The Must-Know Artistic Principles of Video Game VFX

gaming tutorial vfx Dec 05, 2023
The 5 Must-Know Artistic Principles of Video Game Visual FX - Featured

Visual FX in games can take on a variety of forms as unique as the story itself. That said, there are still guiding principles all effects must adhere to.

**This post has been updated to add a new must-know artistic principles for VFX artists.  

Depending on the game you're working on, VFX can be virtually anything you want them to be. However, there are some guidelines to follow that will help communicate and connect with gamers. Let's take a look at the 6 Artistic Principles of Visual FX. 

This framework will help you consider playability, substance over style, and knowing when to scale down your effects. These are the very same principles we followed when working on League of Legends at Riot Games. 

Over this series we will cover a wide variety of topics you can master like: 

  • Squash and Shape
  • Contrast and Complementary Colors
  • Communication
  • Areas of Effect
  • Form Matching Function
  • Value Ranges
  • Color Palettes 
  • Adding Blur

Let's dive into the six artistic principles and help you elevate your VFX work. 



Artistic Principle 1 - Gameplay 



The Visual FX we create inform players on how to play the game, which is the most important aspect of good gameplay VFX. Knowing what to do based on a clear visual understanding of how the game is meant to be played is the single greatest asset we can provide to anyone who chooses to play a game. 

In this video, I reference League of Legends as a great example of what you can do when you have a lot of characters and information to work with. A lot of these references come from the excellent “VFX Style Guide” for League, written by Jin ho Yang. We’ll be referencing this guide a lot throughout this series. It’s awesome! Definitely check it out.



Artistic Principle 2 - Shape



Shapes are the primary way to communicate to the gamer. They can be the immediate distinction between good and bad for the user - letting them know what is going on and how they should play the game. As Visual FX artists, we are sometimes overwhelmed with the amount of textures and tools we have to work with that we lose sight of the story we’re telling.

In this episode, we’ll not only talk about these fundamentals, but also take a look at the VFX Apprentice shape style guides



Artistic Principle 3 - Value



While shapes are the way of communicating, values are the best way to get a player's attention. Let's go over how you can approach your budget, or how much attention and work you put into one specific effect, while drawing the eyes to certain parts of the screen.

I’ll also dive into the style guide as we go over where and what deserves more “value” on the screen, whether that be something like a character to an environment. This range in value determines how and where the focus is drawn to. 



Artistic Principle 4 - Color



Color is perhaps one of the more complicated subjects to talk about. Certain aspects of picking and choosing colors palettes can be very specific to the game you’re working on. A lot of that has to do with the color depth, or the varying colors within one “theme” that you might be working with for one effect.

In this video, we'll talk about the importance of primary and secondary colors within one effect, and the importance of having clear communication throughout the colors you use. Complimentary colors are very important and will take some time to understand in an easy way when creating your own Visual FX. 



Artistic Principle 5 - Timing



One of the most valuable assets we have as Visual FX artists is our desire to study the laws of physics and nature so that we have a greater understanding of how things work and look. We can apply these findings to how our work moves and interacts in space and time within the game. 

In this video we’ll talk about the importance of reducing the amount of time your particles are on screen, so we can de-clutter the space and help communicate with the gamer. We’ll also look at how you can manipulate certain elements to help with timing.



Artistic Principle 6 - Composition



Composition is an artistic principle that we see every day, in movie posters, comics or YouTube thumbnails. But how can we as visual effects artists use this to our advantage? Learn how to guide the viewers eye to the most important part of your effect and capture a wider audience by the clever use of these guidelines.



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