Specifically it involves ensuring that:
· The game design project is kept on track;
· The Art quality is at the right level and meets company/game series style requirements;
· Everyone is participating and delivering;
· Deadlines and company requirements such as budget limits are being met;
· Advertising and published materials are delivered and meet company standards;
And the Art Director is responsible for defining the visual flow of the project - no pressure!
Furthermore it is their duty to oversee and create the idea that is being created, while ensuring progress is made with the game project. As with any major oversight and quality role in industry, a vital trait that is needed for this is good communication, so that ideas and issues can be easily shared and resolved amongst the individual contributors (animators, IT specialists, company management, finance etc) and departments concerned. The Art Director is also expected to put his mark or stamp of style on the end product game.
Art in the game industry is divided into several sub categories: concept, design, animation etc. so in a way an Art Director acts as an ambassador between these contributing departments. However it can be a complex role to say the least, since it is the director’s job to take the various inputs from everyone and put them into something solid and visual to present. A role like this can vary in scope depending on the scale and size of the project and the company itself. A director can also find themselves taking an artistic role in the production as well as giving feedback to the various contributors. So, in summary, the Art Director has to be creative but will rely on others for creativity in many cases as his role is more of a overseeing responsibility, making sure that the end product meets all of the criteria agreed before the project begins i.e. game quality, look and feel, production cost etc. In many ways the game production process mirrors an IT project where the end product must meet the agreed design goals.
Art Direction is not only used in the video game industry, it is also used in film production, publishing, marketing and advertising. An Art Director within film production is also sometimes known as the Production Designer in the USA and is responsible for the look and feel of the film set as well as setting the atmosphere and mood in producing the film. In addition, the Art Director is responsible for monitoring his department’s schedule and budget.
Nowadays the role is often referred to as Production Director, where their job is to manage and work alongside with the other departments within the film production team that are all connected to the visual aspect of a film, such as set design, construction, costumes and special effects. This can make Art Direction within both games and film production rather similar. However it is a considerably easier job from a CGI point of view, since a film is generally a one way system, without interaction with a player so in theory it would be easier to manage in terms of production compared to a game production depending on scale, as gameplay allows and often requires numerous pathways to be generated. However, the scale of the film will determine Art Direction requirements and also budget.
Another key role of art direction is to ensure that the game delivers a high quality exceptional visual experience to players. Many judge a game on what they see inside it, and want to believe it to be a true and fitting representation with appropriate context. Dante's Inferno for example, is mostly a fast paced combat game battling waves of foes. It takes place through the nine circles of Hell, so clearly the players want to see environments which allow them to feel that they are part of the game and understand the plot. For example the circle of Greed features pools and rivers of molten liquid gold - as a testament to those who hoarded and wasted it; and in the circle of Violence, where those who committed the latter upon others, are condemned into the Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood.
Personally I thrive on themed environments and settings within a game, as it makes a nice change from the traditional destroyed city scene we see in many post-apocalyptic and FPC games. However, there is always that boundary where it can sometimes become rather too fantasy based where you begin to question its realism.
Now obviously in our position, my course mates and I will want to get a rough idea as to whereabouts in the game industry we want to aim for. If I were to even consider a position such as Art Director, I do believe I would need some improvement on my work ethic and coordination skills. I am confident about my communication and game theme skills, less confident about project management and on a personal note, I do believe it's just simple motivation that I need, to keep at it. Or failing that - the ass kicking of a lifetime to wake me up!