Monday, February 27, 2012

Design Inspirations

For this module it's been recommended that we read one of the books on the reading list we received at the start of the year: The Computer Game Design Course by Jim Thompson and Barnaby Berbank-Green. It details all the processes and elements of game design, from the importance of cut-scenes to what software is used in most companies today.

At this current point in my environment creation I'm most interested in gathering a variety of material for reference and inspiration. Helpfully, there's a chapter entitled Design inspirations. An important point here I've noted is that to be a successful designer, it is not enough to simply play a large number of video games, as this way you'll only end up creating more of what is already existing. To create inspiration and exciting ideas, it is vital that you have a wide range of appreciation for culture, for example in literature, art, history, religion and philosophy. For instance, a designer with a past interest in tabletop games is likely to have an appreciation for minutely-detailed RPG's. Combined with a passion for literature, there is the possibility of a richly narrated role-playing experience. This was the case for Warren Spector, one of the designers of Deus Ex. In this game there was also elements taken directly from real-world locations and subcultures: Hong Kong, and a dark cyberpunk-influenced visual style.

So, this information can be gathered from anywhere, although nowadays with the huge range of resources available through the internet, the web is often seen as the best starting point. Websites such as Wikipedia offer a great opportunity for designers to explore themes related to a specific idea to broaden their scope on the topic and give insights on where to investigate further. There are also many sites dedicated to game design which gives valuable information on production, and an in-depth analysis of what elements work and don't work within games, often from the point of view of designers themselves.

In terms of visual inspiration, it is invaluable to always have a digital camera and sketchbook on hand to capture any images of material that strikes your interest in day-to-day life. A key part of the design process is to build a collection of references: photographs, sketches, snippets of interesting information; anything that is found creatively stimulating, as it's always useful to return to when lacking ideas.

I found this website which gives a detailed look into the visual development of the title sequence for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Although obviously it is different to developing a game, many of the methods of gathering resources and inspiration cross over between media. It's also interesting to learn of the relationship between director and designer. In this example, Fincher gave a very vague brief of wanting the scene to be like "a fever dream, with a lot of abstract imagery"... "CG, very adult, super dark, leather, skin, blood, snow,"

From this the designers created a series of moodboards, a vital part of the design process for grouping together ideas to get feedback from the director. A moodboard is a range of collected images (and possibly words) which represent the idea, style and mood hoping to be reflected in the project, and are used to quickly communicate aspirations and serve as a constant reminder of concepts.

examples of moodboards for the title sequence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

At this point, Fincher was drawn to the black liquid idea, and so the designers were able to develop this specific concept further. Following further communication between artist and director, a series of storyboards was then developed and finally production began. 

Reading this interview has given valuable insight into how to document a range of reference images in a series of moodboards, which I can then take elements from and begin to incorporate my own ideas.

I realised in my previous module on character design that I didn't spend enough time experimenting and building upon different concepts, and instead was quite fixed to a visual theme I found early in the process. I'm hoping not to repeat this and to consider many different possibilities. Seeing as I haven't decided yet on which theme to follow, I've decided to put together two different sets of mood boards, which I'll write about in another post. 

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