This is a really excellent in-depth look into what kind of challenges & processes there are when defining the look of a feature. In this case, it’s defining the language and the ‘rules’ of the visual effects marking out the different elemental powers in Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS: Second Son.
It’s important to note that the developers were fortunate enough to be able to engineer the software to match their needs. Larger studios are often able to do this, and with great support from the programmers and clear goals like this art direction, you can really create some fantastic worlds. Smaller projects with licensed engines don’t have that much flexibility, but that just means the challenge is finding out how to get what you want with the existing toolset. That said, an engine that allows your own programmers to at least tweak & add new rules is the better kind.