Friday, 8 March 2013

Elements of game design, part two: art direction for games

Art Directors are the glue that holds a games development and production together. Without an Art Director, a game will have no real artistic or stylistic structure. This structure is paramount for their success and with 80% of games losing money in the current climate; it’s no surprise as to why games have such a long and intense production cycle.

Art Directors have one of the hardest jobs within a studio. They are in charge of the style, mood and look of the game, while also having to be aware of every graphical asset within the game. They must know what is happening with almost every character, level, texture and object; and how these look from any and all angles within the games world. Every detail must be as accurate as possible, as these details help tell the story and give the illusion of the game world. These slightest details or errors can cause the mood of the game to die completely and can have an abrupt effect on the player during the game. So it is vital that these elements fit together like a jigsaw.

These managing figures are responsible for all the other artistic sections of a studio, such as concept artists, 3D modellers and texture artists. Although it’s a managing job, the role still requires an extremely artistic and creative knowledge and they must understand how each art role works. Their partnership and artistic bond with an artist helps them to convey ideas and artistic knowledge, which both ways, adds to the game’s integrity. They have to incorporate the game’s style and genre into this feedback, and make sure the style is consistent throughout the game. If the style changes from level to level, then it can leave the player feeling lost between levels and disjointed throughout the story line. So an art director always has to be on top of his game.

This art direction is similar to that of film direction in that they are ultimately in charge of the project and they control how it is run. It’s their job to keep the whole team in check, and understand the whole production cycle of the product. However, Art/creative directors are not in charge of the whole project. There are different managing roles depending on the studio; and usually there is a project manager overseeing every group of management. But largely, both film and game studios have very similar management and development structures, so the Art direction is largely the same, especially in animation studios.

To become an art director; if it turns into something I may want to pursue as a career. I’ll need to improve my skill in all departments, so that I would be able to relate to the area of work I may be directing, I would also need to understand genres, and how to set the mood for specific genres, just with basic and subtle changes, such as light/shadows, architecture, style. I would also need to grasp a mood advanced understanding of colour theory, not to mention an extremely good understanding of the anatomy and characters which may be relevant for a specific genre or game. One other major skill I need to sort out is organization. Although I may get assets and characters created in time, I know there would be some key details that would be a miss.

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