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Re: Poll ideas?

On 25-Jun-2000 Steve Baker wrote:
> I actually work with 3D artists - my 'day job' is Flight Simulation - and our
> "Artists" are more often called "Database Engineers" or "Modellers".  Most
> of them cannot write a line of code - but there is something about the models
> they build that I can't come close to achieving - I know the techniques -
> I've
> learned the tools - but it's like musical composition or writing a novel - I
> just can't do it *well*.

I can do simple web graphics in gimp, and I did some models on a demo of lw a
few years back, and I used to play with pov quite a bit. And I can even do that
musical composition, and half my emails are almost novelettes :) But my 'test
ships' for a space sim engine I've been ignoring for the last year are...
tetrahedrons. I can dick with the tools all day long, but I can't produce art
and models. :) I'd say most programmers have toyed with the tools, possibly can
do trivial stuff, but when it comes to something real, we ain't there. I can't
think of any more ways to say that I agree with you. :)

> The guys I work with are specialists at doing 'realistic' stuff - and what I
> need is mostly cartoon stuff - also none of them seem very keen on working
> for free.  :-(

we have algorithms to turn realistic images into cartoon images... there were a
couple articles on cartoon rendering in opengl, I didn't pay a lot of attention
to them since I'm more concerned with very realistic-ish looking stuff at the
moment. I have a cartoony kids game idea I'd like to try mostly as an exercise
in AI, but that's still down the road :)

The free part is what really kills us.

> <...amateur game designers...>

> Being a games designer is a lot more than coming up with the initial idea.  I
> think
> that's almost the least of the task.

an initial idea is trivial, yes. Filling out that idea into a strong and
complete design document is the hard part.

> Many moons ago, I had the chance to design a big arcade machine (with a
> hydraulic
> motion system, etc, etc) - and had the chance to work with two separate games
> designers.  One of them was a pain in the ass to work with because he didn't
> understand enough of the technology to do his job - but the other guy was
> excellent.
> His job was not so much to come up with the initial concept - but to take a
> concept and turn it into a playable game.  That entailed working on the
> minutia with the artists and the programmers (and very often refereeing the
> arguments that ensued).  He was the guy who understood issues like "avoiding
> meta-gaming" and "level complexity progression".  I don't know how you teach
> that - but again, it's a skill that I don't have - and (in my limited
> experience),
> neither do the artistic types.
> He knew how to 'pace' the game - when to throw in a relatively easy level to
> keep the player interested in continuing when it starts to look impossibly
> difficult to continue.  He knew what sorts of tricks and puzzles would be
> regarded as just being hard for the sake of it - and which would genuinely
> be *interesting*.

I have never seen anyone who has studied these materials, nor any reference
material on the web. Possibly I'm looking in the wrong direction? I've seen
articles on gamasutra that concern some components, but never a game designers
tutorial? If someone who has experience (firsthand or not) could write a
tutorial or primer, that would be a huge boon. Something we can send the idea
guys to before even pushing them to document stuff. Plus something for the rest
of us to ponder. :)

> Working with this guy was a revelation to someone like myself who'd been
> messing around writing amateur games for ten years beforehand.
> It would be *so* cool to get someone like that to work with us amateurs.
> You know what *might* be interesting?   I wonder if we could get someone
> like RedHat or SuSE to recruit and employ a professional game designer to
> check out all the freeware games out there and spend his life making
> intelligent suggestions to everyone out there.

Maybe it'd be less of a burden if it were handled as a combination of reviews
with an emphasis on game design (most game reviews seem to be xxx is prettier
than yyy), and possibly a Q&A forum, like that 'ask hook' thing? 

> Those vendors have an interest in there being better quality games for
> Linux.

moreso with X4. Once X4 starts shipping, gamers will start taking linux more
seriously, I think. 


> Certainly if they produce more art, it won't result in better tools - if
> anything,
> it works the other way - if they produce enough good art with the tools they
> have,
> there is little chance that programmers would feel the need to write better
> tools.

In the commercial world, possibly. I think the open source world seems to
concentrate on refining and imitating very solid tools (like, say, apache).
Also, the open source world is a lot more attentive to users. If I get an email
about one of my programs, I read it and reply if pertinent. If I like the idea,
or the emails author sells it well, I'll try to implement it. I poll on my
website to find out what people think. If I were writing a modeller, and I got
an email that argued xxx feature would be really great, I'd try to implement
it. Maybe we have to emphasize that we will listen and act if they request?

> I think that reciprocity isn't the main aim here - I don't write games
> because
> I want other people to write games for me to play.  I don't even play games
> much.
> I do it because the sheer intellectual challenge of writing games beats
> watching
> TV!

But your primary target is linux, right? :) the system of reciprocity is
already established. Sure, there is intellectual challenge and enjoyment in
creating a finished program. But you're doing it for an os that everyone else
is doing it for, you're using other peoples free programs as well. Open source
isn't big stuff in windows land, nor mac-land. I was just reading about
'atheos' a few days ago, it looks interesting, but no one is using it as a
primary development platform. I think whether we admit it or not, there is an
economic issue manifesting itself as reciprocity :)

> I wonder if the problem is that the artist(s) don't get enough credit for
> their
> contributions?  If we have George the artist and Henry the programmer, then
> whose
> name gets associated with the game?  Henry - always.  You can probably name
> half
> the programmers on the Quake team without knowing a single one of their
> artists.

hehehe, if you can say 'john carmack',  you can identify half the quake
programming team :) A more notorious name than 'adrian carmack', tho :/

In the early and mid 80's, commercial games often had a credit screen at the
very beginning. It always read producer, programmers, artists, sound, ... The
producer being at the top... well, that's a given :) There's a long tradition
of programmers taking higher billing on the credit screen, mostly because back
then art was very crude and even a monkey could produce decent looking art. 16
colors and 16x16 pixels isn't an awful lot to fill. Modern computer art is a
much different and much more difficult task, but the mentality hasn't changed
too much I don't think. Programmers are still regarded as the demi-gods, and
everyone else as trained monkeys, even though we know that's not how it goes.
:) When you see a remarkable effect in a video game, you think "damn, they got
good programmers", not "look at the texture on that poly" 

> However, if George works on a Quake level - then it's "George's Quake Level".

mmm, the power of the ego :)


>> 2) help them build their portfolio to attract future employers. This is
>> where I
>>    think we come in :)
> Possibly.
> Artists earn very little out there - newly graduated arts students can often
> be
> found working for peanuts doing models for games, just so they can build a
> portfolio
> to get a "real" job in advertizing or something.
> Perhaps we need to spam some arts colleges - maybe get the staff at those
> colleges
> to give their students projects involving making models and levels for
> OpenSource
> games.

this is a double uphill battle. Most computer art people are not highly
computer literate (I don't consider most windows gurus to be computer literate.
But I'm biased.), and they are using either macos or windows. If you start
talking about open source, linux, unix, freebsd, GPL, etc, they will not follow
:) Hell, i've been in the middle of it for years (and was into PD in the early
80's), and I still have no clue :)

>> As programmers, we rarely worry about finding a job. We are rare, and the
>> jobs
>> are plentiful. If we're fairly good at our, we can command high salaries and
>> enjoy freedoms that are virtually unheard of. I'm not paid a lot, but I can
>> sit
>> around with my shoes off drinking a beer and playing video games. I still
>> produce a fair amount of code, it does the job, and my boss would be fairly
>> hard pressed to replace me :)
> Indeed.  That would make me ask the question - "Why are programmers working
> for free when they could easily be paid to do the job?" ...and... "If
> artists are struggling to get low paid jobs just so they can get a portfolio
> together - why aren't more of them working for nothing to achieve the same
> ends?"

We do it because we're sick twisted masochists.
They don't do it because they probably don't know about it.

>> Graphic artists are not as rare. The local university had a record high
>> graduation of csc majors, a whopping 13 (I think there're 30,000 students).
>> In
>> contrast, the graphic arts program has strict admittance requirements
>> including
>> interviews and portfolios, because too many people want to be graphics
>> artists.
>> I'd imagine the average graphic artists salary is considerably lower than
>> the
>> average programmers. I'm sure there are some graphic artists making loads,
>> but
>> I think 'average' is more important.
>> A new graphic designer may be highly skilled, but without a strong
>> portfolio,
>> they will not land a killer job. If we can offer them an opportunity to
>> build a
>> strong portfolio, that will probably bring in a lot of artists.
> That should certainly be the case - but why isn't it?

If they knew of an opportunity to work with a team to make a piece of high
profile computer software, they would probably jump at it. I'm gonna say that
they don't know :)

>> There are some problems with this model, however...
>> 1) we have to sell them on the idea. Usually the people who have a strong
>>    respect for portfolios are those who have developed a strong one and used
>>    it
>>    to their advantage. New programmers probably have no respect for strong
>>    documentation...
>> 2) if the project they attach to fails, they sunk their time into a loss
>>    instead of investing it into a good project. We don't worry about that as
>>    much, we don't really have a lot of pressure to make a portfolio :)
>> College campuses are probably good places to recruit graphic artists.
> Yes - but if they aren't on the Net - we'd have to physically walk into
> whatever places they frequent and accost them.  Now that I've written
> it down, I don't know why that sounds like such a terrible idea.  :-)

hmmm, I'm reminded of religious missionaries for some reason. Just don't start
off with "have you heard the good word, brother" :)

>> The internet is probably a BAD place to recruit them, unfortunantly. Those
>> savvy
>> with computer tools (photoslop, 3Ds, lw) may frequent certain places on the
>> internet, but they aren't the same places we keep eyes on.
> Certainly finding an artist who ISN'T into the Internet doesn't help much.
> We would find it hard to work with an artist who wanted to work with
> watercolours
> on paper (for example).

I was involved in a project that did almost exactly that, but it stalled before
it got off the ground since the two developers became incredibly busy with
school. The idea was to take the artists work, scan that into the computer, and
touch it up by hand. That's quite a bit of work added to the programmers, but
for quality art, we felt it was worth it. Too bad that project died :) The
artist was very eager to help and wanted to work, even though she had no clue
of anything we were doing (we were going to build a clone of 'worms2
armageddon', so all our documentation and ideas were referring to games)

>> If we develop a
>> strong artist section, we may be able to draw some of them, and provide a
>> single place that both artists and programmers moniter.
> Perhaps - but I can't imagine how they'd find us in the first place.  I mean,
> we are talking about a hypothetical artist who hangs out on the web, who
> isn't already working on games stuff - but who is familiar with the tools
> that we'd expect them to use.
> Perhaps we need to hit the GIMP list.  They do things like have competitions
> for artwork - which seem to be pretty well attended.  Perhaps we just need
> to pursuade them to make the next competition be "a complete level for
> TuxKart" :-)

We can't go single out artists and coerce them to work on our game. We also
can't flood their lists with requests for artists (I'd imagine would could fill
up a lot of mailbox if that were adopted as a course of action). If we have
some artist types listening, maybe we should build an art section, and try to
draw the artists there (by spamming lists mercilessly), and see what they do
from there? :)

>> That's probably a good
>> way to enlist the aid of artists. Another would be to invade their areas and
>> try to kidnap them :) I don't know what works and what doesn't, I don't
>> think
>> any of us do. But I think we need to figure it out if quality open source
>> video
>> games are going to be a reality on superior OS's. :)
> Exactly.
> Perhaps a good first start would be to set up a mailing list forum called
> something
> like "Artists and Programmers united towards making quality games" - and post
> an
> announcement of the creation of that list on the mailing lists of every 2D
> paint
> program and 3D modeller we can think of.

mebbe make a game art list instead, not try to immediately push programmers and
artists into the same room? At least not in a really direct way :) Naturally
game programmers will watch the list to see how to get artists, maybe converse
some about how artists should seek out projects. We are used to the community
and know how to find and join the projects. They probably are sitting there
wishing someone would throw them an email asking them if they want a portfolio
boost :)

If we want to set up a game artist mailing list, I can host the list (but I
have a very slow uplink and very puny machine for my mail server). I can always
slap a bigger hdd in the thing and put several lists on it. Or we could use one
of the free mailing list services at the cost of an advertisement chunk on

> If we slanted the description as "there are all these programmers out there
> just
> ready to jump at the opportunity to take your great artwork and turn it into
> a
> living, breathing game...imagine what that could do to bring your portofolio
> before the eyes of potential employers."

definitely. I think that's the biggest selling point we can use.

> Dunno - I'm a programmer.

same here, but we gotta do something :) 

(snip the many many projects of the allmighty steve baker)

        -Erik <erik@smluc.org> [http://math.smsu.edu/~br0ke]

The opinions expressed by me are not necessarily opinions. In all
probability, they are random rambling, and to be ignored. Failure to ignore
may result in severe boredom or confusion. Shake well before opening. Keep

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