Saturday, 16 November 2013

Elements of Game Design, part six: Visual Composition

In art, composition is a paramount understanding in the way artistic principals pull together to create an image. This can be seen in almost every master artist’s pieces; from those in history all the way to modern artists. Composition is like the ingredients to a cake; you can have all the right ingredients, but put them together in the wrong order and you won’t be having a slice.

Without composition, things in the scene can look “wrong” or out of place. On my course, this is something that you can’t afford to get wrong as you are trying to draw the viewer into the setting and make them lose focus of reality. You can’t make this happen without everything portraying the same genre, story and scope. For instance, you wouldn’t see a car in one of Da Vinci’s paintings, as it just wouldn’t be expected there and cars didn’t exist in his time. A lot of composition also therefore comes down to a good general knowledge of what is being created. If a concept piece is being drawn for a first person shooter set in the future, you would need to know what the weapons, clothing and environment look like or are based on.

Obviously a lot of artwork comes down to the imagination, which can even be noticed in some historical artwork. But the understanding of how things work in the world; the weight, the scale, reflectivity, etc. is vital in making a piece “belong”. However, composition can involve less if needed and can largely come down to the way in which light is used in the scene or how “ingredients” are positioned/mixed together. An example may come from looking at the rule of thirds and the rule of odds. The rule of odds suggests that people find an odd number of subjects look much more natural and less ordered as opposed to an even number. This is because humans pick out patterns in nature, and if a pattern is spotted the illusion can sometimes be lost. That being said, the rule of thirds helps to position the piece. Based on the golden mean (1:1.618) this understanding of division within the picture can help to naturally frame the subject of the piece and makes it much more visually interesting.

When we look at composition in 3D space, be it in a game level or when modelling and texturing a character, these rules still have to apply. A level must be built up using all the correct assets, putting them in space where they belong as well as giving them purpose. It would be no good making one long street and having the same building everywhere you look, with a tree in the middle of the road, it just looks out of place. It’s the small details which add to the composition. If you can affect the silhouette of something enough, it can look unique. Too much and it doesn’t belong. This has to be taken into account when putting a level together.


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