Jack started working in games when he was 15 working on a mod for Unreal which turned out to be very successful and was bought out by Epic. Twenty years later and he has worked in triple a, indie and now spends his time working in mobile f2p games as Studio Art Director at Rovio Sweden, the birth place of the hugely successful Angry Birds 2. He spends his spare time taking photography and working on music.
In this talk I will focus on the methods I used to understand the audience in order to build the best possible art style for the games I worked on through three foundational areas; diversity, familiarity and trends. These are based on methods tried and tested at Wooga and now at Rovio. I like to call it the familiarity and diversity spectrum. This 30-minute talk will be broken down into three sections: Diversity, and why having a team of mixed sexes and ethnicities is just as important as good design, secondly Familiarity, and how to build value using familiarity through psychology and thirdly Trends, understanding the trends to use as metaphors in art for your product. Getting aligned on all three of these before production is perfect for a healthy and successful launch. Diversity is an important thing to remember when you are creating a product, professionally we tend to build games for a specific audience and not normally for ourselves, for example over the last six years I have spent my time creating games for ‘Males aged 18-32’ or ‘Women aged 24-35’, two different audiences and both the products were different genres, so how can I direct solid art for a product if I don’t know my audience as I (sadly now) full into neither? Build a culturally rich team with the people you are aiming the product for. Not only is this healthy for your workspace but this also promotes healthy discussions and fresh ideas. Now this is harder than it seems for many reasons, reasons I have been on a crusade to fix over the several years. Over half of the games I worked would be nowhere near as good without the help of a strong diverse team. Familiarity is good, people like familiarity. Many studios want to create a stand out game and they believe something that has never been done before will work, but sometimes the audience just want something known therefore games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush are household names not just for their games but because they because they offer a sign of quality and familiarity. An IP as huge as Angry Birds is used as a staple foundation because the brand itself offers the audience the comfort of familiarity. Psychology has a term for this and that is the Mere-exposure effect which shows that people relate better to something familiar than the unknown. Familiarity also tends to reduce the cost the user acquisition (UA). And finally, trends and why should you look at the current trends when making art. Trends are why people say “That’s cool” at least from my experience when I then ask someone “Why is it cool?” I usually get the reply that “It just looks cool”, now taste can account for this, but influencers and social media are huge motivators and again this also is part of the familiarity and diversity spectrum which I used to help build my games visuals and keep UA acquisition costs down, UA costs that were estimated to be 4-5 dollars but we got them down to $1.00-0.45 cents, a massive saving of up to three dollars, this was not Angry Birds but a new IP. There was no magic, just logic and smart art.
Art is subjective, worst of all - as a developer chances are you won’t find out if you did it right or wrong until Soft Launch. This talk is about understanding that there is no magic wand for getting art right for everyone, but you can help your product reach a broader market by building a diverse team that embraces familiarity and follow the trends of the audience you are after.
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