作者：Whachoo Talkin Bout Willis?
在一次采访中，Gearbox工作室（游戏邦注：代表作包括《Brothers in Arms》、《边境之地》、《半条命》和《毁灭公爵》）的Randy Pitchford谈道，工作室最初只是一个5人小团队，为了制作电影级游戏，意味着故事要更丰富、角色要更逼真、特效要更华丽（更别说该死的音乐），所以：
以非常成功的游戏《超级食肉男孩》的开发团队为例。这个独立工作室由两名设计师Edmund McMillen和Tommy Refenes组成。这两位开发者把他们在2008年制作的一款Flash游戏做改进，一年后诞生了《超级食肉男孩》。2012年2月，该游戏在Steam和X-box Arcade等平台的过百万下载量使他们获利颇丰，从此名扬游戏界。这个项目载入2012年的文件“独立游戏：电影”中，让人们见识到了真正的游戏开发者的工作和生活起伏。
Harry J. Evry在他的书《Beginning Game Graphics》总结得好：
Elements of Game Design Part 1: From Pong to Next Gen…
by Whachoo Talkin Bout Willis?
What do I know about game design? Hmmm…
Well I guess I know the basic fundamentals to designing a game, or at least I should by now. It all starts with an idea I guess, something dreamt up from the depths of some bright sparks imagination, and from that idea a brief is developed. A brief basically outlines the job the designers are employed to do, and is very specific; the designers rarely have the option to use their
artistic licence and everything must be done to the exact requirement set out. I imagine this can feel very restrictive to some people but I find that I work best when not left to my own devices.
It is perhaps of little coincidence that in the last few years the industry has witnessed a boom in independent games studios, where the idea men and designers have far more leeway to build the game they want to, rather than how they are told to, but we’ll get to that in due time.
From a brief we would begin working on the concept art. The role of concept artist is one of the most sought after jobs in the industry, this is because you have more freedom than anyone else, you are at the very beginning of of the design process, and have a hugely significant impact on the overall outcome of the game. Many concept artists begin by sketching silhouettes, a sort of visual brain storm technique.
The above and below pictures are a good example of how artists build from their initial silhouette shapes to develop their final designs.
From these concepts we would begin to build the assets using programs like 3DS Max, Maya and Z-Brush; The finished models would then be textured and animated (if necessary) and put into a game engine and tested. It is then put to the programmers to write program scripts for the engine and sound effects & music are added (if required). That’s the short version I guess.
Early computer games were made with a very small team of people, infact games like Pong and Pac-man that required very little in the way of art direction, storylines, environments or characters were designed by one person.
In an interview with Gamasutra.com, Randy Pitchford of Gearbox Studios (Brothers in Arms, Borderlands, Half-Life & Duke Nukem) explains how “on day zero our first team consisted of 5 people” but now, with the demands of games to be more like movies, with engrossing stories, fascinating characters and gripping special effects (not to mention killer soundtracks) he told them:
“Right now we have 72 full time employees at Gearbox, and there are a number of contractors we work with. That number, of course, fluctuates, depending on what we’re doing, from one or two, to several dozen. We also have a Quality Assurance team that is led by 5 managers, and a department head. Those guys are permanent staff, but when we’re doing final assurance for a product, it can grow to be as large as 30 or more people.”
Every aspect of game design is now divided amongst teams who specify in specific areas, and each team has a communication line to follow, ie. Designer to Project manager to Art Director . The concept artist feed information to the 3d modellers, who then work with animators, who then work with programmers etc. You have separate teams that working on the music alone, sometimes games even have whole scores written specifically for them (Halo, Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy). It really is like making a blockbuster movie in many cases!
But much like other arts, Fashion and Music for instance, the world of video game design is starting to go back on itself. With so many companies releasing ‘blockbuster’ games with massive layouts before they’re even released, and so much choice for the customers, most of the developers are making huge losses, and more often than not, studios are going under. Add to this the boom in powerful handheld devices like the Apple Iphone, it is very understandable why so many designers have taken it upon themselves to create small independent games studios, often consisting of 4 or less people, who, like in the days of Pong, design and make everything themselves.
Take the case of Team Meat, developers of the highly successful ‘Super Meat Boy’. This independent studio consists of two designers, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes. The game was a successor to a flash game created by the pair in 2008, and took just over a year to make. But with just over one million copies sold over various downloadable platforms like Steam and X-box Arcade as of January 2012, it has made the pair a pretty penny and launched their name into the games industry. The entire project is covered in the 2012 documentary ‘Indie Game: The Movie’, and is a real eye opener into the lives of real game developers and the highs and lows that come with the role.
It is widely thought that the way the world is going, it wont be long until all games will be designed for handheld devices and the age of the console will be no more… I really hope not though!
As discussed in my last post, in the early days of the computer games industry, there was very little need for art direction of any kind; but as Dianna Davies tells us in her article for
Gamasutra.com, “Nowadays it is serious business with a competitive edge.” There are many elements that attract us (the gamers) to a specific game, and for myself, it has to look good for me to even consider picking it up and spending ￡30-￡50 on it.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but this isn’t literature, this is the games industry, the height of visual stimulation, and looking good is becoming more and more vital to the its success.
The role of a project Art Director is a demanding one to say the least; in her article, Dianna Davies explains:
“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
Elderscrolls V: Skyrim
Gears of War 3
Not only is the AD directly responsible for the look and feel of the game, they are also responsible for assembling the design team and making sure they work productively together, among other things. They work very closely with the lead artist to get their vision realized. From what I have read, a good AD needs to be a great artist and an even greater manager. They must be competent communicators as it is essential their point is not only heard, but understood; time is often of the essence and time wasted or used insufficiently can have a huge impact on the entire process.
They should be approachable to all the team, and able to be firm in weeding out the slackers or weak links, this is where the ability to be critical of others work is imperative and I guess is why
it is so often referred to in our course; it is better to spot faults during the design process than to have the clients and journalists spot it once it has been released.
A good working environment is essential to productivity, and it is often the AD’s job to arrange the team in an efficient way. Closed doors create barriers between colleagues and in an industry so dependent on team work, it is often found that an open workspace is most effective, however too many people placed together can sometimes make room for irrelevant conversing and so it can be more effective to have small groups of 3-4 designers together in each space… these are the issues that an AD must overcome.
Phillip Bossant, Exective Producer and Art Director at America ‘s Army Game Project Public Applications Team took Gamasutra.com through a typical day in the life of an AD. He begins by stating that “Fortunately, the look and feel of America’s Army has already been well established and it’s typically not hard to steer the artists and designers in the right direction” and that “it’s rare that I get to spend much time painting on the project these days.” However, it’s still an interesting insight to what the role demands day-to-day. It mainly consists of going around and speaking with the designers, getting updates on their work and guiding them towards the final goal with constructive feedback. There is a lot of reading, sending and following up on emails too, and rarely time to relax; he even admits to having lunch at his desk so he can keep working! If he’s lucky he’ll get an hour or so to relax with his wife before it all starts again the next day… the prices we pay for art!
I think the online book ‘Beginning Game Graphics’ by Harry J. Evry sums up the role perfectly:
“In professional game art departments, the art director is the captain of the ship. Art directors are generally responsible for setting the visual tone, quality, and style for the game. They are at
least indirectly responsible for every object, texture, level, character, and effect that appears in a game. This is a profound responsibility.
A good art director must consider how each character, prop, set, and location will look from any possible place in any level of the game. Even things like plants, trees, paving stones, cracks in the walls, and graffiti must be carefully designed to support the story, feel, and illusion of the game. Sometimes, the individual props and furnishings can be as crucial to the story as many of the characters the player encounters.”
I’m not sure I could cope with that amount of responsibility personally, so I have a lot of respect for the men and women that can, especially if they are successful in what they do!
I’ll leave you with the requirements of any prospective AD wishing to join Capcom:
10 – 15 years of experience
Ability to own multiple workgroups/game. Handle multiple priorities at thislevel and set priorities for others.
Takes active interest in enhancing current skills and learning new ones.
Regularly innovates craft and process adopted by own game and other games.
Demonstrates dedication, adaptability & accountability in own work and areas of responsibility.
Drives collaboration effectively with others in same discipline, across feature groups and cross-discipline on a regular basis; works closely with game & studio exec teams
Lead multiple game areas/1 game and define deliverables.
Must be able to mentor leads and groups.
Member of game leads group, and defines features.
Act as a role model.