Design & Style, Sports & Gaming

Designing a Visual Aesthetic

Will Wright

Lesson time 11:12 min

Your visual aesthetic helps define your game language and impacts your overall design. Will shares tips for discovering your own aesthetic and collaborating with art directors and illustrators to achieve your vision.

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Topics include: Discover Your Style Through Research • Visual Inspiration for Spore • Leverage Available Technology • Art Direction Informs Overall Design • Collaborate With Your Art Director


As you start to refine your prototypes, you'll reach a stage where you need to define an aesthetic. The visual aesthetic is going to add a whole new layer of meaning and depth to your game. This is one of your primary ways of communicating to the player. Finding your own style is up to you as the designer. I would tend to approach, you know, finding and discovering an art style I think very much in the same way that I would approach, you know, game concept research. Basically go out and look. You know, there are a million references out there. Not just games obviously. You know, back in historical fine art, or in whatever. You could just imagine all these different areas to grab visual inspiration from. You know, we got a huge amount of material inspiration from those comic book covers from the '40s. And that was a really rich body of work that had a very cohesive style and feel to it. You know, sometimes it'll be something that you find like that, that you kind of reference, and say, we want it to kind of feel like that. Other times, it might be something kind of up and coming. It's funny how even, you know, nowadays I see kids playing these retro games. Or they play "Minecraft," you know, which is incredibly, you know, basic visuals. But, you know, like Lego, it has become a style to them. You go and look at these Lego movies, which are great, and it's amazing that they make these amazingly entertaining, very visually rich movies, you know, out of a Lego world, rendered, and, of course, animated, you know, much more differently than you can do with real LEGOs. But yet, as a style it's delightful. So I think that there are a lot of things that may not obviously, right off the bat, feel like, oh, that's a good visual style. But if you think about certain things a little more deeply to the next level, you know, how could that be a style? You know, what would it look like? How would it animate? You might discover regions that are very unique. I kind of like the games that I work on to have almost a toy like feel to them. You know, like bringing up a little bit more saturation on the colors. Maybe things being a little bit more abstracted. Feeling a little more, again, you know, kind of model train like. To me that kind of makes it feel more playful and approachable. One of the things that I really enjoy looking at is things like tilt shift photography, you know, where they're actually taking pictures of the real world, and now making it look like a model by changing the depth of field, and the saturation, and a few other things. It's funny how you can take one of those photos, the original photo. And it's of some downtown area. Do a tilt shift version of it. And now it looks like something that I want to touch, and grab, and play with, and manipulate. Instantly I have this instinct to go in and start imagining things that I would want to do with it. In some sense, it's an invitation to agency. You know, it's sayi...

About the Instructor

Learn the art and science of game design with Will Wright, the mind behind SimCity and The Sims. In this game design class, Will teaches you how to create games that empower players and unleash their imagination. You’ll develop a tool set for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will’s approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.

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Will Wright

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