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Re: 'not an artist' article

Erik wrote:
> saw this linked off of flipcode, and decided to post it here since it is
> pertinant to recent conversation and concern :) Maybe we should throw this on
> the page? Mebbe dissect it, discuss it, and post the results of that? There is
> also an article on beopen.com that interviews scott draeker (loki prez) and
> jorrit (crystal space maintainer/coder/creater), but we all already knew about
> that
> http://www.gamedev.net/reference/art/features/notanartist

Well, I can't say this helped much.  I think programmers are only too
aware that if they are not artists, they can use fancy tools to do stuff
like texture maps - and render 3D geometry to make glitzy 2D art.

You want some clouds - sure - hack together some fractals....
You want concrete - use some noise, stuff it into a bump mapper - paint
some cracks into it - bump map those for good measure...your outta here.

Now use those techniques to make a cartoon killer whale.   Aha! Doesn't
help does it?

You see it's not the mechanical utilisation of tools that's the problem...
it's a matter of 'Art'.

The problem is in making things with 'character', 'style', 'emotion' - and
other things that us Geeks are known not to have in any measurable quantities.

What is interesting (and not too suprising frankly) is that commercial games
companies are having the same problems that us freeware guys have.

The answer for them is simple - pay more money.

Artists in the games business have traditionally been paid peanuts - that
has to change.  With the advent of computers that have rich enough graphics
that we can express character, style and emotion, we need quality artists
and plenty of 'em.

Gone are the days when your main character could be a yellow circle with
a triangle cut out of it.

I guarantee you'll have more success getting artists for $100k than for $20k.
...all of which doesn't help you to get an artist who'll work for $0k.

FWIW: I've been considering a radical solution to the problem of making
cute cartoon characters and such like in the complete absence of any
cartooning skills.

I wonder if I wrote a program like the classic 'Biomorphs' (from the Richard
Dawkins book "The Blind Watchmaker") - but which produced polygonal 'skins'
with simple colouration from a set of genetic information.

By having (say) a small child sit in front of the screen and click on the 'cutest'
blob of polygons from a set of different ones displayed there in 3D (which
would then be the progenitor of the next generation of mutated and crossbred
beasts) - and let that child wander through "gene space" until you here him/her
say "Aw - what a *cute* little bunny".  Then kick the kid off the machine,
write down the half dozen gene values and spit out minor bunny variations
to suit the needs of your next blockbuster game: "Revenge of the Cute Vampire

This seems within the realms of 'doability' for a programmer - and whilst I
can't *DRAW* to save my life, I think I'd know a 'better' version of some
critter from a 'worse' one - and that's all you generally need in order to
drive a genetic algorithm.

This worked suprisingly well with 'Biomorphs' - you could take the default
spikey mess and evolve it into a pretty good jet fighter within a dozen

Look (for example) at the exquisite insect toward the bottom-left of
this image:


...I don't think I could have drawn that - but I could get pretty close
to it in about 20 mouse clicks using my own implementation of Biomorphs
that I wrote from Dawkins' book about ten years ago.

The knack would be in picking the right controls for the 'genes' to act on
in the first place...and generalizing it to 3D with proper colour genes...
but I feel that this is something I could actually do sucessfully.

One cool part about doing this right would be that you could evolve in
the 'bones' and other widgets that you need for animation right as you
evolve the 'skin'.  You could probably also evolve low polygon count
versions for lesser levels of detail too.

Steve Baker   HomeEmail: <sjbaker1@airmail.net>
              WorkEmail: <sjbaker@link.com>
              HomePage : http://web2.airmail.net/sjbaker1
              Projects : http://plib.sourceforge.net

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