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Archives for video games » Shawn Woods - Art Director/Senior Artist
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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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Dominance War IV Entry – 3D

Dominance War IV Entry - 3D

Dominance War IV Storyline:

The two heroes in the third Great War for Dominance foresaw what would happen if Machines were allowed to continue their hostilities, but it was too late. 5 year’s after their sacrifice to end Machines’ disruptive means for war with unstable dimensional travel, the sinister threat they foretold, emerged!

…Reality collapsed.

Everywhere, dimensional tears opened to hellish realms and everywhere, nightmares emerged! In the first wave alone, Machines were struck down with such ferocity that for the first time in any war, Machines had to take a more conservative stance. Norms were clearly outnumbered on all fronts and had to withdraw to their great magically protected cities. It was a new era and everyone soon began to realize, including Machines, that it might very well be the beginning of the end in a new chapter of the Epic Dominance War Series: The Rise of Demons!

But there is still hope. The tears in reality are not normal. Something is keeping the dimensions destabilized. Both machines and norms have the mystical power or technology to correct the crisis, unfortunately, to find the source of the problem and to revert everything back to normal requires a luxury neither Norms nor Machines have… time. With death beating down on their walls, and darkness looming around every bend, the missions are as follows:

Norms:
Your mission, again, armed with a powerful magical weapon, is to protect the cities, lead an assault to other worlds and destroy the mysterious force that is keeping the dimensions destabilized.

Machines:
Your assigned tasks: Protect homeworld, destroy all resistance, terminate the dimensional rifts caused by a yet unknown source, and reclaim your rightful dominance over the entire planetary system.

New Race: Demons!
Your purpose: Destroy every man, woman, bot, alien or child. Leave nothing unscathed!

Topic:
Choose and create a character class from one of three races: Norms, Machines and an all-new class – Demons!

Time period:
Post-apocalyptic futuristic fantasy where magic exists.

Dominance War IV Races: Demons
Demons are a new race in the Dominance War universe. Unleashed by Machine’s dimensional tampering, Demons are the shadows from untold nightmares made real. Pure evil in nature, they only care for chaos, feeding and destruction. Demons cannot manipulate or wield magic, but they do possess a single fusion of power with one of the following elements: Fire/lava or Ice/cold or Death/Darkness.

Demon Prince – Demon Princess
Demon Princes are human sized demons with human-like or alien-like characteristics. If not for a few demon-like body traits (bat wings, horns, tail etc), they could easily pass for a natural intelligent human, alien, elf etc of that kind. Demon Princes, like Demon Lords, can manipulate their inborn fusion of power.

My Dominance War Entry Thread on CG Society:
‘Demon Prince Maluum Ex Nihilo’ – Evil Out of Nothing

http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=282&t=744261


Your creation’s budget:

Up to 10 000 tris max for everything (everything = characters, laser beams, shield effects, glows, other special effects, magical weapon, gear, steed(s), pet(s), twin(s), multiple characters, summoned monsters, personal equipment, etc).
1 x 2048 Color Map
*1 x 2048 Reflection Map
*1 x 2048 Specular Map
*1 x 2048 Specular Color Map
*1 x 2048 Normal Map
*1 x 2048 Bump Map
*1 x 2048 Opacity(transparency) Map
*1 x 2048 Glow map
*1 x 2048 Glossiness map

*Optional

Important – You cannot break your 2048 sheets into smaller sheets.
2-sided tris are permitted.
Shaders: All shaders from any game engine or 3d software package on planet earth, is allowed.
Lighting/rendering: All lighting/rendering solutions from any software package on planet earth, is allowed.

Your Presentation Pedestal’s Budget:
ALL 3d entries must include a pedestal in their Presentation Image. You have unrestricted polygons and textures to create a pedestal with the following guidelines:

A pedestal is NOT a floor and/or it is NOT a room. It’s a block, pillar, coffin, box, crate, stone slab, etc. Pedestal Examples: Hela by Chang Gun Nam | The Mole by Rémi Monier
No additional weapons or gear that your character can pick up and use can be put on the pedestal.
No additional characters, pets, animals, pieces of characters, dead characters, etc, can be put on your pedestal. Only Bones and skulls are fine.
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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Wallpapers

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Wallpapers

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Wallpapers

Here are a collection of wallpapers I had created for the Dawn of War franchise. Every single character in the original series of games (excluding Soulstorm) were rendered using their texture maps and model from the game with the Brazil Renderer.

Most characters in the original series used one 512×512 diffuse map. A few characters had additional reflection maps or glow maps and sometimes another small diffuse map. Larger units like the Squiggoth and Greater Knarloc used two 512×512 maps.

Additional Texture Maps:
Specular, Raytracing, Reflections
Lighting using Brazil

I create 90% of the Orks, the Kroot Warriors, Squiggoth, Krootox, Greater Knarloc, among others. Click here to read more about the Making of the Greater Knarloc.

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The Outfit – Character Sheets

The Outfit - Character Sheets

The Outfit by THQ (Developed by Relic Entertainment), 2006

Role: Character Art Supervisor
Duties: Model and Texture game characters using “next-generation” techniques including a high-resolution zBrush model and Shader 3 technology. I also pinched in for some UI Design and art creation of the Achievement Medals you earn on Xbox Live.
Maps: Diffuse, Specular, Reflection, Normal Maps, and Occlusion (baking in shadows).

These are character sheets I designed for the six main characters in “The Outfit”. They were originally designed to be used in the game for character selection, and also for marketing promotions as features in magazines. Sadly, they never ended up being used as I created them too late in the production and the game had more important issues to take care of, like the driving model.

The three Allied Hero characters; Tommy Mac, JD Tyler, and Deuce Williams are high-resolution models from Blur Studio who also made the original Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War cinematic intro and Company of Heroes cinematic intro. You can view the “Making of ‘Warhammer’ Cinematic Trailer” here.

The Axis Heroes are the actual game characters rendered from 3D Max using the Brazil Renderer with added reflection maps, falloff and lighting. I modeled and textured General Viktor Morder, leader of the Axis in the storyline. General Morder is also featured in the Game/Broadcast Design section of Ballistic Publishing’s Elemental 2 book, along with my Allies Scout.

I will later post my process in creating some of the characters for the game.

About ‘The Outfit’

The Outfit is a squad-based action game built for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, set within war ravaged Europe during the Second World War. The game combines squad-based combat and easy to use strategic gameplay elements with cinematic interludes. The Outfit gives players the option to control three different squad leaders (voiced by Robert Patrick, Ron Perlman, and Terrence “T.C.” Carson), each with their own specific skills and abilities.

Character Sheets

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Brain Game – The Wonder Juice Machine

The Wonder-Juice Machine is a brain game of Executive Functions (Logic) that strengthens your deductive and visual skills.

read more | digg story

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