Sunday, 22 April 2012

From Generalist to Specialist

We need a team...
Creating a game takes a lot of time, money and people depending on the size. Two years is about standard however some titles take longer for a variety of reasons, be it team size, sheer size of the undertaking or being put on hold. In order for a game to be seen from beginning to end, a team is required. A team of specialised craftsmen that have their own respective area to work under.

For game design, these roles might include:
Lead Designer
Art Director
Various artists such as environment and concept
3D modellers
Sound such as Musicians, Composers and SFX.

This is not a full list instead just a brief one of the more art based areas. Of course for a game to get anywhere it needs more than just the ones who construct it; areas such as quality assurance, accounts and licensing and the all important publisher are all working in the background to make sure it even stands a chance.
This is speaking in general, naturally this is not the only way to make a game. Take Minecraft for example, started in a Scandinavian's bedroom went through a few years of a long and grueling (for the fans) beta until finally coming out for retail whereby the creator was already a millionaire and used the funds to open his own studio. Goes without saying he had help along the way however.

Blizzard Entertainment, or Activision Blizzard (not to my taste) is one of the largest and most successful gaming companies currently out there, largely due to the success of their reinventing of the MMORPG genre (accessible to a wider audience than just die-hard no-lifers) have quite an inspiring story, at least I thought so. You rarely think of how a company started, or how it was ten years before you knew them and every time it's often a surprise to me. Blizzard, the unstoppable behemoth of the game world started out as Silicon and Synapse. With just three people and one goal: Make good games. Simple yet the passion these three had was unwavering.
Now look at them! Raking it in. They went from just twenty people in their first two games (both won game of the year for their respective genre) to

Left to right: Frank Pierce, Mike Morheim, Allen Adham
After watching the Blizzard Retrospective (above) I feel saddened that I may never have those experiences that those guys did. My idol, Samwise Didier, was their first artist. The thing that really gets me, for the reason that I'll never get that chance, is that he found the job... in a newspaper. God sake, a newspaper? As if the local cornershop needed a paperboy. A freaking newspaper stating 'artist needed.' So he rolls on down to their tiny office in nothing but his finest pair of cut-off jean-shorts, a portfolio thrown together in a box and then proceeds to get the job. I wonder how many people applied to that role? Makes me cry in my sleep at the thought that now you have to compete with artists by the hundreds now. Yet at the same time it's a bittersweet feeling. Sad because the odds of getting a job are extremely low yet good as it shows just where the games industry has gone. Twenty years ago, when Didier applied to Silicon and Synapse, games were a thing to be shunned; seen as time-wasting brain drains to the now colossal household entertainment that if you don't play them, especially given the vast variety, you're probably an emotionless void devoted solely to a life of consistent mediocrity.

The problem with gaming becoming hugely successful, or rather the problem it presents, is that everyone and their dog wants to work in the industry and there just aren't enough jobs going even more so due to the current economic climate. Bad times.

Could be worse, at least I have one year's grace before being shoved out into the rat race. I'm not holding my breath for a job when I leave the course but I'll keep going. At least I'm on the right course as well. I realised a while ago that the projects aren't arbitrarily devised. When I joined the course I thought I'd be drawing vikings and modeling elfen women however when I got here it was all about the wheelie bins and transit vans! Aaaawwww yeah buddy now we're talking! Bullshit aside, these projects were dull when I was doing them however in hindsight they made perfect sense. In my own time I can go and do whatever I like but it's these projects that are designed solely to get you up to speed that really improve your skills. In the first year, after the fundamentals, it goes House, Van, Gladiator, Weapon; which translates to environment(kinda), vehicle, character, prop.

Well how about that? In the first year we're given a taste of the different 3D artist roles within a company which also helps us decide what to specialise in. Visual design starts off at the basics (and I mean BASICS, colleges don't teach you shit) like perspective, rendering and life drawing whereas the critical studies aspect bolsters your knowledge of game theory, what really goes into making a game before you've even done your first concept.

Whether a job is waiting for me or not, I feel what I've been learning here is turning me into a keen game artist as well as, excuse any arrogance here, a game designer.

Come at me, life!

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