What do Big Fish Games Studios and companies like DreamWorks and Disney have in common? All three companies use moving images, music, sound effects and dialogue to tell stories and entertain audiences. Even though the media we work in is completely different from full-length feature animation, games and animated films share many of the same aspects of art and storytelling.
In game development, a well-told story can take what was previously a series of puzzles and turn it into an immersive and emotional experience.
Recently, the artists in Big Fish Games’ Studios were treated to a visit from DreamWorks’ veteran artist and teacher Nathan Fowkes, who has done visual development on many films, including How to Train Your Dragon, Prince of Egypt, Shrek: Forever After, SharkTale and Road to Eldorado.
Nathan was joined by Dominick Domingo, a background painter and visual development artist, teacher and filmmaker with 12-years experience making numerous contributions to Disney feature animated films.
Working as an animator at Big Fish Games is very rewarding. There’s such a fantastic pool of talent here and we all inspire each other every day, pushing ourselves and each other to do better. Having access to artists like Nathan and Dominick got the team even more excited about our work!
The following provides an overview of those sessions, as told by two of our Studios team members:
During Nathan’s 1.5 day lecture, we focused on the visual storytelling tools and concepts common to great animated films and great games. Why he’s so highly respected became clear to me just a few hours into his lecture – he works really, really hard.
Fowkes spends much of his free time making small landscape studies in watercolor. He says he does at least one of these every day, no matter what. He is extremely dedicated to this personal goal, and for me, this was the most memorable part of his talk. He told a story about making the 3-hour drive to his sister’s house on Thanksgiving in 7 hours. Stopping to paint what he saw along the way was more important than showing up on time.
Another memorable part of his talk was dubbed, “unity with variety.” This concept has to do with color and composition, and would normally only pertain to creating images that please the eye. Fowkes made the case that this is a broader human “law” – in all aspects of life, people crave “unity with variety.” Too much of either makes us bored or uncomfortable. This analogy turned an abstract and academic idea into something meaningful and impossible to forget.
To learn more about Nathan and to see his amazing artwork, visit his blog.
Dominick began by sharing experiences he has had in the film industry and then highlighted some of the things he takes into consideration when working on a piece of art, such as the importance of starting with the simplest of designs so the viewer knows what’s happening the instant he or she sees an image.
With regard to story development, Dominick believes that we all have symbols within our psyche that trigger different emotional responses. By using lines, curves, value and color, we’re able to tap into these responses and help our audience connect with our games. We can have them empathize with our main character, or fear our villains. We can make them feel happy or scared to click on a scene that they need to pass through.
Dominick’s passion for art and story was truly evident throughout the session. He is a fantastic teacher, and routinely encouraged us to ask questions about our own challenges with art.
To learn more about Dominick and to see his amazing artwork, visit his blog.