Thursday, July 28, 2005

Disconect between graphics, meaning, purpose.

This is observation on a lot of game art these days. There is a lack of connection between what the viewer observes and what the viewer connects with and attunes them to your world. Taking for example the Myst clones that never caught on. This is a case of artists making things pretty first but not questioning why. I like sources like anthropology when say designing the houses or the clothes of my races, why are the roofs constructed the way they are, or why the fabrics are used (not just for a look). That should clue you into what kind of weather they have to deal wtih, natural resources available to them etc. Try to avoid stereotypes. Again my beef with most pulp fantasy novels is that they just replicate what was done previously without thinking of the why (or the need). Instead of dressing up your world, it's about what you can observe about the graphics that help tell the player about the world.

For more modern settings, your cities, industrial settings etc should be connected to the ecosystem or economy, if your design does not stretch so far, think of the real world. A good way to think about it would be an "alternate earth" to start with. i.e. recognisable elements that players can easily connect with or extrapolate a what-if scenario from that help give meaning to the fancy art. This is also what draws me to a genre like steampunk or a game like Arcanum. We've taken fancy graphics for granted, we expect them. I'm not saying every game needs to be Tolkien-esque in its level of detail, but an analogy to this would be just slapping paint onto something without thinking why you want that colour.

Every designer should at least think about this approach, it would help combat the current malaise of every game looking the same and the player audience having an overwhelming feeling of "been there done that" with all but the most uber-graphics of games.



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