Friday, 25 March 2011

Art Direction - The Making or breaking of a game!

The art director is the creative visionary, responsible for defining the visual direction of the project. What colors will define the mood of the environment? What level of detail should the textures convey? What are the buildings in a city supposed to look like? How does the terrain look on this level? What kind of ambient characters populate this world? How red should the blood be? The art director works closely with the game designer to shape the game world. The art director carries the burden of communicating his or her vision of the game design to a diverse team of artists.

I don’t have to say anymore after that description, thank you gamasutra. But if you think an art directors job stops there just read below. This is a link to a job application for being an art director. Just looking at the length of the description is astounding; they also need 10+ years working in the media industry…whao, although a link I will provide later from the art director of raven studios got their in 6.

A goal that some of us measly game art students set ourselves is to become art director but looking at the job description it’s a hell of a lot of work. Why does the art director have to monitor, lighting effects, colour, composition, level of details, style, emotional intention, environments, characters, cinematics…etc? Because art direction makes or breaks a game, if the art direction is good then the game is good. It’s that simple, it’s because art directors have such a large role that they can make sure the game flows from the characters to the textures in the scenes so there are no continuity errors. For example if light is coming from nowhere because the light model wasn’t imported in, also if one dirty box is beside a clean box, it doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t fit the scene. Of course art directors can choose to add in these errors intentionally that don’t fit in the scene to act as a signifier to the player, like a collectable or to build up a sense of unease, especially in horror survival games. Hopefully with next year’s group project I can get my group to add in purposeful errors to create fear.

What is the difference from art direction in films than in games? Well an art director for films does have a lot of the same roles but there are some things that they can’t control. For example recruitment and the director will decide the cast and so if a character doesn’t fit the art director can’t do much without the helpful hand of a plastic surgeon but I’m sure that’s illegal. Now a film with one of the worst casting ever is Avatar: The last air bender, for you to understand he’s a quick brief.

Avatar­­­ was a children’s series about a young Chinese monk boy who is the next avatar and can control all the elements, it is set in asia, and each element is based on a different fighting style.
stands for water; it means benevolence and adaptively, based on the art of Tae-Chi, they have darker skin than the other races.
stands for earth; it means strength and stability, based on the art of Hung – Gar, they are chinese
stands for fire; it means passion and intentsity, based on the art of northern shaolin, they are also chinese.
stands for air; it means peace and harmony, based on the art of Ba Gu, they look chinese and have bald heads in the fashion of monks.

Anyway M. Night Shyamalan was the director and is such a twat, in every film he directors he casts himself as an important role, he loves having power. So he made all the fire nation indian and made himself the fire lord, he then made the water nation white, the air nation…well there was only one air bender left but it referred back to his past where the old chinese monk in the animated series had now miraculously turned young and black. I was so furious after watching the film I wanted to punch both Shyamalan and the whole team in charge of casting. Why cast white and indian actors for what was supposed to be a full Chinese cast. M. Night Shyamalan spoke out at reports of him being racist in which he replied, that he cast the people because of their characteristics and they were the best fit for the roles. He also says he made a conscious effort to include all ethnicities. What I say is that the cartoon was extremely successful and kept to a lot of Chinese traditions and folklore and no one found the cartoon racist. The actors were not best suited to the roles as most of them can’t fucking act in the first place.
 I am not a violent person but the film was a complete and utter sham, it just about kept to the story with some changes but it was to­o fast paced and it was just one big epileptic seizure from start to finish. In saying all that the visual effect artist did well and the elements looks pretty damn cool but it still didn’t overwrite how balls the film was.

I am going to stop before I start cursing in every sentence but my point is even though some of the backdrops were nice and the visual effects where cool it was a badly produced film… and it wasn’t just the art director’s fault. An example of bad art direction in games would be pretty much all of them, here’s an article on Moby Francke art director at valve;

I quote “The next thing I’d love to do is not based on realism, but stylizing with a little more in-depth look to the materials in the world. Instead of just having an impressionistic background, or having highly stylized characters. Making the characters a little bit more believable, even incorporating bold design, getting a little bit more specific.

So it would be a little bit slash realism and stylization all at once. And it can be achieved.”

What he is describing here is brink, now I hate FPS’s because I can’t play them but I want to get brink because the art style is so different from the brown blobs we usually get from these type games. Some games that I think have good art direction are Machinarium, Mirrors Edge, Team Fortress, Brink, Fable and Shadow of colossus. Mirror’s edge has a beautiful style with reds and yellows acting as signifiers to either climb this way or the yellow cases you collect throughout the level. Shadow of colossus is one of my favourite games and really what is it? 16 bosses no little enemies and a vast world, it is basically nothing but it’s an amazing game because of the scale. The world is huge and with each boss battle you get new areas to explore and massive colossi to defeat. It still takes my breath away every time I play it.

Heres a cool link on the art director for x-men legends 2, I love this game because I love x-men and so I’ll pretty much buy any game they bring out and also because it has co-op, hurrah.
Another lengthy link…didn’t read it all but thought it was worth a meantion.

In conclusion don’t ever get me started on Avatar the last airbender because my held will explode. But also art direction is an important job that requires a certain eye for perfection that can see errors and how to correct them, they have to be confident and competent at what they do and extremely talented with all the different programs a development team uses. In that sense I have a long way to go but if I have to set myself a long term life goal it would be working as art director for Lionhead or Valve.

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