Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Elements of Game Design Part 2: Art Direction For Games

The pressure of this job is colossal

Much like an Art Director involved in films (sometimes known as a Production Designer), the Art Director is crucial in overseeing that everything follows the vision and theme of the project. Everything must remain consistent from the main character to the smallest assets. 

Ideally the look and feel must seem fresh and new to the viewer throughout, you don't want to lose their interest for even a moment.

Visual elements that affect the journey of the viewer/player are all decided and considered to maximize the overall experience. An Art Director must understand how to visually communicate to the viewer exactly what is necessary to set the scene. 

Lighting is a key asset in setting the mood without the audience even being aware of it. 

The only source of light can be your greatest a weapon. 

Even with the reassuring glow of sunlight, the environment still feels ominous.
The Art Director can be directly involved in the artwork or manage a group of artist. 
But it is their vision which keeps everything cohesive. 
Artistic judgement is an essential skill in this role. And an understanding of how colours affect our perceptions. 

If an object is red, it is usually associated with danger or heat. 

(In the case of these two images, both)

If a room is red, it can create a sense of anger, lust, a place of violence. 
Yet when used in the subtlest shift of context it appears to reflect courage, romance, royalty and affluence. 

These are just a few examples but with the right setting they can be completely re-envisioned. 

Dark Watch, High Moon Studios 2005 - Concept Art

Twin Peaks - The 'Red Room'
Alice In Wonderland 2010 - The Queen of Heart's Throne Room

Final Fantasy XI: WOTG - The Throne Room of the Shadow Lord

File:FFIVDS Dwarven Castle Throne Room.png
FFIVDS: Dwarven Castle Throne Room

The Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. Photograph: Rex features

Miramare Castle -Trieste

Prince Of Persia: TFS 2010
Look at these links -

Basically an Art Director must have the ability to unify the specific aesthetics of the project.
This could be spread amongst an impressive team of creatives, so one would have to be able to manage all of these individuals to achieve the finished product. 

Like I said the pressure of this particular job is colossal. 
You would need to be wise beyond your years to approach this role early in your career.

Inspiring Visuals

I remember late one night, seeing Guillermo Del Toro's 'CHRONOS' (I believe I was about 14). 
It was a odd film. But it really stuck with me. It was like an alternative Vampire story. 
(Not in any way, shape or form like 'Twilight').

Since then I have been following Del Toro's film making with hungry eyes. 

His style has really shone through within the last 10 years. 
Even when a scene is intended to be dark and moody, the frame is always rich with colours and interest. 

Whomever Del Toro chooses as AD for his films, that consistency has been present throughout. 

On HellBoy and HellBoy II, the Art Direction was steered by Stephen Scott

Lots of contrasting colours set the characters apart from the scenery.
Cold blue scenery, warm orange lighting.
The character blends into the murky scene to give the point of interest more emphasis.
In this case the glowing eggs of a 'Hell-Hound'. Yuck!
The contrast can be seen more clearly in this shot.

John Hurt as Professor "Broom" Bruttenholm.
In this scene we have red carpet on a blue tinged floor, yellow lighting from above and an orange side light.

HellBoy 2004 (I have noticed, a circle of blood recurring in his recent films).
The 'Ogdru Jahad' descending from space.
One of the seven 'Ogdru Jahad' Escaping it's prison in space.
Their appearance is inspired by the 'Great Old Ones' that author H.P. Lovecraft created.
A green/blue monster on a vivid red background.
The defining theme is that colour distinction is present throughout.

Pan's Labyrinth had Eugenio Caballero listed as Production Designer.

Many of the creatures that populate his films, have an organic feel to them. 
That is to say, you expect them to be made of flesh and bone, yet they appear to have stone appendages or their skin is cracked like old marble, as twisted as a wooden branch.
There is a lot of nature in his 'nightmares' :)

Faun - played by Doug Jones

Doug Jones as 'The Angel of Death'

A 'Tooth Fairy' from HellBoy II 2008 - The leaf-like wings are a great touch.

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