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GDC 2009 - Rapczak - Unknown Soldiers: Technical Artists
 

GDC 2009 - Rapczak - Unknown Soldiers: Technical Artists

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This presentation covers the role of Technical Artists in the outsource studio and how they can make your projects more efficient and your clients happier.

This presentation covers the role of Technical Artists in the outsource studio and how they can make your projects more efficient and your clients happier.

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  • My understanding of heavily-accented English has improved dramatically.Staff demographics. Number of tech artists per artist.Images of India and China studios.
  • My understanding of heavily-accented English has improved dramatically.Staff demographics. Number of tech artists per artist.Images of India and China studios.
  • My understanding of heavily-accented English has improved dramatically.Staff demographics. Number of tech artists per artist.Images of India and China studios.
  • My understanding of heavily-accented English has improved dramatically.ASK HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE DEDICATED TECH ART TEAMS.ASK HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE TECH ARTISTS.Staff demographics. Number of tech artists per artist.Images of India and China studios.
  • These slides are part of a quick primer on tech artists. This material is covered in much more detail in past industry articles as well as panels and presentations in this and prior years’ GDC Conferences.
  • These may seem obvious for any employee but the fact is not everyone has these traits. Give example for this.Critical Thinking - Critical thinking might involve determining the meaning and significance of what is observed or expressed. There is a difference between Critical Thinking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking) and Logical Thinking (http://www.learninginfo.org/logical-thinking.htm). Because of different social and educational foundations in countries like India and China, Critical and Logical Thinking are not universally emphasized and developed during an individual’s upbringing. Loving games is a trait that can be seen in any good outsourcing Technical Artist almost without exception. Doing game art specifically may not always be the primary motivation of outsource 2D and 3D artists, especially in countries where job competition is high due to population density and the prevalence of short educational “degree” programs in CG, animation, etc. Most technical artists I have come in to contact with have a strong desire to be making games and working with real-time game technology. This shows up by boosting the other traits listed above.
  • These slides are part of a quick primer on tech artists. This material is covered in much more detail in past industry articles as well as panels and presentations in this and prior years’ GDC Conferences.
  • These slides are part of a quick primer on tech artists. This material is covered in much more detail in past industry articles as well as panels and presentations in this and prior years’ GDC Conferences.
  • Tech Artists come from all over the technical and artistic spectrum, but in art outsourcing, they should be artistically inclined with their technical skills focused on efficiency and quality. The studio and the rest of the artists benefit when this is true for a variety of reasons, evidenced by our own experiences. For example, a lot of stuff tech artists do is not directly billable and qualifies as a general studio support role. But our own tech artists manage to spend a lot of time doing actual billable work in the form of modeling, texturing, animation, rigging, effects, etc. Aside from generating revenue for the company, this keeps them "in the trenches" with the other artists, directly involved with the team and projects.
  • One of the key bottlenecks we see all the time is people expecting others to find problems with their art.
  • Questions about why artists do things like workflows, etc. Facilitate solutions.Learning vicariously through others.
  • Do better art faster.Technical artists are the ones researching the right way and the wrong way to do things, and facilitating the spread of knowledge in the studio.
  • We don't always have what we need to start work… or finish successfully.
  • Talk about length of projects in development vs. outsourcing.
  • Show video editing together parts of Kwari footage with Gamebryo WoF footage.
  • This notion extends to requests for scripts and software features. Many of our production scripts are requested, tracked, and distributed via our online forum.
  • Show video editing together parts of Kwari footage with Gamebryo WoF footage.
  • Show video editing together parts of Kwari footage with Gamebryo WoF footage.
  • Don’t get me wrong, I love my Autodesk reseller. He introduced me to what I consider as the only good sushi restaurant in Delhi.
  • Standardize on one software & version. We chose XSI Foundation 6.02 before it was killed. $549 USD at the time; No longer available! Hmmm…
  • Increased pressure to deliver bug-free “game ready” assets The client can’t just lean over his cubicle and say “hey this asset is messed up can you fix it?” If there’s a problem, it has to get passed from the implementer to the internal POC for the outsourcer, then across time zones to the remote team and through to the individual artist working on the asset. Minimum time for a fix? Tomorrow. Tech Art maintains tools and scripts to streamline the process and spread the work to all artists Checkbox and customized “Checker” scripts
  • Funny translation example.Despite relative prevalence today, it is only in the last 5 years that the term Technical Artist has evolved in the West to define the characteristics discussed earlier. Finding experienced Technical Artists overseas is much more challenging when combined with local socio-economic factors (lack of relevant education and a comparatively smaller local game development industry, as well as reduced saturation of western-style gaming due to the high cost of consoles and PC gaming hardware).
  • Despite relative prevalence today, it is only in the last 5 years that the term Technical Artist has evolved in the West to define the characteristics discussed earlier. Finding experienced Technical Artists overseas is much more challenging when combined with local socio-economic factors (lack of relevant education and a comparatively smaller local game development industry, as well as reduced saturation of western-style gaming due to the high cost of consoles and PC gaming hardware).

GDC 2009 - Rapczak - Unknown Soldiers: Technical Artists GDC 2009 - Rapczak - Unknown Soldiers: Technical Artists Presentation Transcript

  • Unknown Soldiers
    Technical Artists
    Jesse Rapczak | Exigent
  • Who is this guy?
  • Who is this guy?
    Technical Art Director for Exigent
  • Who is this guy?
    3 years bouncing back and forth between India and China studios
  • Who is this guy?
    India Tech Art Team pet project
  • Outsourcing: A Misnomer
    Stop thinking of outsourcing as something separated from the rest of your pipeline.
    Embrace the concept of a remote team working closely with your internal staff.
    Understand what it takes to get the job done.
  • What is Technical Art?
    All Game Art is Technical Art
    Game Art serves three masters: Design, Code, and Visuals.
    The challenge - Get it to play well, run well and look great.
  • What is Technical Art?
    Without artists who are technical, programmers have to implement art by hand.
    “Programmer Art” has not evolved into an endearing term.
  • Who are “Technical Artists”?
    The confused offspring of a forbidden love affair between artist and programmer?
    Someone not artistic enough to be a “real” artist and not smart enough to be a “real” programmer?
    NO WAY!
  • Technical Artist Traits
    Critical thinker
    Logical thinker
    Team player
    Problem solver
    Sees the bigger picture
    Takes initiative
    Humble, always learning
    Loves games!
  • What do Tech Artists do?
    Tech
    Pipeline planning and implementation
    Tools development through scripting and programming
    Exporting, troubleshooting, testing and QA
    Software training and technical support
    Game Engines / Shaders / Lighting
    Internal Help Desk
  • What do Tech Artists do?
    Art
    Modeling
    Texturing
    Rigging / Animation
    Level Design
    Visual Effects
    Optimization
    Etc
    Since all game art IS technical art, there is no single profile of a Technical Artist!
  • Tech Artists in Outsourcing
    Must be leaders, because other artists will look to them for answers.
    Relevant artistic skills are valuable. Always seek to improve them.
    Technical skills should be focused on efficiency and quality.
  • Tech Artist Primary Objectives
    As leaders, help other artists become more technical.
    Become game artists, not just “CG artists”.
    Learn tools and exporting.
    Understand how game engines and real-time rendering work.
  • Tech Artist Primary Objectives
    As learners, become more artistic.
    Observe colleagues and their techniques.
    Understand production from the lowest level to stay in tune with the process.
    Have an artistic specialty.
  • Tech Artist Primary Objectives
    As team players, seek to improve efficiency and the end result.
    In production, time is money.
    There are multiple ways to do things. But which is the right way?
    Try to reuse (assets, scripts, adapting workflows).
  • 10 Common Problems in Outsourcing…
    … and how Technical Artists help solve them.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing10. Industry Jargon
    Tech Artists help decipher client instructions, i.e. "Ensure the number of visible vertices doesn't exceed the available texels."
    (Don’t model more high res detail than your normal map can capture.)
    Maintain an internal Glossary of Terms with links to tutorials and further reading.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing9. Inexperienced Clients
    Some clients have never outsourced before!
    We've done this hundreds of times.
    Tech Artists look out for stumbling blocks by asking the right questions early on.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing8. Every Project is Different
    Pipelines, tools, and requirements are always changing.
    Tech Artists are front-line integrators of new tech in the studio.
    Break down process on internal wiki, bringing the team up-to-speed quickly.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing7. Sure, we’ve done that 1000 times! <gulp>
    The industry is always changing.
    Sometimes work comes along that you have never done before.
    As problem solvers, Tech Artists are at home in this situation!
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing7. Sure, we’ve done that 1000 times! <gulp>
    Some tech art "firsts" last year:
    HDR lightmapping
    HDR skybox creation
    Spherical panorama photo stitching
    High-end UE3 VFX
    Assets for real-time displacement
    Assets/animations for GPU cloth sim
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing6. “Help! My ___ doesn’t work!”
    Problems arise in production, reducing efficiency.
    Tech Art Team serves as Internal Help Desk, troubleshooting issues.
    We maintain a forum of Help Tickets, so artists can search for common problems.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing5. Keeping pace w/ the industry
    New "grassroots" software and techniques are constantly being adopted by teams everywhere.
    e.g. Crazy Bump, xNormal, FAogen
    Tech Artists actively seek new workflows to create better art more quickly.
    Maintain an internal Wiki-based training archive.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing4. Your Tools Are Teh Broke
    Distributing in-house tools to outsourcers is a double-edged sword.
    Technical Artists can trouble shoot problems and even solve them…
    But, please, test your pipeline outside before you send it over!
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing3. “Our team is small” or “We don’t have an art team”
    Some clients have little or no experienced art support staff.
    Tech Artists help define art pipeline and drive implementation of final assets.
    "Virtual Art Department" model.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing2. Autode$k 2008, 2009, 2010…
    Come on, guys. Seriously!
    Most clients are 1-2 versions behind.
    Keeping costs low with such diverse pipelines is a big problem.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing2. Autode$k 2008, 2009, 2010…
    Standardize on one software & version.
    Keep floating licenses of other software on maintenance for final conversion.
    Secret Sauce: Tech Artists create scripts and plugins that make this possible and practical.
  • Common Problems in Outsourcing1. Quality Assurance
    Increased pressure to deliver bug-free "game ready" assets
    Large number of assets to be checked across multiple projects
    Tech Art maintains tools and scripts to streamline the process and spread the work to all artists
  • Recap: Hallmarks of a good Technical Art Team
    Helps artists become more technical through:
    Ongoing training
    Technical support on projects
    Exposure to scripting and new tech
  • Recap: Hallmarks of a good Technical Art Team
    Helps boulster the studio by:
    Streamlining client communication
    Increasing final quality and efficiency
    Making technically challenging projects possible
  • Building a Technical Art Team for Outsourcing
    Challenges
    Not well-known job role in emerging gaming industries (China, India, etc).
    Tech Artists may not even realize they are Tech Artists!
    Lack of experienced talent due to limited production exposure
    Language Barrier
    Tech Artists may have detailed queries that can be difficult or time-consuming to translate correctly.
  • Building a Technical Art Team for Outsourcing
    You may have technical artists in your ranks and not even know it.
    Do an assessment of internal staff based on technical artists traits discussed earlier.
    Hire a Lead Technical Artist
    Source experienced talent from local game industry
    Drive tech art team based on your studio and project needs
  • Building a Technical Art Team for Outsourcing
    Find a Lead Technical Artist who reads/writes English.
    Failing that, hire a really good translator, and provide English lessons!
  • Developers!
    Remember that your project has a "language" of its own.
    Make sure your remote team can understand it.
    Ask the right questions and keep communication lines open and clear.
  • Technical Art Resources
    http://www.tech-artists.org
    Forum and Wiki
    http://wiki.polycount.net/
    http://boards.polycount.net/
    Polycount artists are technical!
    My e-mail: jesse@exigent3d.com