Week 5 — Art direction

2021-02-22

Week 5 is all about art direction, and we’re tasked with developing an art direction document.

The art direction doc is a living document, but I will reflect on the current-at-the-time-of-writing-this version (Git commit hash e421c18) of the document here:

https://github.com/juanuys/ccgdd/blob/e421c18/art-direction.md

Intro

This week was hard. So many lecture videos, which crammed SOOO many concepts into my head. That, paired with the fact that art direction is an iterative process (“Week 5: Art Direction for Indie Games: Game Development IGD720 20/21 Part-Time Study Block S2” n.d.), which meant that every day I had to remember the tens of tiny tools and tricks whenever I iterated on a design.

I’m glad next week is reading week, and I might steal some time from animation (week 7) and level design (week 8) to finish this off, as those two themes are also circumscribed by the art direction.

That all said, I feel like going to art school.

Reflection: Research the target market. Really?

We should make art direction decisions based on observation of the real world and knowledge of art history, as well as research into the target market for our game, its potential audience and its competitor products.

(“Week 5: Art Direction for Indie Games: Game Development IGD720 20/21 Part-Time Study Block S2” n.d.)

I’m not sure I agree fully. If you asked people what they wanted, you’d end up making something bland (as people say stuff to please you) or something which is popular right now (and not 2 years down the line when you finally release).

Henry Ford; faster horses.

But on the flipside, perhaps there is something about being an indie which I don’t grok yet. Perhaps it’s not about working on what you want. Perhaps it is not about making art that comes from the art. Perhaps it is about your studio being a finely tuned machine that can deliver games like a production line.

If my studio was a band, maybe it shouldn’t try to sound like The Mars Volta or Tool, but rather Taylor Swift or Beyonce.

Reflection: four Fs

Lee Petty’s Four Fs (mediaXstanford 2017) was very helpful in nailing down some concepts early on. Otherwise, I do feel like art is very subjective. Sure, you learn about techniques and theory (colour, etc), but at the end of the day, what you come up with isn’t Right or Wrong. Not everyone will like your style, but some might, and that’s who matters to you.

Reflection: how much art do I need for my game?

Let’s take an example studio: sokpop collective. They’re a team of 4, and work on the games individually, which means each game takes one person 2 months. That’s a tight cadence for any studio.

Then let’s look at Stardew Valley, which was also made by one person, but took 4 years. Gorogoa took 6 years, but the solo dev brought in extra help towards the end.

One could argue that both Stardew Valley and Gorogoa has more art than the sokpop games (not to detract from the sokpop team at all - I love their stuff!), but it brings the effort into perspective.

It’s a lofty goal to make an “art game” but it will take a long time. One has to think long and hard whether one wants to “bet the farm” on a beautiful game that will take years to make, or if one would rather churn them out more like a well-oiled production line.

Bibliography

  1. “Week 5: Art Direction for Indie Games: Game Development IGD720 20/21 Part-Time Study Block S2.” n.d. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/921/pages/week-5-art-direction-for-indie-games?module_item_id=49323 [accessed 26 Feb 2021].
  2. MEDIAXSTANFORD. 2017. “Elements of Art Direction.” Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwXThTYbZY4&feature=youtu.be [accessed 25 Feb 2021].

This post is part of my critical reflective journal and was written during week 5 of the module game development.

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