speak with a little technical mubo-jumbo mixed in I often times paint up what I need in photoshop and then show it to more tech savvy folks like engineers or technical artists. In the case of our explosion post process (PP) for Singularity I painted up this concept to show the engineers how I wanted increased saturation, contrast, and color tinting to the scene in very specific locations, based scene depth and the impact location. You can also see the radial blur PP in this concept here.
Other times I whip up a quick painting just for fun. I cannot attest to being the greatest painter in the world, but it is usually enough for me to hand off to an Art Director who can give it to a proper concept artist if it is deemed worthy. Some of these paintings made it into games at Raven, while others weren't quite what we needed for the game.
Sometimes I have ideas that don't really relate to my discipline, but perhaps would benefit the game in some manner. This concept was an idea I had for Singularity's menu system. The idea was to use the menus to better communicate the story progression to the player. As the player progresses through the game, nodes would appear on the two timelines showing the user which timeline certain events took place. These nodes could also be used as checkpoints to allow players to go back and play sections of the game. Our story was a bit difficult to follow at times with the multiple time periods, time waves, and portals between timelines, so I thought we could utilize the menus to better inform the player experience.
This is the menu without any nodes selected.
When you highlight a menu, the player is given a list of options available at the node, and some post effects would help sell the selection.
The idea was abandoned, but this is an example of how I think about the entire project and not just the one piece of the puzzle I am tasked with doing. I like to play the game as much as possible and see how things are coming together and give feedback.
In short I enjoy doing effects immensely, but I also like to take some time away from velocity, scale, and acceleration to do some straight up artsy stuff from time to time.