Sunday, 10 April 2011

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

There are a hell of a lot of information sources on being an art director which I am sure are all very interesting in their own way of explaining it. First I’ll look at a typical job description of what an art director does. The links given showing some examples have expired now but I found another and will provide it in the reference links when I finish.

Typically an art director is ultimately responsible for the setting, style and quality of art incorporated into a game and managing the rest of the team pretty much constantly. Animation fits into this too and maybe even the music but I am not too sure on that one. Many sources say a background, perhaps a degree, in fine art is a must, due to the vast amount of knowledge in particular techniques like drawing, colours, texturing  plus, all artists need to be creative including the directors visualising how a character, an asset, a scene or particular section should look once complete. I think the major part to grasp from the general job description is the communication with other team members. It is their job to check up with what everybody is doing and, in Phillip Bossant’s case, who was executive producer and art director for the America’s Army public game project, would go around to everybody one by one to see progress.

Many times, I'm just providing feedback but sometimes I am directly involved with making the solution”.

I almost see this as being everyone’s teacher or tutor keeping order within the team and eventually making sure that, once merged together everything still flows but still be open to new ideas and suggestions. If everything flows, then you have a solid game and that is important.

Compared to film, there is not much difference when looking at art direction. I am sure film directors try their very best to make sure everything from characters, costumes, sets, musical scores and such stick to the film’s theme meaning checking each part individually. Mistakes would need to be altered beforehand and just like an art director, the film director needs to keep order. Handling takes when it comes to acting, it is the film director who calls out “action” and “cut” as retakes are made to get parts just right. Colour palettes are determined depending on the type of film so if it was a natural fantasy film, greens, yellows and reds could be reflected in the environment and characters to indicate a cheerful sunny scene and it is no different for art direction.

The job may sound simple enough but I reckon it takes a copious amount of experience, confidence, leadership skills and communication skills to be able to work with just about anyone from senior to beginner artists and animators in a team. Bringing workers together and checking on work is one thing but you would still need to use your artistic skills if the need to clean parts up yourself arises and I can imagine they all get plenty of emails and files sent to them. I can see it being a competitive but exciting job however because the job description I found says an art director can branch from an artist with more than 3 years experience in the games industry and the amount of talent will vary greatly between applicants.


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