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Re: The Artists thing

Well, this was food-for-thought.  Sorry for the long-winded reply:

Pieter Hulshoff wrote:

> 1. Programmers like to work on things they find a challenge, being free
> in what they do; so do musicians! When writing music, we are free to
> create the style of music we feel like at that time. Creating music for
> a (part of a) game means we have to concentrate on writing a particilar
> piece of music. This means we're being limited in our options, something
> neither musicians nor programmers like.

Well, I pick a goal - to write a cute game about a Penguin.  Having done
that, I'm free to find interesting challenges - but there are also things
I have to do that are downright tedious - but which have to be done
to make the game work.  Without the tedious parts, there is no point to
the challenging parts.   You may find making music for (say) an underwater
level challenging - but find the 'Game Over' dirge to be an annoying job
you'd rather not do.  You have to take the rough with the smooth.

If (as a musician) you came to me and said that you had a chunk of music
that really would suit (say) an underwater level in my game - I would
certainly consider adding an underwater level to suit the music.  But,
in so doing, you become a part of the team - and if the artist has a
particular itch to scratch, you'd need to help out some with music
to suit - that you may not find so interesting to compose.

The fact is that we all need to cooperate in making a game.

Nice artwork can complement good music, good game play give a 
reason for people to admire the artwork.  By blending the skills
of everyone, the end result is better than any one of us could have
done alone.

That means that we'll all have to bend a little - lose a little
of our freedom - hopefully, you (the musician), me (the programmer) and
Joe Q. PixelSlinger (the artist) chat about our mutual interests and
come up with a level that we all can enjoy working on.

> 2. Many games that are started on are never finished. For a programmer
> this still means experience and code he can use again. For musicians
> this often means music that may be fun to listen to, but is probably not
> useable for the next game.

Perhaps.  I'd bet that music is the MOST re-usable of the three disciplines...
but that's because I'm a programmer - and I don't understand how ridiculous
that probably sounds to you. (Which - incidentally - is why I want to talk
to guys like you - so I can understand *why* that's a silly thing to say).

Games are often never finished because (having written the software) the
progammer realises that he'll never be able to design enough good levels,
or get good music that doesn't drive you nuts with the same four bars
played over and over in all 17 levels!

Case in point is my Tux-the-Penguin game - which is certainly unfinished.

I am very anxious to get back to finishing it - but with no good artist
to build levels for me - and to suggest improvements to the game engine,
I'm rather stuck.

I think a good *TEAM* of programmer+musician+artist+level-designer
would give a game a much better chance of being finished.  Each can
feed off the others for inspiration.

> 3. Programmers can (althought often they do not;) use each other's
> libraries/code. If musicians do the same everybody complains that
> they've 'ripped' that tune.

That's something I hope to understand.  Part of why we want to get this
new mailing list working.  Why do programmers feel flattered when someone
re-uses their (say) joystick library - while musicians go ballistic if
someone ripped a melody line?

Hmmm "re-uses", "ripped" - even the language is different here.

That's a bit of a mystery to us programmer types - we'd like to foster
an 'OpenSource' environment where music and artwork AND code are all
free for use, set up to make re-use easy - and everyone is very happy.

Having said that, someone posted a message to the PLIB list a few
days ago saying (in essence) that they wanted to lift a chunk of
PLIB to put into a library that competes with PLIB head-to-head. 
(PLIB is one of my pet projects BTW).  My first reaction was "Hell NO!"
But when you come to think about it - I lose nothing by doing this.
At best, they put some fixes into it - and contribute them back to
me.  At worst - fewer people use PLIB - and more use the other
software.  So what?  I don't lose anything.  So (with poor-grace,
I regret to say) I gave my blessing to use the code. In fact, I
couldn't have stopped them from doing it - because PLIB is OpenSource).

That's a hard concept to really LIVE with.

If someone rips a chunk out of your music and uses it in their own,
you havn't lost anything - you have contributed more to the general
good than if they hadn't taken the snippet.  Hopefully - they give you
credit for contributing.

What is perhaps different is that I find it hard to imagine a musician
being grateful if someone took a copy of one of his composition, "improved
it" and offered it back to the original author.  I suspect most people
would be outraged at the implied suggestion that the original music was

Somehow that issue doesn't arise for programmers.  Perhaps because one
can generally prove that a bug was fixed or a useful feature added - it's
not *usually* a matter for aesthetic debate.

In the end, music or software - it's all just bits stuffed into the computer
by humans.

> 4. Programmers get started for a low price: compilers and text editors
> are freely available. A good musician will need some good (and often
> expensive) equipment to get something going.

Compilers and text editors are free ONLY because we've made them free.
Those folks at GNU did all that work at huge personal expense.

If we OpenSource people could help out "OpenMusic" people by writing
them the tools they need - then we'd be overjoyed to help. (Well, I
wouldn't because I'm a graphics geek - but I *am* working on a free
3D modelling package in the hope that "Open3DModel" people will
somehow emerge from the woodwork when I'm done writing it).

It's relatively unlikely that would happen though if the results of
doing that is just that there is more closed/commercial music.

It also takes the skills and knowledge of a musician to tell the
programming crew what he/she needs from the tool - to give them
encouragement and feedback...and some assurance that this whole
effort is worthwhile.

> 5. Considering that music costs money (see 4), and musicians being
> scarce, musicians will likely choose those projects that may help them
> to afford their hobby.

That could also be true of programmers.  We could all go out and buy
MSVC++ Pro/Developers' whatever pack at $1000 (yes, really) and spend
our spare time pimping our services to paying customers doing
business-to-business commerce web programming...ZZZZZzzzzzz.

That is *so* boring compared to being your own boss - or part of a
motivated, happy team.  I have made more good, lasting friends doing
this than any other activity in my life.  It's a blast.

So, again, if we can make the musician's tools cheaper (ie free, high
quality music software) - would that result in musicians choosing to
join in?

We OpenSource programmers are living in what ESH calls "A Gift Culture"
in which money has little value...at least in the late evenings while
we are hacking away.  We mostly have 'day jobs' too!  It's a very
different mindset - and it takes a while to get your head around
it - but it's really refreshing to belong to a community like ours.

My wife continually asks me "Can't you *sell* your next game - why
on earth are you giving it away after spending so many hours on it?"
I don't have a good answer to that - except that this way I feel good
about myself...I wouldn't *WANT* to sell my OpenSource stuff.  When the
Indrima guys start talking about fees for this and payments for that,
I start to think this is a bad idea.

> 6. Artists are often not asked to be involved with the game design, and
> not pulled in until the last moment. Artists however have a very unique
> view on game design, and need their time to develop their work.

Well, I have asked until blue in the face - but until now, there has been
no point of contact between programmers, artists and musicians.  Where
do I *find* an artist who will want to work with me on some hypothetical
future project?

Mostly, people say "prove that you have a viable game engine" - they don't
want to throw any effort into building massive 3D game levels if the
programmer is going to drop out halfway through.

So, I've been taking the view that I should design enough of a game
engine to prove that it's viable (with some half-assed graphics that
my non-artistic brain can put together) - and *THEN* say "Behold!
A viable game engine. Come and work with me and I'll change it to
suit whatever you have in mind."

However, I'm still not getting much of a response.

There is no "pulled in at the last moment" in OpenSource-land because
there are no deadlines to meet and the game can go on being developed
until everyone is either bored or happy.  There simply is no "last moment".

If a good artist came along (which may actually have happened for me),
and said "toss out all the crappy game levels you've done so far, change
the game engine to allow [this], [this] and [this] and get rid of [that]
and [that]" - then I would want to debate this bold move - but I'd certainly
be happy that someone who knows about art is picking up that side of the

Of course it's a two-way street.  If the artist wants to build everying
in (say) voxels - and I know (as a programmer) that this is going to run
dog-slow on modern 3D hardware - then I have to point out the impossibility
of that.

On the other hand, if I say I'd like (erm) a level with an ancient Egyptian
feel and the artist says it can't be done without voxels - then we need to
get together and compromise - or find something different we can agree on.

But it has to be a TEAM effort.

Well, it's these kinds of things we need to discuss - I like the
way this conversation is going.

I think we can clear away some misunderstandings about the motives
on both sides.

I'm acutely aware that commercial games houses treat artists and
musicians extremely badly - yet often worship their programmers
as gods.  If this thread - and the new list - prove nothing else,
we should at least end that ridiculous situation and show that
the talents of musicians, artists and programmers are different
but equal - and without the skills of all three kinds of brain,
there will be no good games for Linux.
> Ok, enough for today. I'll try to get some thoughts going on what would
> be a good way of getting artists involved in game development, and write
> them tomorrow.

Great!  I look forward to hearing more of your perspectives.
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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