Plant art concepts for The Crystal Core, inspired by biology

Designing a Game World: Making Plants Inspired by Biology

We’ve all played games that made us feel like we’ve left our dimension — games set in fantastic worlds with rich vibrant colors, bizarre alien landscapes, and strange, unearthly shapes. Yet somehow these unearthly realms still feel like real places. That feeling comes from a lot of great artists, animators, writers, and designers working hard to make something that’s never existed before!

In the case of BitLoft’s upcoming title The Crystal Core, the central goal and aesthetic are both Biology. I’m a nature illustrator and concept artist working on the game. Here’s how I designed some of the plant concepts for The Crystal Core: Biology!

Step 1: Finding References

One important step in the world-building process is designing the assets in an environment, including plant life and foliage. (An asset, in designer lingo, is basically an item or object used in the game or the background of the game.) These are key to making the players feel like they are immersed somewhere living. Ideally, the plant life of a world enhances the core goal/aesthetic of the game.

We wanted the visuals in the game to enhance the Biology vibe from the get-go, so I started pulling cool-looking shapes from biological concepts to get my brain going. Luckily, Biology is FULL of awesome weird shapes! (I might be biased, as I am also a biologist.)

Here are a few concepts that got me started:

  • DNA
  • Electron shells
  • Atoms
  • Lipid molecules
  • Erlenmeyer flasks
  • Bacteria
  • Chemical bonds
  • Glucose
  • Ketones

An image of an atomAn image of bacteria

A diagram of DNA

Source: Wikimedia Commons,

Step 2: Developing Concepts

Armed with these starting points, I got out my sketchbook and began drawing. (I start almost everything on paper, even though my final designs are digital.) I drew everything that came to mind, whether it actually seemed like it would be good or not — sometimes you have to get a “meh” idea out of your head to make room for a good one, or maybe a “meh” idea gets you on a path to a better one!

Pencil sketches of biology plant concepts

Step 3: Refining Concepts

Once I worked through my ideas (both good and bad!), I opened up Photoshop and brought them to life in color. The color scheme for The Crystal Core is overall very cool, so most of the colors I used are greens and blues — with a few pops of pink and orange for variety. You can see some of the original biological elements I mentioned before in the final page of concepts above, including…

…Erlenmeyer flasks

Erlenmeyer flasks tree design

…DNA and test tubes

DNA and text tube art concepts

…and an atom nucleus.

An atom nucleus art concept

Step 4: Rendering Concepts in Game

Once I finished cooking up all these designs, I submitted them to the art director for the project, who selected ones that best fit the artistic vision. Then the 3D art team took my concepts and made them a virtual reality in the game, as in the case of our atom nucleus flower:

The flowers in a game world were made just for you!

Next time you’re wandering around in a game world, stop to check out the roses. Someone made them especially for you!


Virginia Greene is a nature illustrator and concept artist with a particular love of birds (virginiagreeneillustration). You’ll be able to find her concepts in the environment of The Crystal Core,, which is currently in development.


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