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Function: the key to good game art direction

In a new Gamasutra feature, Audran Guerard, art director at EA Shanghai explains what's most important to art in games: "the props that will populate your world should feel believable and functional".
In a new Gamasutra feature, Audran Guerard, art director at EA Shanghai explains what's most important to art in games: "the props that will populate your world should feel believable and functional". "When trying to build a world, you want people to buy in, and forget they are within a fiction. You want to distract them away from the backstage," writes Guerard. "You don't want them to see the set; you want them to feel the world as naturally as possible. The props that will populate your world should feel believable and functional. It's a no-brainer," Guerard writes. What happens when a game prop isn't quite right? "Too often I've seen artists struggling trying to embellish something by adding random details. They feel something is not quite right; they are trying hard to fix it, but unfortunately from an angle that isn't broken. With them, I will sit down and evaluate the piece from three specific angles." Here are Guerard's rules for evaluating in-game art: Function in design. Does the object appear functional? Would I be able to use it if it was right next to me? How do I carry it, how do I turn it on, how do I access it? Can my hand fit on the handles? (Artists tend to make them either uber tiny, or friggin' huge.) What details can I add (or remove) to make it purpose or usability clearer? Function in gameplay. In the desired experience, how important is that prop or space? What is its role in the whole level design scheme? How does the player interact with it? How can we help the player understand the desired interaction? Does it attract too much (or not enough) attention? Function in story. Does this props or space sell the fiction well? Does it contradict anything? What story-related details can I add to add visual interest? Does it thematically blend well enough with its surroundings? There's one further tip he offers: "It's best to evaluate all this from the player perspective, with as much of the other assets integrated as possible -- not the in Maya shaded view." The full feature, which contains a ton more advice from the seasoned art director, is live now on Gamasutra.

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