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Breaking into industry without coding or art skills.


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#1 Woland   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 03:58 AM

Since my topic about concept artists got a positive feedback, I am pasting another one of my blog articles. This article is actually a kind of public reply to all the people claiming that you can't do shit in gamedev if you can't "code or at least draw". There's quite a lot of them actually.

 

 

I can't code and I can't draw...

 

 

...yet I wanna be a game developer! This kinds of posts pop up on game development forums pretty frequently and a common reply to these is "What can you do in gamedev without being able to code or at least draw some art?" These people (mostly programmers themselves) would be absolutely right around 30 years ago.

 

Let's start with a quick gaming industry evolution recap, shall we? In the "old days" games were made entirely by one person. This person had to code. With the evolution of gamedev came new roles. Games started to be made by larger teams, and the coders easily gave up things like visuals or sound. This is where acknowledging the art part comes from. The programmers and artists soon needed armies of people who could do things they themselves couldn't. Their little game making efforts evolved into game making companies. Of course, with the whole Angry Bird Flu, the vast part of the industry is now in the early development stage, recreating the pattern from the 80's. Small teams, where single person
performs multiple roles.

 

 

lara.jpg

What better to paste when talking about the industry evolution than evolution of the most famous pair of game boobs? Image stolen from
http://pedro-croft.deviantart.com smile.png

 

Since we really don't want to limit ourselves with indie companies, let's focus on AAA. This is a list called "all the jobs in gamedev that come to my mind": producer, designer, writer, sound engineer, animator, programmer, concept artist, 3D artist, QA, and less development-connected: legal, finance, HR, sales, marketing, PR, IT. Some of them truely need programming skills. Some of them need artistic skills. Some don't need any. It is more or less like this:

 

tabrlki2.png

Note: Artistic skills refer to visual arts, as they are the topic of this article.

 

 

I've introduced a new term here - scripting. Every game engine I heard of has a scripting language embedded. It is a simple language with a basic set of commands that do preprogrammed things. Compared to programming languages, these scripting things are very user-friendly, but have limited capabilities. They only let the user choose out of a predefined list of tasks, but it means you can actually do something in the game engine. There are some valid arguments, that scripting is a kind of programming - that there are algorithms, that there's debugging, that
you need to actually know the commands and use them in a correct syntax.

 

Still, in reality, calling scripting programming is like calling chihuahua a real dog. Scripting languages used in the gaming engines are usually even less complicated than IRC scripts. Think of it in terms of advanced usage of MS DOS rather than actual coding. What's more important, most of the companies are either using their own engines with their own scripting languages, or are using purchased engines, but modify the scripting language to match their needs. This means that if you apply for an entry level job that needs scripting, most of the time you won't be actually expected to know the scripting language the company uses. They will expect you to know what scripting is, to be willing to learn how to script in their engine and to have some basic understanding of logic.

 

Therefore, while programming and artistic skills are actually required for the jobs they are associated with, scripting is an additional skill that will help you do your job with the core skills that are required, like animating or writing. This means, that when you are applying for an entry level job, the breakdown of required skills looks like this:

 

tabrlki1.png

 

Let me rephrase that, because I am immensely enjoying this conclusion. One (1) job needs programming skills in AAA gamedev. Two (2) jobs need artistic skills in AAA gamedev. Thirteen (13) jobs, among these six (6) jobs in actual development need neither programming nor artistic skills in AAA gamedev.

 

"What can you do in gamedev without being able to code or at least draw some art?" - now you can easily answer!

 

 

More of games making noob articles on my blog, naturally smile.png


Edited by Woland, 27 February 2013 - 08:35 AM.

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#2 TheChubu   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4746

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 05:20 AM

I'd argue that sound designer (and music producer, which is missing from the list) qualify for requiring "artistic skills" :D

 

Anyway, interesting post and conclusion.


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#3 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2947

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 05:30 AM

I'd really wish that my sound engineer, animator, writer, and probably designer too has some kind of "artistic skill", even though it might not specifically be to draw stuff.

All of those are in any case specific skills, and is usually included when mentioning you need "something" to expect to be hired to make games, or be able to drum up a team.
Those posts are usually directed to "idea guys", that think they are designers.
And in most cases, those posts are usually not about working in an AAA studio, but about people who want to start indie projects (where they absolutely must have skills of their own to be able to do it within reasonable cost) or people who want to take a shortcut from "nobody" to "star designer/producer"

For the other roles, sure, they are needed to in an AAA studio (as in any medium to large company), but as someone else said, those roles are more "working near people who make games", then it is "making games". You could also be a janitor.

#4 Woland   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 06:15 AM

@TheChubu:

I had some problem classifying the art section, as in english language "art" seems to specifically apply mostly to visual arts and I meant art in this particular context. I am not a native speaker and I could have messed it up a bit. I definetely agree that animation, writing, sound... they are all art, just have nothing to do with drawing smile.png I'll dig into that a bit more and rephrase it a bit to avoid misunderstandings. Thanks smile.png

 

Music producer, probably with a lot of other positions, is definetely missing form "all the jobs in gamedev that come to my mind" list. That's why it's not called "a definetely complete list" smile.png

 

@Olof Hedman:

My article focuses on AAA industry. Comparing roles I mentioned with a role of a janitor shows either lack of respect or lack of knowledge. If you happen to get a job as a programmer in a bigger studio, you will get to see to what extent these guys that are "working near people who make games" will be shaping what and how you will code.

 

And I stand by what I wrote. On entry level, in AAA industry, you don't need to code or draw for the vast majority of positions, including those that aren't directly involved in development.


Edited by Woland, 27 February 2013 - 07:24 AM.

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#5 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2947

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 07:44 AM

I'd say people in HR, Finance, Marketing, PR, IT and Legal have very limited influence on what game is made and how.
So that leaves the producer in the "other roles" that actually influence the what and how in any meaningful manner.

Sure, they are important in shaping the working environment etc, but those decisions isn't really that special just because the company happens to make games.

Sure, anyone in the house can use their people skill to influence somewhat, but that includes the janitor. Neither he nor the people from HR and finance etc will be invited to the meetings where stuff is discussed in depth and decided.

But I admit I used the janitor job for effect. smile.png
I also admit I havn't worked at a big game studio but I have worked at a medium sized (grew from 25 to 180 during my time) software/design studio in a creative field.

Maybe I have higher expectations on what it means to actually influence something though, since I've chosen to work at a small studio for exactly that reason, maximum influence on the what and how.

And I stand by what I wrote. On entry level, in AAA industry, you don't need to code or draw for the vast majority of positions, including those that aren't directly involved in development.

I don't argue that, but it's not really helpful to tell someone that say they want to make games that they could apply for a job at a HR department.

I can't code and I can't draw... ...yet I wanna be a game developer! This kinds of posts pop up on game development forums pretty frequently and a common reply to these is [...]

I read this as a hint towards the many threads where idea guys are shot down because they insist on being only idea guys and seem to refuse to even consider they might need to produce something tangible...

Edited by Olof Hedman, 27 February 2013 - 08:03 AM.


#6 Woland   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 08:26 AM

Any further argument on this topic between you and me is futile, as we come out from different stances. Your goal seems to be shooting down people without the skills that you find necessary based on their one or two posts. My goal is to show them some ways how they could utilize the skills they posess to actually get a job in gamedev (it's completely another matter whether they will make any use of it or not).

Who knows, maybe your way is better. Happy hunting!


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games making noob

 

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#7 Dwarf King   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1911

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 08:27 AM

"Still, in reality, calling scripting programming is like calling chihuahua a real dog."

 

Scripting IS programming. As soon as one starts to deal with AI one will need programming skills and knowledge about algorithms and data structure to a certain extent. Oh and chihuahua IS a real dog. It is just another kind of dog.  


"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education"

Albert Einstein

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education"

Albert Einstein

 


#8 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2947

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 08:34 AM

Any further argument on this topic between you and me is futile, as we come out from different stances. Your goal seems to be shooting down people without the skills that you find necessary based on their one or two posts. My goal is to show them some ways how they could utilize the skills they posess to actually get a job in gamedev (it's completely another matter whether they will make any use of it or not).

Who knows, maybe your way is better. Happy hunting!

 

Or maybe my goal is discussing, while yours seems to be lecturing ;)

I've never shot down anyone for wanting to do anything, I just found a few points in your post I didn't agree with and told you why.



#9 Woland   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 08:48 AM

Scripting IS programming.

 

I never said it isn't. I even wrote why it is a kind of programming. Just like chihuahua is a kind of a dog, just compact and easier to use and keep smile.png

 

Or maybe my goal is discussing, while yours seems to be lecturing ;)

 

Maybe smile.png

 

 

I just found a few points in your post I didn't agree with and told you why.

 

And you have every right to disagree.


Edited by Woland, 27 February 2013 - 08:48 AM.

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#10 Lailokken   Members   -  Reputation: 356

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:38 AM

Neither he nor the people from HR and finance etc will be invited to the meetings where stuff is discussed in depth and decided.

hmm.. I would have thought that the finance people would not only be at the meetings, but would perhaps even lead them.

 

@Woland

 My goal is to show them some ways how they could utilize the skills they posess to actually get a job in gamedev

I'm a fan of this school of thought.. thanks for posting.


-- A man shows who he is, by what he does, with what he has.


#11 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10148

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:53 AM

Olof Hedman, on 27 Feb 2013 - 05:52, said:

Neither he nor the people from HR and finance etc will be invited to the meetings where stuff is discussed in depth and decided.


hmm.. I would have thought that the finance people would not only be at the meetings, but would perhaps even lead them.

 

Not lead, no. The CFO could, however, be a voice at greenlight meetings (deciding whether or not to start or continue a particular game project).  HR would be unlikely to be part of project meetings, unless needed for discussions of hiring matters.


Edited by Tom Sloper, 27 February 2013 - 10:32 AM.

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#12 unit187   Members   -  Reputation: 274

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:45 AM

Interesting article. 

But whats more interesting is that the article exposes another side of the coin: often people think they need artistic skill to be an artist (who draws stuff), but not to be a writer, or game designer, or sound designer etc. But thuth is they all need some kind of artistic skill (or talent, whatever you call it)! You can't draw well without years of studying, and you can't write well without years of studying too. But when you are bad at drawing it is more obvious to people than when you are bad at writing.

Because of that it is hard not only for other people, but for writers (or game designers or sound designers) themselves to see if they are doing good or bad.

 

Anyways, long story short: you need different kinds of artistic skills for different gamedev jobs. One may lack artistic skill "drawing pictures" the same way they can lack artistic skill "design games".



#13 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1774

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 02:51 AM

You are of course assuming that all these jobs are covered by different people.  I have worked at quite a few AAA companies and quite a few small indies.
Here is a few things to consider:
Writer  = Often not an employee.  Most of the time contract script writing companies that deal with TV, Films and Games.
Sound / Audio engineering = Often an outside recording studio.
Legal, Sales, Marketing, PR, HR, Finance = Often can be just one person doing all this (even in studios with over 100 staff).  In one company I worked at she was also the receptionist and tea lady.
IT Guy = Often just another programmer who knows more about Networking and  got the short straw.
Producer = Whilst they don't NEED to be a programmer or Artist it is very rare that they are not or have never been.
Designer = This is just arguing over semantics.  Scripting is programming and it is very rare that you will meet a designer without some art skill.  In fact I'd go as far as to say that a designer is usually a programmer and an artist.



#14 Woland   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 03:32 AM

Yes, I am assuming these jobs can be covered by different people. I of course agree that several functions can be held by one person. Still, since I was describing roles, not combinations of roles, it wouldn't make sense to include all the mixes I think. Regarding roles that can be outsourced, well, all of them can. 3D art, writing, QA, sound, HR, finance, concept art... I wholeheartedly agree that it might be the case, but these are still gamedev roles. Whether it is in the core studio or in an outsourcing company, it is still gamedev in my opinion.


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#15 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1774

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 06:00 AM

But these are not gamedev roles.  If you work for an outsoursing company in writing or Art or music production then your company may be involved in games but, on the otherhand your next project could just as easily be a toothpaste comercial.

If you still consider these as an opportunity then maybe you could rewrite your blog post not to say that you CAN work in games development but, maybe one day if you are lucky you might have a slight involvement with a game.



#16 DaveTroyer   Members   -  Reputation: 1052

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:52 PM

Guess I'll chime in here just for the sake of continuing the discussion. biggrin.png

 

First off, I should mention my experience.

 

I have a BAS focusing on Digital Entertainment and Game Design and a minor in Art History and Theory with a career focus on character/monster creating, game writing, production, as well as expertise in 2d and 3d content creation, conceptual design and illustration, and consultation in game mechanic/concept creation. I've only worked as a contractor for small to mid sized studios and recently as a founder of a small indie studio called Pixel Jargon. I've worked as an artist in various other fields fairly consistently for the last 10 years. I'm 29 now. 

 

Personally, I've never met anyone working in the actual meat of game development that can't at least do some rapid visualization or some minimal coding to help show their ideas and have some actual chops to back their position. Maybe in the gilded towers of AAA development there are some guys that got a job there with an MBA and no experience with games aside from playing with other peoples money, but when it comes to the trenches of game development, I really haven't seen people that have their main skill as "idea guy".

 

I also haven't seen decision making privileges given to the guy that only makes the music, or to a tester, or to anyone who isn't a significant lead, content creator, or some one seriously invested in the project with their money, time, and skills.

 

So what I want to know is how exactly can someone with no experience in the actual creation of the game, like HR or Legal, be a part of the game design process? I understand they have an impact on the actual development such as HR hiring the right people for the job and Legal covering the butts of the developers in case they don't remove a naughty animation, but they have no real control at all over the design aspect of the game the same as the person who makes awkward small talk at the coffee shop when they find out you make games and want you to make their dreams for them (and give the stranger money for it!).

 

I guess my real problem is that in those positions, since there is, in my opinion, no real way of influencing the game production or development, why even bother being a part of a dangerously volatile work environment that sees studio closures everyday when you could be someplace else that's more stable, doing the exact same thing?

 

I would venture to say that you would want to be at least close to the development; to feel like part of the team and help them create games but whats the fun in that? Where is the appeal in loving someone but getting told they just think of you as a friend?

 

I don't know man, I guess I don't see the point. I've read it hundreds of times here on gamedev.net that its not that tough to learn to program. To me, I would think it's easier to learn to program or draw than it is to give up on a dream for me, and that's what it would be like. If you dream of creating games but don't have the skills needed, the choice to not get those skills and just be near those who do is so much worse. I see this as advocating putting ones self in the friend-zone of game development.

...

Don't friend-zone yourself with game development; learn a useful skill instead of crossing your fingers and hoping that your ideas will be heard one day.

 

But that's just my opinion.


Edited by DaveTroyer, 05 March 2013 - 04:16 AM.

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#17 Happygamer   Members   -  Reputation: 146

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 04:02 PM

You forgot one other way. With a ship load of money and become the producer :P

#18 MrDaaark   Members   -  Reputation: 3555

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 04:12 PM

I can't code and I can't draw.

Of course you can. You just haven't applied yourself.

If you want to code, code.
If you want to draw, draw.

They are both just skills you acquire over time by practicing.

#19 Woland   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 04:11 AM

But these are not gamedev roles.  If you work for an outsoursing company in writing or Art or music production then your company may be involved in games but, on the otherhand your next project could just as easily be a toothpaste comercial.

 

There are outsourcing companies that are dedicated to making game assets only. Lots of them actually. Localization studios, 3D studios, concept studios. They have only game assets in their portfolios. They only work with game developers. There are actually dozens of them you can meet on every bigger game conference. Of course, companies like these you described exist too, but I wasn't referring to them.

 

If you want to code, code.
If you want to draw, draw.

 

This might sound ignorant, but I don't code and don't want to code. I don't draw and don't want to draw. And I am still a counterargument for the whole DaveTroyer's post. What's more, I am not alone. There are more people, who just like me don't have an art or coding background, but are working in the industry in the core development teams, not just as "idea guys". I don't consider myself special in any way, therefore I am sure others could work in the industry without these two particular skills as well. 

 

Still, don't get me wrong - I really appreciate all the input guys. There are a lot of statements I disagree with, mainly because I have proof of them not being true, but I also see a lot of good points here and I can certainly see where you guys are comming from and I can understand your mindset. 


Want to learn more about the industry? 

 

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#20 DaveTroyer   Members   -  Reputation: 1052

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 12:23 PM

but I don't code and don't want to code. I don't draw and don't want to draw. And I am still a counterargument for the whole DaveTroyer's post. What's more, I am not alone. There are more people, who just like me don't have an art or coding background, but are working in the industry in the core development teams, not just as "idea guys". I don't consider myself special in any way, therefore I am sure others could work in the industry without these two particular skills as well.

 

I'm just saying that I've only really worked with small to mid sized studios doing contract work, so I know I haven't met everyone there is to meet, but I guess I just have a hard time seeing how someone without some kind of artistic talent, be it creating assets, code, or story and dialog, can have a significant sway on the direction that a game is going, let alone be a member of a core team.

 

If you don't mind me asking, what is it that you do at your studio or what positions are you talking about? It might help to shed some light on this entire conversation if you could give us some idea of what jobs you're talking about that have some influence on the core development of a game without bringing some previous experience to the table.

 

Are you talking about a producer or director role? Because I haven't seen those handed over to anyone who hasn't worked their way up unless its in a tiny upstart studio with little to no experience that want their friend to be a part of the process. (And those friendships get tested pretty hardcore because the one with no skills thinks they're more important; the whole "idea guy" complex)

 

I hope I'm not upsetting you and I'm not trying to seem argumentative, but I honestly have no idea what kind of positions you could be talking about.


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