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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.

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GDC 2009 - Rapczak - Unknown Soldiers: Technical Artists

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  2. 2. Unknown Soldiers<br />Technical Artists<br />Jesse Rapczak | Exigent<br />
  3. 3. Who is this guy?<br />
  4. 4. Who is this guy?<br />Technical Art Director for Exigent<br />
  5. 5. Who is this guy?<br />3 years bouncing back and forth between India and China studios<br />
  6. 6. Who is this guy?<br />India Tech Art Team pet project<br />
  7. 7. Outsourcing: A Misnomer<br />Stop thinking of outsourcing as something separated from the rest of your pipeline.<br />Embrace the concept of a remote team working closely with your internal staff.<br />Understand what it takes to get the job done.<br />
  8. 8. What is Technical Art?<br />All Game Art is Technical Art<br />Game Art serves three masters: Design, Code, and Visuals.<br />The challenge - Get it to play well, run well and look great.<br />
  9. 9. What is Technical Art?<br />Without artists who are technical, programmers have to implement art by hand.<br />“Programmer Art” has not evolved into an endearing term.<br />
  10. 10. Who are “Technical Artists”?<br />The confused offspring of a forbidden love affair between artist and programmer?<br />Someone not artistic enough to be a “real” artist and not smart enough to be a “real” programmer?<br />NO WAY!<br />
  11. 11. Technical Artist Traits<br />Critical thinker<br />Logical thinker<br />Team player<br />Problem solver<br />Sees the bigger picture<br />Takes initiative<br />Humble, always learning<br />Loves games!<br />
  12. 12. What do Tech Artists do?<br />Tech<br />Pipeline planning and implementation<br />Tools development through scripting and programming<br />Exporting, troubleshooting, testing and QA<br />Software training and technical support<br />Game Engines / Shaders / Lighting<br />Internal Help Desk<br />
  13. 13. What do Tech Artists do?<br />Art<br />Modeling<br />Texturing<br />Rigging / Animation<br />Level Design<br />Visual Effects<br />Optimization<br />Etc<br />Since all game art IS technical art, there is no single profile of a Technical Artist!<br />
  14. 14. Tech Artists in Outsourcing<br />Must be leaders, because other artists will look to them for answers.<br />Relevant artistic skills are valuable. Always seek to improve them.<br />Technical skills should be focused on efficiency and quality.<br />
  15. 15. Tech Artist Primary Objectives<br />As leaders, help other artists become more technical. <br />Become game artists, not just “CG artists”.<br />Learn tools and exporting.<br />Understand how game engines and real-time rendering work.<br />
  16. 16. Tech Artist Primary Objectives<br />As learners, become more artistic.<br />Observe colleagues and their techniques.<br />Understand production from the lowest level to stay in tune with the process.<br />Have an artistic specialty.<br />
  17. 17. Tech Artist Primary Objectives<br />As team players, seek to improve efficiency and the end result.<br />In production, time is money.<br />There are multiple ways to do things. But which is the right way?<br />Try to reuse (assets, scripts, adapting workflows).<br />
  18. 18. 10 Common Problems in Outsourcing…<br />… and how Technical Artists help solve them.<br />
  19. 19. Common Problems in Outsourcing10. Industry Jargon<br />Tech Artists help decipher client instructions, i.e. "Ensure the number of visible vertices doesn't exceed the available texels."<br />(Don’t model more high res detail than your normal map can capture.)<br />Maintain an internal Glossary of Terms with links to tutorials and further reading.<br />
  20. 20. Common Problems in Outsourcing9. Inexperienced Clients<br />Some clients have never outsourced before!<br />We've done this hundreds of times.<br />Tech Artists look out for stumbling blocks by asking the right questions early on.<br />
  21. 21. Common Problems in Outsourcing8. Every Project is Different<br />Pipelines, tools, and requirements are always changing.<br />Tech Artists are front-line integrators of new tech in the studio.<br />Break down process on internal wiki, bringing the team up-to-speed quickly.<br />
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  23. 23. Common Problems in Outsourcing7. Sure, we’ve done that 1000 times! <gulp><br />The industry is always changing. <br />Sometimes work comes along that you have never done before. <br />As problem solvers, Tech Artists are at home in this situation! <br />
  24. 24. Common Problems in Outsourcing7. Sure, we’ve done that 1000 times! <gulp><br />Some tech art "firsts" last year:<br />HDR lightmapping<br />HDR skybox creation<br />Spherical panorama photo stitching<br />High-end UE3 VFX<br />Assets for real-time displacement<br />Assets/animations for GPU cloth sim<br />
  25. 25. Common Problems in Outsourcing6. “Help! My ___ doesn’t work!”<br />Problems arise in production, reducing efficiency.<br />Tech Art Team serves as Internal Help Desk, troubleshooting issues.<br />We maintain a forum of Help Tickets, so artists can search for common problems.<br />
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  27. 27. Common Problems in Outsourcing5. Keeping pace w/ the industry<br />New "grassroots" software and techniques are constantly being adopted by teams everywhere.<br />e.g. Crazy Bump, xNormal, FAogen<br />Tech Artists actively seek new workflows to create better art more quickly. <br />Maintain an internal Wiki-based training archive.<br />
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  29. 29. Common Problems in Outsourcing4. Your Tools Are Teh Broke<br />Distributing in-house tools to outsourcers is a double-edged sword.<br />Technical Artists can trouble shoot problems and even solve them…<br />But, please, test your pipeline outside before you send it over!<br />
  30. 30. Common Problems in Outsourcing3. “Our team is small” or “We don’t have an art team”<br />Some clients have little or no experienced art support staff.<br />Tech Artists help define art pipeline and drive implementation of final assets.<br />"Virtual Art Department" model. <br />
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  32. 32. Common Problems in Outsourcing2. Autode$k 2008, 2009, 2010…<br />Come on, guys. Seriously!<br />Most clients are 1-2 versions behind. <br />Keeping costs low with such diverse pipelines is a big problem.<br />
  33. 33. Common Problems in Outsourcing2. Autode$k 2008, 2009, 2010…<br />Standardize on one software & version. <br />Keep floating licenses of other software on maintenance for final conversion.<br />Secret Sauce: Tech Artists create scripts and plugins that make this possible and practical.<br />
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  35. 35. Common Problems in Outsourcing1. Quality Assurance<br />Increased pressure to deliver bug-free "game ready" assets<br />Large number of assets to be checked across multiple projects<br />Tech Art maintains tools and scripts to streamline the process and spread the work to all artists<br />
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  37. 37. Recap: Hallmarks of a good Technical Art Team<br />Helps artists become more technical through:<br />Ongoing training<br />Technical support on projects<br />Exposure to scripting and new tech<br />
  38. 38. Recap: Hallmarks of a good Technical Art Team<br />Helps boulster the studio by:<br />Streamlining client communication<br />Increasing final quality and efficiency<br />Making technically challenging projects possible<br />
  39. 39. Building a Technical Art Team for Outsourcing<br />Challenges<br />Not well-known job role in emerging gaming industries (China, India, etc).<br />Tech Artists may not even realize they are Tech Artists!<br />Lack of experienced talent due to limited production exposure<br />Language Barrier<br />Tech Artists may have detailed queries that can be difficult or time-consuming to translate correctly.<br />
  40. 40. Building a Technical Art Team for Outsourcing<br />You may have technical artists in your ranks and not even know it.<br />Do an assessment of internal staff based on technical artists traits discussed earlier.<br />Hire a Lead Technical Artist<br />Source experienced talent from local game industry<br />Drive tech art team based on your studio and project needs<br />
  41. 41. Building a Technical Art Team for Outsourcing<br />Find a Lead Technical Artist who reads/writes English.<br />Failing that, hire a really good translator, and provide English lessons!<br />
  42. 42. Developers!<br />Remember that your project has a "language" of its own.<br />Make sure your remote team can understand it. <br />Ask the right questions and keep communication lines open and clear.<br />
  43. 43. Technical Art Resources<br />http://www.tech-artists.org<br />Forum and Wiki<br />http://wiki.polycount.net/<br />http://boards.polycount.net/<br />Polycount artists are technical!<br />My e-mail: jesse@exigent3d.com<br />

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