Absolutely everything you see made in shops, online, on TV, heck, everything around you, begins with planning. Even the process to make something that has been planned needs to be planned out properly. Really, that begins with an idea and little jots and doodles on pen and paper to start with can go a very long way. But that is of course when you begin to concept on that idea, basically mapping out a variety of potential outcomes visually because think about it, the end result needs to be seen and needs to appeal to us humans at the end of the day so making various concepts for an idea are extremely important. That is my definition of the matter which leads me to think that everybody needs that visual understanding if they are going to work in any job role. I notice that people who do not class themselves as “artistic” will still have some sort of idea of it such as being organised or tidy noticing something that doesn’t seem right or even seeing the clothes they wear. Now, I believe you should not really call somebody artistic, just more visually aware and having that visual understanding, because as I might have explained before (can’t remember), art and design is not a talent, it is a set of rules you must give yourself the patience to learn, realise and practise like any other academic course.
So with the bottom line out of the way, planning for games, you may start with a genre in which to base the game, a story to develop off of it, characters that may be involved. It’s good to clear up the overall mood and colour palette of a game. Seeing a well layed out scene can instantly tell you what you could be getting yourself in for before playing a game. The biggest similarity to planning and concepting a game is when planning and concepting a movie or a drama TV show. I just believe games are a more difficult and complex process. A movie scene has props in the background to enhance and set the scene further that not everybody will notice. Then you have certain games where you want to explore beyond strategically set out scenes. As you have the time and ability to search your surroundings you would be more curious as to what could be around the corner of this dark room or, what happens if I hit this purple mushroom. I believe all that is relevant to planning a game scene. The more notes and explanation with your concepts, the better the point you are trying to put across to the developers showing how organised you are. You are trying to make progress after all.
You may have been given certain instructions on what kind of scene to create but with concepts, I think there is no problem in adding your own little twist which may turn out to be a good new idea to work on once everything is confirmed. It’s all about bashing out those thumbnails, throwing in some colour here and there, ditching a bit of this, adding a bit of that until, somebody goes ‘YES! I like where this is going’. Then you set bigger scenes, add some characters, some depth, some textures, some emotion and so on until you have an environment or character ready to build fully.
I absolutely love art books you get with special editions of games and concept art you unlock through playing games displaying initial ideas that were different to final ideas, for example mirror’s edge, when you collect all the bags or god of war 1 showing older concepts of their 3D character models. I love how Guild Wars would show their final digi paints on the loading screen as you enter that certain area. You just appreciate it all more when you see a progression to the outcome.