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valles

How do pro developers make 3d games?

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valles    173
I was wondering how real games get put together. I''ve seen the development videos for the latest Mortal Kombat, artists busy at work creating 3-d models and character motions, and all of it imported into the game. I was wondering if there were any techniques to this that prove effective, or proprietary software that improved artist involvement in the game development process. I imagine there are tools for particle effects, character placement, stat editing, a few artist scripting programs. Anyone have examples, ideas, or stories? - Valles

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
There isn''t a real surefire way. You program what you need that you can''t find (tutorials are everywhere, and they ARE your friend ^_^) and everything else comes with experience. Programmers don''t just wake up one morning and decide to be great, same with artists. Speed comes with practice, also. You have to remember, they''re paid to do it so they have to be of at least passable skill. Most of the time, their effective techniques are nothing more than little nicknacks they''re comfortable with. Whenever I go to draw something, I like to sit straight up in a typing position and rough out everything in about 5 seconds. Not everyone does it, and it''s probably not even that great, but it does make me feel more comfortable drawing. Yeah, and I''ve gotten so far off onto a tangent that I can barely think of anything else to say, so I''ll just stop now before I REALLY dig myself into a hole. :D

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The problem programmers always have with the artists is that it is the artists job to push the graphical envelope, while it''s the programmers job to make sure that what ever is done works in the game engine at a decent frame rate.

In order to do this the programmers need to "restrict" the artists in some form. Now there are 2 ways to do this effectively you can make plugins, and exporters for the 3d modeling tool they use such as maya, 3d studio max, and so on. The alternative is that the programmers will make in house tools to do these jobs. Typically there is a mix of tools that are used for instance your game may have an in house designed particle system editor in order to allow the artists to modify all the particle effects they possibly can, and see how it will look in the game engine.

As for "artist envolvement in the game" it''s pretty much limited to what art they make. Some artists have full control over where they take the characters/levels they make as long as they stay with in the constraints of what the designer has layed out. But for the most part both the programmers and artists are at the mercy of the designer when it comes to game direction. Unless of course the programmers say "We can''t do this feature it''ll drop our frame rate too low to be playable".

Onto streamlining. If the artists can''t use it in the game make sure your exporter/plugins don''t support it. If they can have it in the game make sure your tools notify them if a specific effect is being over used. Or doing effects like turning all the textures pink if they load in a non-power of 2 texture. It''s extremely habit forming for an artist to load something like a non-power of 2 texture in a tool and save the level out forgetting to ever change that texture to a power of 2 size because it "works in the tool". Changing the color to pink notifies the artist immediately and pretty much forces them to change the texture now or forever be burdened with a texture they can''t bare to look at. This helps to streamline the entire development process.

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MrScruff    122
It amazed me how many tools and little scripts are used in professional game development when I started to do this for a living. Essentially, always remember, artists are not programmers, so don''t expose them to the horrible technical side of development.

We use an in house editor for most content creation, which does modelling and texturing, and has exporters and importers to several commercial packages. We then have several inhouse file formats (but are trying to move to one!) which the game preprocessors work on. The preprocessors convert raw data (triangles/textures/game data) to a format suitable for the game itself and the hardware it runs on. Each lead programmer sets up these tools in the beginning of development, and writes scripts to automate them. Therefore all an artist has to do to view their latest masterpiece is click on a shortcut on their desktop to "PlayMyLevel" and everything will be converted, tri-stripped, allocated into BSP/Octree/whatever, associated with shaders and game scripts and then run.

SO to answer your question, in my experience, artists aren''t that involved with the technical side of games, they simply work in Maya or whatever and when they are happy with a level, they click on a shortcut to view it in game. I view programmers these days more as "Artist facilitators" than game developers.

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