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Feature: Creating Atmosphere And Meaning Through In-Game Art

Volatile Games' art team talks about the need to establish mood and meaning via art direction and share the artistic techniques they used to this end while creating <
Volatile Games' art team talks about the need to establish mood and meaning via art direction and share the artistic techniques they used to this end while creating Dead to Rights: Retribution. As part of Gamasutra's latest feature, Creating Atmosphere In Dead To Rights: Retribution's Grant City, Aaron Allport, Ian Pestridge, and Bob Cheshire write about the process of delivering a neo-noir environment for the game. "The game artists drew on techniques used by traditional artists for hundreds of years: compositional theory and tools like the Fibonacci sequence, positive and negative space, the balance of light and dark, vertical and horizontal intersections and colour were all used to express mood, direct the player's attention and support the story and the characters," writes the trio. Techniques taken from painting and film are equally useful, they say: "Strong geometric shapes combined with dramatic lighting, such as those found in Edward Hopper's paintings, can be used to create powerful emotional currents. Using heavy blocks of light and shadow to create a diagonal slash across a scene of tense dialogue heightens the sense of discomfort and unease within the scene. "As with some shots in original noir films, the best lighting for the scene need not be restricted by the sources available -- one of our cut-scenes has only a small table lamp visible whereas the scene is actually lit by a key light that has been positioned above the ceiling fan to provide a tight pool of light and a dynamic high contrast shadow." Though the team writes that "the development of any game there will always be things that aren't quite achieved to the original concepts", they conclude that "from the very start it was the team's ambition to fully immerse the player in a truly believable neo-noir dystopia, a decaying metropolis in its autumn years, reflected in its rain-soaked rusting industrial architecture and its sorrowful statues. We hope this is what our players get to experience." The full feature, Creating Atmosphere In Dead To Rights: Retribution's Grant City, is live now on Gamasutra.

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