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Microsoft's Cammarano: Games Need Visual Targets, Not Just Concept Art

As part of today's Gamasutra feature, Microsoft Game Studios director of art Ben Cammarano has been discussing why cutting out "ambiguous references" and renderi
As part of today's Gamasutra feature, Microsoft Game Studios director of art Ben Cammarano has been discussing why cutting out "ambiguous references" and rendering more realistic "visual targets" early in a game project will lead to a much better title. Cammarano is is a 16-year CG veteran who leads the publishing-side art efforts for first party Xbox 360 franchises such as Gears of War, Fable, and Halo Wars. He explains of the importance of the visual target, showcasing examples for Halo Wars along the way: "The terminology varies (vertical slice, beauty shot, finished moment, etc.) but the objective is still the same: demonstrate an example of what the finished product will look like. The visual target is the next logical progression of all the concepts that get fleshed out by the end of preproduction and it's the visual extension of the project's aesthetic X-factor. It's probably the most effective and most controversial of initiatives an EAD [Effective Art Director] pursues because so much can ride on the decisions and add to the natural concerns of fear of getting artistically pigeon-holed ("How am I supposed to know what the game will look like in three years?"). I've seen deals get signed over one sizzle video, and I've seen deals go sour because a good developer lacked the ability to communicate the vision of the product. I firmly believe there are more pros than cons to going beyond concepts to refined visual targeting, because they are used to communicate to the team, studio and/or publisher the end-goal for which everyone is about to commit. Trying to describe it to a group of stakeholders using ambiguous references like "It's meant to be real but not that real...", "It's a little of this combined with a little of that..." or "It's a just a concept that's only 10% of the way there..." is a recipe for doubt, randomized efforts and unnecessary discussions. A visual target cuts through the grey areas, rallies the project's efforts and helps filter the creative randomness that can occur during a cycle." The full Gamasutra feature on the subject includes lots more opinions on the five key habits of effective video game art directors, plus further Halo Wars visual target and concept art.

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