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To make localizing easier, I'm using icons to show in-game information like achievements and bonuses. Coming up with good designs isn't easy, especially when it has to be integrated into the rest of the game's art style.

Can I do better than looking at some random selection of existing games?

Are there any reference books or sites that cover game graphics specifically?

I'm looking for more theory and best-practices rather than pre-made graphics.

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The thought of re-inventing the (admittedly specialized) wheel for the 10,000th time just makes my palms itch. –  willc2 Feb 20 '11 at 4:23
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Why keep it in the game's subject? Take a look at subways, airports, train stations... you can go anywhere in the world and it's relatively easy to move around the city or arrive at the correct gates just looking at maps or signals. There are good designs all around the world, you just have to hunt them.

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Although I've been lost in Spanish airports where the 'this way' arrow that hangs over a corridor will point downwards not upwards; you have to see it to realise how unEnglish it is and confusing. Localise your icons too! –  Will Feb 18 '11 at 13:16
    
You'd think with thousands of games created over decades, there wouldn't be some convergent evolution in semiotics. –  willc2 Feb 18 '11 at 13:43
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@Will it's fun you said that, since I'm spanish :P I think the difference about the icons is because we think about the arrow as a pointer for the "this" word, and you think about the arrow as a pointer for the "way" word (hard to explain.) We are like "hey, THIS way" and you are like "hey, this DIRECTION". –  kaoD Feb 18 '11 at 14:53
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I don't think icons for games are that much different from any other icon. You want it to be clearly recognizable and well.. iconic.

Integrating an icon into the games art-style is basically the same as creating an icon for any existing platform. You'll have to respect the art-style that has been established for that platform (example: have a look at the Windows guidelines or Mac OS X Guidelines). For your game you can come up with your own set of guidelines though. It can be as simple as: Icon must have the shape of a circle and must be provided in two sizes, a big and a small version.

I'm afraid there's no guide to the best game icon though. Creating good icons requires a lot of talent, because you'll have to be able to reduce stuff to the max, while still keeping it recognizable and maintain a consistent style. So definitely not something that should be done by a programmer (no offense).

Maybe these tutorials are of some help to you.

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+1 For starting with the guidelines for your OS. That will at least get you on the right start for general stuff like save/load/quit. Then look at the games in the genre for genre specific stuff. Unfortunately there really isn't a generally accepted guideline out there for how stuff is supposed to look. –  wkerslake Feb 21 '11 at 6:03
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