The creative director is responsible for the overall vision of the product: game play, visual style, story, audio assets, cinematics, and marketing materials. This person is often the creator of the game concept, and may serve as the primary designer. He or she works under the supervision of the producer and is tasked with managing the teams of artists, designers, and programmers, interacting directly with senior supervisors of each department.
In the first stage, the creative director collaborates with a small senior team of developers to outline the foundation of the game; the characters, plot, and style; and to address technical obstacles. As the concept evolves, this person will monitor the production of art assets, level design, animation, and background music—everything that combines to bring a game to life. He or she is constantly tinkering and tweaking to arrive at a game that will have consumers beating a path to the store. Like a film director, this senior developer makes decisions on voice-over talent casting, audio recording, editing, and collaborates on the marketing of the product. He or she holds a vision of the finished game and guides the studio toward that end.
The day-to-day grind sends the creative director from one meeting to the next, from conference call to recording session to level demo. Regular check-ins are scheduled with team leads to get updates on the production progress, address concerns on how the new character rig will impact game physics, or go over last night’s script edits with the writing staff.
Skills & Education
Experience as a game designer is required; a college degree in game design, game art, or game development is recommended. Courses in fine art, graphic design, and computer programming are also helpful. This role requires someone who is an effective manager, has excellent communication skills, and understands both the technical and financial constraints of game production. You should have a thorough knowledge of the pipelines used by the studio you are applying to, have solid skills in 3-D modeling, and possess at least an intermediate understanding of scripting languages like C++, Python, or PERL. Most of all, this person must be an expert in next-generation consoles and contemporary games, and have a passion for creating exciting entertainment brands.
What to Expect
As a senior-level developer, you will have the opportunity to see your concepts go into production, but you are also responsible for the result. You must be equipped to effectively manage the development process, nurture and coach your team, and have the foresight to anticipate the changing expectations of your audience. The creative director keeps the crew on time, on task, and on budget. He or she must answer to the producer and corporate bigwigs who are always concerned about what the game will cost and when it will be done. Triple-A titles may take two or three years to ship and cost upward of $20 million to produce; still, there’s never enough time, money, or polys to develop the perfect product. This master juggler must balance quality with feasibility, adjudicating compromises where necessary, and keep the entire team focused on the same goal. To advance to the position of creative director, you will need several shipped titles under your belt and six to eight years of game design experience. The climb to this level takes uncommon dedication to your craft and the willingness to stay on top of new innovations and emerging techniques.
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