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Effective Art Directors: Gaming’s Something Something

Effective Art Directors: Gaming’s Something Something

By Ben Cammarano

[In a detailed feature, Microsoft Game Studios' Cammarano documents the five major traits that make the video game art director truly effective, from partnerships through unlikely inspiration.]

The game industry has reached a crossroads, where the demand for creative, unique IP and immersive experiences is becoming a priority for many studios, rather than your classic tech demo or iterative, licensed project.

“Quality” is the popular (and somewhat ambiguous) term to help measure a franchise’s success, and a number of teams have done a better job of defining it than others.

One of the key roles important in making this happen is that of the art director. It’s a relatively new role when compared to other creative industries like advertising or film.

It’s even defined differently among game companies: art lead with technical experience, lead artist who can script, art director but must be hands-on, publishing art director with program management skills, etc. Art director turnover is high and it can be hard to find the right mix of creative, technical, and management experience.

I’ve had the privilege of working for, with, and managing effective (and not-so-effective) art directors. I’ve also learned the hard way that those lacking certain qualities will make developing successful experiences that much harder.

The goal of this article is to share my perspective on what separates the average Art Director (AD) from an Effective Art Director (EAD) in this challenging, evolving and exciting industry. Let’s take a look at five of the most common traits:

1. Proactiveness

2. Building Bridges: Forming the Right Partnerships

3. Less Detail, More Big Picture

4. You’re Only As Good As Your Artists

5. Look Outside the Norm for Inspiration

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Social Gaming Network Connections

Social Gaming Network Connections

Social Gaming Network Connections

Social Gaming Network Connections

Finding the idea for an iPhone game is one thing. Making it all work together is another. It can be quite overwhelming and confusing. Which is exactly why I decided to take a more visual approach to connecting these social networking outlets.

It all starts with the iPhone App or Game. I believe every new app should include the basic necessities and viral hooks: Connect to Facebook to brag to your friends and compete on leaderboards, post high scores to Twitter, tell a friend through email, even bump and email if you get that far.

If you post a message on Facebook (or Facebook Pages), it should automatically feed into Twitter. AdMob (now Google) has a great system of sharing similar apps and cross promoting one another. If I am playing a game I like, I will click an ad at the bottom that appeals to me (Tap Tap by Tapulous does a great job of this). Posting on my blog should connect to Facebook, which in turn puts a note on Twitter. The company website is separate from the game website and linked together. LinkedIn takes feeds from your blog. It all works together.

Create a CafePress storefront for print-on-demand t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, environmentally safe grocery bags, calendars, etc. Stores can be created for free or you can upgrade to the premium model with unlimited products for a small fee of $5.95/month. Linking to your store and back creating yet another link in the social networking ring. Of course, as you create movies its wise to post on all the major video sites like YouTube, and Vimeo.

And then there are your “traditional” online advertising campaigns through Press Releases, Google Adsense, and good old fashioned emailing to noteworthy bloggers, news sites, and gamers. A company called Moo has custom “mini cards” for a cheap price ($20 for a 100 pack). These are excellent quality cards with a waxy finish. They are great for in person promotions and starts an interesting conversation to break the ice. You can customize each double-sided card with your app on the front and information how to download it on the back.

If you’d like you site linked here, I’ll start a list below to make connections. Or post a comment/ping back below.

Wildfire Game Labs
Magic Word Party Game on the iPhoneFollow us on Twitter!Facebook Page

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How to Motivate Your Team

How to motivate your team

Success in business is rarely down to technical skills or knowledge alone. Getting the most from your team is the sign of a successful manager and can lead to a successful business. The key to this is motivating people and giving them space to develop themselves to their full potential.

Being able to motivate your team successfully starts with wanting the best for people. If you care to find out about them and their needs and ambitions, you will find what motivates them. This will keep them performing at their best.

Motivation is open, positive and instils energy into your team. For instance, rather than commanding ‘Do this’, motivation entails showing why someone should do something and how they will benefit.

How can you motivate your team?

These are some suggestions for motivating your team:

  • You have to be motivated yourself to motivate others.
  • Motivation needs to be focused on clear, specific, realistic and achievable goals.
  • Seeing progress towards those goals gives a sense of achievement and helps revive motivation.
  • Motivation never lasts – there are always hurdles along the way that drain energy or distractions that take your eye off the ball.
  • Everyone has different motivations – you just need to find what they are. They may well be different from yours and will give you useful insights into what drives people. Ask your people what they want from their job, and for the business as a whole. Also what do they want for themselves in life overall?

Your staff may say money is a motivator – but look closely and you will find that it is a stepping stone to another goal. For instance, a desire for power, recognition, early retirement or travel.

  • A sense of belonging motivates – the smaller the group to which someone belongs, the stronger the loyalty, motivation and effort.
  • Participation motivates – people feel more motivated when they feel their involvement in a project is important and valued. Often we exclude our greatest assets – the people around us, from decisions in which we could include them.
  • Challenges motivate and people often rise to the occasion. However, it can also be demotivating if they are unobtainable, or conversely, too easy to achieve.
  • Motivation needs recognition and reward – even something as simple as a thank you.

What causes demotivation?

  • Constantly moving goalposts – people lose sight of goals, or feel they will never reach them and so cease to care about them anymore.
  • Not knowing what is going on. If you do not bother to tell people what is happening, you can demotivate and possibly alienate them too. Uncertainty is a very destabilising emotion in a group.
  • Not showing faith or trust in people.
  • Arbitrary decisions which are not consistent for all members of staff, and humiliating people in front of their peers.
  • Pay, work conditions or available facilities can affect motivation and often small changes can bring large differences.

Some signs of demotivation

  • Increased absenteeism/sickness.
  • Incomplete or careless work.
  • Lack of concentration.

Motivate yourself

Before you can inspire others to extend themselves, you need to develop your own sense of motivation. Here are some tips to help you.

  • Build your confidence and develop self-belief. Success doesn’t always go to the strongest person, but to the person with the greatest conviction.
  • If you work alone, identify an understanding person with whom you can talk through business issues and who will encourage you. A mentor can help here.
  • If you feel overwhelmed by a daunting task, such as sorting out your tax or personal finances, it tends to affect the rest of your attitude. There are three ways you could deal with a large task:
    1. Divide it up into smaller chunks and start immediately on the first chunk.
    2. Use an independent specialist who can relieve you of the anxiety of dealing with the task and will have more knowledge on the subject than yourself.
    3. Delegate the task to a member of your staff. Delegation can be a great motivator – but dumping an unwanted job on someone isn’t.
  • Assess, plan, act. Write a plan for yourself for the next year, both in business and personal terms. Set tough, but realistic objectives with timescales. We all react positively to these.
  • Also write down why you want to do something, even if the reasons hardly seem valid. Something as simple as ‘I want a clear desk so I don’t have to start the day in a mess’ is valid. Clean it up tonight and start tomorrow afresh.
  • Use picture power or imagination to ‘fix’ your goals. Have you ever seen something in a shop window and longed for it? It is easier to visualise having something that you can see, so visualise the result you want. Savour the emotions you will feel when (not if) you land that order. Also, collect pictures that summarise these emotions – your dream house, boat, car or holiday – and pin these round your desk to remind yourself why you are doing it all.
  • Tell people what you are going to do – it will make you feel more committed.
  • Compile a record of past successes. When you feel you are achieving nothing, review your records to remind yourself what you have achieved!
  • Finally – give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it for having the strength of character to go out and make things happen.

Solutions guides

We have a range of solutions guides covering all areas of business. You may find the following pages on our web site particularly relevant.

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Myers-Briggs Personality Type – ENTJ: The Leader

Myers-Briggs Personality Type – ENTJ: The Leader

Profile by Sandra Krebs Hirsch and Jean Kummerow

ENTJs take charge quickly and deal directly with problems, especially in situations that involve confusion and inefficiency. They provide structure to the organizations to which they belong and design strategies to accomplish their personal and organizational goals. They are ‘take charge’ people who organise their own and others’ external environments. They use their resources to find a way to meet the challenge. They are at their best in using their analytical and strategic thinking.

Living

ENTJ children need to have goals for everything. These goals may be related to achievements such as swimming the fifty-yard freestyle on second faster than they did the previous year, getting a straight-A report card, or winning the school math contest. They seek power and control. They want to have an impact. Because of their desire to take charge, they are often leaders.

ENTJs enjoy an active and diverse lifestyle. They are likely to be in extracurricular activities and often function as the team captain, the president, or the leader. They pursue leadership roles very directly and have difficulty following others unless those individuals demonstrate more competence than they themselves have. Even then, it may be tough for the ENTJ to follow long.

ENTJs are likely to commit to a career goal early, often in their teen years. They determine their overall goals and objectives and what it will take to accomplish them. Whatever ENFJs do must make sense to them according to their logic or they have difficulty doing it.

In mature adulthood, ENTJs are often in leadership positions in their work organizations. They go after what they want with fusto. They set their sights high and work hard. Work and its related activities may become their lives. They may find retirement unsettling, boring, and difficult because it may bring with it a loss of the power that they had during their working years. Often they make arrangements so that they do not have to retire.

Learning and Working

ENTJs see education as one of the major ways of getting ahead. They are willing to learn about the past and what is but always with the mind-set of how that information affects their future. They particularly enjoy critiquing and solving problems. They apply their logical systems view to the issues they deal with. They want to change things to fit their concept of what should be. They learn best through a variety of instructional methods, including lectures and group activities. Without variety and action in the classroom boredom sets in.

ENTJs like to debate and view problems from all sides. They are comfortable critiquing and analyzing. and do not mind intellectual conflict in the classroom. They like challenge. They may have a general study plan laid out, with test dates and paper deadlines noted. They set up a schedule and work to attain the goal within that time.

At work, ENTJs contribute a wealth of energy directed toward the goals and those of the organization. Their sense of identity is closely tied to how they carry out their responsibilities. They are curious about new ideas and theories, evaluating them in terms of their goals. They are very efficient, competitive, strategic, and task focused.

Occupations that require tough-mindedness, goal direction, and a global perspective tend to attract ENTJs. They use logic and analysis to form conclusions, to organize themselves and others, to give direction, and to take charge. Some occupations seem to be especially attractive to ENTJs: administrator, attorney, consultant, credit investigator, labor relations worker, manager, marketing personnel, mortgage banker, personnel professional, systems analyst, and other occupations that allow them to use their strategic sense.

Loving

For the ENTJ, love needs to fit into the overall picture and may become subservient to their larger goals. Love is always within the context of what the relationship is. One ENTJ stated, “I don’t allow love to course freely through my body. God forbid that it should control me rather than I control it!” Love means a match between the ENTJ’s needs and what the partner provides. The loved one is, in a sense, an extension of the ENTJ’s vision, preferably acting in a supportive, not competing, role. ENTJs tend to make rigorous demands of love. While they may fall in love easily, they maintain that love only if the other person is willing to accept the ENTJ’s directness and need for independence.

Because attractiveness is a part of our culture and an initial standard for many relationships and because ENTJs like to do better than the standard, they particularly take note of the attractive people. The often wonder if they can ‘win the heart’ of the attractive other. It becomes almost a game for them.

The partner of ENTJ can expect a hard-working and industrious provider who may use the fruits of his or her labor as an expression of love. They may not be as verbally communicative of their loving feelings as others types.

ENTJs expect to have their needs met in relationships, while maintaining their independence. When the partner can no longer do that, it is logical for them to sever ties and to move on. However, when ENTJs are scorned by others, they may feel a passionate devastation and a strong sense of loss that is seldom shared with others. However, this sense of loss and gloom generally lasts only a short period before they are ready to move on.

Profile by David Keirsey

If one word were used to capture ENTJ’s style, it would be commandant. The basic driving force and need of ENTJ’s is to lead, and from an early age they can be observed taking over groups. This type is found in approximately 5 percent of the total population. ENTJ’s have a strong urge to give structure wherever they are-to harness people to distant goals. Their empirical, objective, and extraverted thinking may be highly developed; if this is the case, they use classification, generalization, summarization, adduction of evidence, and demonstration with ease. They resemble ESTJ’s in their tendency to establish plans for a task, enterprise, or organization, but ENTJ’s search more for policy and goals than for regulations and procedures. An ENTJ’s introverted thinking (analysis and conservation) may be less well developed than the extraverted thinking processes, and the ENTJ leader may turn to an ENTP or INTP to provide his kind of input. ENTJ’s are similar to INTJ’s except that the former places greater trust in empirical thought than in intuition; it is the ENTJ’s own intuitive sense of coherence, however, that augments and supports their empirical thinking.

Career

Although ENTJ’s are tolerant of established procedures, they can abandon any procedure when it can be shown to be indifferent to the goal it seemingly serves. Inefficiency is especially rejected by ENTJ’s, and repetition of error causes them to become impatient. For the ENTJ, there must always be a reason for doing anything, and people’s feelings usually are not sufficient reason. When in charge of an organization, ENTJ’s more than any other type desire (and generally have the ability) to visualize where the organization is going and seem able to communicate that vision to others. They are the natural organization builders, and they cannot not lead. They find themselves in command and sometimes are mystified as to how this happened. As administrators, ENTJ’s organize their units into a smooth functioning system, planning in advance, keeping both short-term and long-range objectives well in mind. They seek and can see efficiency and effectiveness in personnel. They prefer decisions to be based on impersonal data, want to work from well thought-out plans, and like to use engineered operations-and they prefer that others follow suit. ENTJ’s will support the policy of the organization and will expect others to do so.

ENTJ’s will usually rise to positions of responsibility and enjoy being executives. They are tireless in their devotion to their jobs and can easily block out other areas of life for the sake of work. They will be able to reduce inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and aimless confusion, being willing to dismiss employees who perpetuate such behaviors. ENTJ’s tend to work in organizational structures of some sort, tend to be in charge administratively, and rise to top levels of responsibility, whether in the military, business, education, or government.

Home

ENTJ’s take charge of the home. When an ENTJ is present, there will be little doubt as to who is in command. Because their work is so important to them, however, they can become increasingly absent, especially if male. Male or female, ENTJ’s expect a great deal of their mates, who need to possess a strong personality of their own, a well-developed autonomy, many and varied interests, and a healthy self-esteem. A career wife, however, may not be appealing to an ENTJ male, who is apt to view his home and family as a part of his professional background, a resource, and adjunct to his own career development.

As a parent, an ENTJ will be thoroughly in charge, and the children will know what is expected of them and will be expected to obey. When this does not occur, an ENTJ parent is not apt to make a scene; rather, there is more likely to be a low-key, firm issuance of reprimand and a taking-for-granted of immediate obedience. While both mating and parenting are roles of importance to the ENTJ’s, they are to some degree preempted by the ENTJ’s strong career interest. The romantic dream and the quest for the ideal mate is usually not a characteristic of this type. ENTJ’s generally do, however, expect a home to be attractive, well-ordered, with meals served punctually and maintenance accomplished on schedule-all these in the service of the larger goal of creating a family system where children can be reared to be productive and healthy and establishing a devoted, harmonious relationship between man and woman. An ENTJ male might expect his mate to be active in civic and community affairs, to be socially sophisticated, and as well educated as he. The ENTJ female may find it difficult to select a mate who is not overwhelmed by her strong personality and will.

Midlife

At midlife the ENTJ’s tendency to be somewhat unaware of the feelings of others, including those close, may be an area that could be given attention. But perhaps the most important midlife task of the ENTJ is to begin to allocate time and energy to pursuits which are not work-connected and to begin to develop a larger repertoire of play skills. Putting off vacations, travel, hobbies, and family should be avoided.

Mates

The ENTJ is a natural “fieldmarshal,” that is, he’s itching to get his hands on several “armies” so that he can marshal his forces and conduct the “war” as it should be conducted. If our ENTJ is in charge of any kind of enterprise, however small, his temperament dictates that he run it as he would his armies-with an eye to long-term strategies and their derivative tactics, logistics, and consequences. In startling contrast to this, the fieldmarshal is enamored by the “flower child,” the bucolic artist ISFP, tranquilly ensconced next to Walden pond! Perhaps the ENTJ wishes a spouse who will share with him or her the quiet of the forest and field far from the madding crowd, thus separating home from work by a great, insulating distance.

The ENTJ is attracted also to his opposite in the Appolonian camp: the monastic and questing INFP. What in the saintly or knightly (St. Joan of Arc, Sir Galahad) INFP calls the ENTJ fieldmarshal? First note the outward similarity of the INFP and the ISFP. Perhaps it is this, the underlying missionary outlook of the INFP. In a sense, both INFP and ISFP have great missionary zeal, the former enlisting the spouse in the quest, the latter in the tranquil respite of nature?

What’s your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?
Read up on the sixteen Myers-Briggs Personality Types here.

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Article – Asian Art showcased in EXOTIQUE 4

Asian artists show game and comic art for EXOTIQUE 4. The Cover is gorgeous!

This is a short tutorial/tips article on the creation of the art for the cover of the EXOTIQUE 4 book. Most noteworthy is that this digital painting was done entirely using a mouse!

Tutorial by Mario Wibisono

Tutorial by Mario Wibisono

read more | digg story

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Creative Director, 3D Video Game Artist, UI Designer

I just created a new account with DIGG and posted my blog on there. If you would like to DIGG my site, click the link below. Thank you for your support!

Shawn is an award-winning industry Veteran with years experience in positions of increasing complexity and responsibility in Entertainment, AAA Games, Casual Games, and Web 2.0 Design. He has worked on such games a Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, Company of Heroes, The Outfit, and Fit Brains Games.

read more | digg story

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Barack Obama – Presidential Speech

What a wonderfully, inspiring speech! Visit www.barackobama.com.

Some people have asked why I would post a political statement?

Well, that’s another story I am not about to get into on my blog. I’ll leave that to the politicians. What I did like was how powerful and inspiring this speech was. It was history in the making and he delivered a message that I would compare to John F. Kennedy and even Martin Luther King. But again, that’s a story I am not about to debate.

Let’s move on to Barack Obama’s website. I have been following Barack’s career since about 2006 before he was even on the scene running for President. He was promoting his book “The Audacity of Hope“. For a long time he has been using the Internet and his blog as a way to reach out to the public without spending a whole lot of money (let’s face it, the web is cheap). He is the first politician I know to fully utilize the web to send his message and took viral marketing to a new level.

Since his presidential campaign, his website has been given a major upgrade. It is beautiful! The colors are vibrant and clean. It gives a hopeful message. The entire site fits well together from his images in the top banner to the icon set on the people page. The mixed blue on blue gradients are subtle, yet attractive and I have always been a fan of white on white with the Apple style of reflective icons.

He also led the way with my.barackobama.com, a tool on his website used to connect people, organize events, and respond to the media creating an experience of inclusion and accessibility.


The Conversation

I’ve had this article in my archives for years but can’t remember where it came from. I like it because it really speaks in the “internet” language.

The Conversation

So, a conversation has begun. This is still a new medium. Communication channels are re-aligning. People are discovering new ways to hear and be heard and the space between the two actions is getting shorter and smaller.

Markets are getting smarter – smarter than you think.

Most corporations, on the other hand, are dumbing down in the name of smartening up.

Looking for the one-liner and the killer application that will take them to the top. Flipping out over trying to keep up with the Dow-Joneses. Relying on technology to take them into the future. They speak in a one-directional, this-is-what-we-know, aren’t-we-clever tone.

Same old tactics, same old hooks; possessed of a growing ability to take the same old same old into people’s lives in new ways.

But that’s not a conversation.

Conversations are the oldest interactive medium in the world and they function on one thing alone; two-way communication. It’s no surprise that markets are skeptical.

So, you have a choice. Same old actions. Same old results. Regardless of the medium. OR No More Same Old Same Old. You choose.

Alright, you’ve chosen… What happens next… How do you make it work…. And, equally important, how do we?

This kind of interaction is tactile and fragile; and if someone on the team, somewhere along the way doesn’t get it… it’s game over – the market knows and loses trust.

So what do you do? You think. You decide. You do. You conceive it and you birth it. From start to finish.

You deal with the fact that sometimes groundbreaking work isn’t always slick, edgy, and full of bells and whistles. But sometimes it is. That’s not what people need every time.

Sometimes they just need information, sometimes they need to be convinced, sometimes they just need to be connected.

Sometimes they don’t need at all; they want… and you must make something worth wanting.

That’s why you continue looking for chances to create fresh, shiny, full of bells and whistles things but you keep your wits about you and you look to the needs of the user.

Great ideas are great because they are do-able, make-able, attainable, effective, dead on or simply imaginable.

Sometimes you need straight, sometimes you need straight out of this world; but you always need to be smart and creative and you have to have the experience to draw on.

You think. You do. From beginning to end.

How do you do it? You live it. You imagine it. You build it. You don’t do something just because everyone else is. You dissent. You discern. You embrace. You ask the right questions, you check the right boxes, you take an idea and you roll it out across technologies you have mastered. And then you make new boxes. You own your market and every channel in it. You hire the best and the brightest and you set them up in teams that can solve the problems.

You take a good idea and you take it to the street.

You don’t repeat yourself and you don’t fall in love with the vision of the day.

There, we’ve got the exchange going. We’ve started the conversation… the rest is here if you need to know more… strategy, technology, creativity, intelligence.

We think. We do. We succeed. For you.

And if you don’t use our expertise all the way through the process of think and do… we all lose something. Some of us like to believe it’s about purity; but it’s really about credibility and results.

Any problem, any platform, any time. It’s all in the way we think about it.

Do you think?

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