Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Art Direction within Games

Typically, an 'Art Director' is expected to have expert knowledge not only of the major digital tools (Photoshop, Max), but of Art as a whole. Traditional training, an expert eye in anatomy, uncanny problem solving and creative skills are a must. Not only would a candidate need all of that, but they'd also need years of experience within the industry and would need to have fully worked on at least 2 'AAA' shipped titles.

So it's a bit of an understatement to say that Art Direction is a definitive part of a computer game. While the inner-workings ultimately determine how the game plays, art direction and style determines how it looks - and for some that's as important. Crysis had gamers bragging about actually having a powerful enough system to run the game. Team Fortress 2 is well known and loved for its art style even by people who have never played the game. Games like Psychonauts and Medieval had distinct cartoony styles, but retained a realistic element within texturing.

A consistent Art Direction can help bring a game to life. Whether the game is cell-shaded or uber realistic, it has to have a consistent art style to keep that illusion. I remember back in College where the first half of an animation submission was cell-shaded and the second half wasn’t. It completely broke the illusion and our focus, and we were all questioning the sudden change in style. It’s safe to say that the student didn’t keep a consistent art style and it was the first thing we picked up on.

Given that the ‘Art Director’ job title contains the ‘Director’, it’s safe to assume that it involves more management and paperwork than a dedicated artist role. The Art Director has to answer emails and phone calls – go to meetings and conferences – and help direct the work staff. Alongside that, they also have to find some time for asset creation and painting.

Ultimately, the Art Director has to keep the art style heading in one fixed direction, not allowing it to taper off and leak into other styles. On paper, this sounds like a relatively straightforward goal, but I’m sure it is far more complicated than it seems – hence the steep experience and technical requirements for the job.

Since the Art Director is such an exclusive and hefty role, it seems Game Developers take art style seriously. Presumably, this carries over into over industries – like Film and Graphics. The key difference between the Film and Game industries is interactivity, and while the inner workings are different the outer coating remains the same. Also, keeping a consistent, recognizable look is paramount to effective branding – a necessity of both fields of work.

Becoming an Art Director is a huge task. Not only does it require a heap of technical skill, creativity and experience – it takes responsibility. It’s not a job that can be taken straight after graduation, or even after a few years working as a junior artist. In my eyes, that’s a good thing. It means budding artists (like me) have to start at the bottom and work their way upwards, which will develop experience, skill and responsibility.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Quick Update #2

 The finished Van, subject to some changes from critique and suggestion. Managed to get it to this level without blowing the budget - I've still got 870 tris to play around with making finishing touches.
Clay sculpt of my Interesting Character so far. I think the torso is a little too wide at the moment, and the arms don't look right, but I feel it's a good start.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Quick Update

Alright, it's been about 5 days since my last post, so I feel it's time to touch base a little.

My 3D Van project is almost finished with a week to go. All I need to do is polish off the texture (some visible seams remain) and do the lights, and I'm done. It's been great practice, and I know now that I need to improve my UV unwrapping and texturing technique.

 As for VD, we're about to start modelling our 'Interesting Character'. I've got my Character and Environment final sketches done, so I'm ready to start the soft modelling. I based my character off a man I saw in Leicester who was unusually nervous - he seemed constantly weary and constantly paranoid. From him I created Ernie, my interesting character who I have made a Safety Inspector whose eternally paranoid and always expecting his next job to be his last (suspicious man indeed).

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Old, Inventive PS1 Games

One of my mates posted up a video of the original Crash Bandicoot on the PlayStation, which got me looking at videos of old PS1 games. A few significant titles in my childhood were Tomba, Kula World, G-Police and Heart of Darkness- though I never got very far in any of those. Especially Heart of Darkness, that game was impossible for a 10 year old to play.

Anyway, what I found most impressive was how inventive and deep these games were. Tomba let player climb, dive, roll and grab, with the perspective camera altering when climbing, and interactive environments. Kula World was great for perspective, and it's simple-yet-fun gameplay was addictive. Heart of Darkness was a cinematic platformer, which a shedload of almost grotesque death animations.

When I compare these games to their modern counterparts, things seem to have got simpler. It's weird.



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