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Relationship between the Artist and the Programmer

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Hi guys, I posted a question on Tom Sloper's website and recieved a response to it. However, I recently found a few articles that seem to conflict with Sloper's response (In my point of view anyway) I would like to hear other opinions on this here as well.

Here is the question I posted:
{


[size="4"]Do I have to learn programming if I don't like it?

>From: Eric M
>Sent: Saturday, October 22, 2011 11:31 AM
>Subject: Question on the relationships between the artists and the programmers
>Hi Tom, before I get started, here are the details about me:
>Name: Eric
>Age:19
>Education Level: College Freshmen
>Occupation: Student
>Possible Game Job Aspiration: Game Artist/Animator, then in the long run: Design
>Country: United States
>Okay, here is my question:
>I understand that I should study what interests me (In my case, I am looking into art classes right now for later semesters) although I should take in a broad education when studying to be a game designer. In FAQ 34, you wrote that if artistically inclined, then I should study art. However, should game artists and animators know some programming? I am thinking that since they have to collaborate with the programmers, it would be helpful if the artists know some of the languages the programmers use (i.e C++, Java).
>My intended major is Multimedia Computing (In my school, it applies computing to art, especially with computer games) and I am required to take courses in programming. At first, I thought it would be a good idea because of the theory I thought up listed above. Unfortunately, I realized that I am a bad programmer in my C++ Intro class and I find it difficult to "like" programming. Already, I am considering majoring in Art like you suggested in FAQ 34 but at the same time, I am wondering if I should be resilent about it by sticking to my original plan since it seems like a good way to prepare for a career in design for the long haul.
>Thanks for your input on this, my apologies if any of these questions I wrote annoy you in some way as I understand that you are not a fan of them, I am currently working on asking good questions like one of your FAQ's suggested.
>Eric

kindaitom65.gif Hello Eric, you wrote:

letq.gif I am thinking that since they have to collaborate with the programmers, it would be helpful if the artists know some of the languages the programmers use
leta.gif So if you were a chef, and you were collaborating with an architect to prepare a meal for his clients, you would need to be able to design a building? If you were an artist, and an auto mechanic hired you to make a sign for his business, you would need to be able to take a car apart and put it back together?

Instead of asking "should artists know some programming, why don't you instead ask these:

letq.gif Do I have to know some programming?
leta.gif No.

letq.gif Do I have to take some programming courses?
leta.gif Do you WANT to? Take them if you WANT to. Or if your chosen degree program requires you to.

Let's get back to a question you really did ask: letq.gif I am wondering if I should be resilent about it by sticking to my original plan
leta.gif Only if you WANT to. Don't force yourself. If it would make you reluctant to get out of bed to go study it, then it would be a mistake to go that way.

Tom Sloper
kanjisigGD.PNG
Los Angeles, California, USA
October 22, 2011
}

And here are the articles:
- http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/38451/Opinion_Becoming_A_Better_Game_Programmer.php (In the section "Cross Dicipline")
- http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/37962/PRACTICE_Do_Designers_Need_To_Be_Programmers.php (Okay, so this one is actually with Designers and Programmers but the comments on it debate if programming is necessary or not)

Any input on these (Especially from Tom) is appreciated.

Thanks,
Eric

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Artists do not need to know programming - no. Do they need to be able to communicate technical details? Yes, but that cuts both ways. Designers are a whole different ballpark, so the same rules do not apply.

I also think you misunderstood what the first of the two articles was saying. Being able to communicate with other disciplines is an essential skill, yes. Understanding their work, even better! But being able to do what they do is just a whole 'nother game -- one that's fairly unnecessary to get into unless you really feel like you want to.

Tom's advice, as always, is sound.

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I'm with Tom on this as well.


You should draw a distinction between "can I communicate with this person" and "can I do that guy's job." Communicating with someone does not require you to know their craft in detail. In fact, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing - beginning artists in the industry may be tempted to try and "talk tech" with the programmers, using their limited familiarity with programming to try and bridge the gap. Unfortunately, this rarely works well, because said artists rarely know enough about programming to really add value to any technical discussion. Sadly, it's easy to lose a lot of credibility by doing this kind of thing, especially early in your career.

Now, mind you, there is a special field for "technical artists." Technical artists are generally heavily steeped in both art and "tech" - you need a certain critical mass of knowledge on both sides to be able to really effectively deal with either party. They're a rare breed, though, and you shouldn't feel any pressure to go that direction unless you are genuinely passionate about both sides of the coin.

If I were you, I would focus more on being a good artist first and foremost, since that's what it sounds like you are interested in. Let the programmers worry about learning your language - that's part of their job. Use your tech artists and programmers wisely, and see what you can learn in the realm of communicating with them. Remember that communication is a two-way street; they need to come a distance towards you, just as much as you need to reach towards them. And as a newcomer to the industry, you'll probably get a lot more understanding from experienced programmers and tech artists than you'll be asked to offer by yourself.

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For the artists I work with MOST have no experience at all with programming code, except perhaps when glancing over programmer's shoulders.

Some artists do have programming experience. There are the technical artists, the people who write maya scripts, the people who write shaders. They are the exception, not the rule. Of the artists I have known well, about one in twenty have that kind of experience, and most of those have enough skills to get the job done and not much more.


Similarly, MOST programmers have no experience with art beyond what was required in school. They may have taken a class or two on art appreciation or simple drawing, but nothing fancy.

Some programmers do have art experience. Some programmers are very skilled in traditional or digital art... but unlike technical artists they rarely have opportunity apply it in the workplace. They are also the exception, not the rule.

(I'm one of those exceptions. I took art classes, I have piles of sketchbooks and even have some of my own framed art at home. I regularly attend life drawing classes, and actively participate with the artists at local events and art shows. There is one other programmer with similar skills, but he started as a technical artist and gradually left it to become a full-time programmer. That is two programmers out of about 60 in my current studio.)

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(I'm one of those exceptions. I took art classes, I have piles of sketchbooks and even have some of my own framed art at home. I regularly attend life drawing classes, and actively participate with the artists at local events and art shows. There is one other programmer with similar skills, but he started as a technical artist and gradually left it to become a full-time programmer. That is two programmers out of about 60 in my current studio.)

I am similar. http://l-spiro.devia...gallery/4844241 (I only have my pencil portraits uploaded there but I do Photoshop and 3D modeling as well.)
Almost no one these days knows I have any artistic ability, but in reality I am "an artist who learned to program".

And that happened due to following the logic suggest by "????????" (Tom Sloper).
I learned to program because I wanted to, not because an artist needs to know programming.

There are, however, things artists need to know specifically about game art.
You should know the trade-offs between certains type of image formats, polygon counts, maximum number of joint/bone weights on vertices should be 4, etc.
If your team is making an iPhone game, you may need to consider file size more than image quality in some cases.

Whatever technical information you don't have, however, will be easily picked up on the job. Programmers tend to know what formats they want etc. and will simply tell you, but there are a lot of tiny things you will simply have to do wrong once and then listen to an angry programmer telling you how to do it right next time.
"5 weights on this vertex!! Are you insane??"
"I said don't use RLE encoding on photographic images!! Is this your first day cadet??"
"You saved the normal map as a .JPG??"


For now, you don't really need to worry about it. Just learn art and the rest will come on-the-job.


L. Spiro

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"You saved the normal map as a .JPG??"


That is the best quote ever!

I busted out laughing. When I showed it to a nearby artist he also cracked up. DDS is bad enough.

I suppose it might work if you were going for a crumpled-paper look.

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This conversation is fascinating.

So I'm an indie game developer who's trying to do just that, working in the indie and mobile market. I try to do some collaboration with artists, but I would love to be able to create a game "all by myself". I love programming the most, but I also like writing and I wish I could do better digital art. I have made games that became a "failure" because of my crude art. I am now trying to go for pixel art...

But someday I'm going to have to get in to the industry, so am I wrong in focusing in trying to do everything? Should I specialize and try to do more collaborations?

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As an indie (especially a "lone wolf" indie), you need to do everything. But as an employee, you will need a specialty. You'll be able to wear multiple hats on occasion - especially at a smaller company - but for the most part, it's the specialists who get hired.

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Eric,
Any more follow-up questions now?


Not at the moment right now, but your advice along with the other posts in this board is pretty reasonable. Perhaps I should be an art major after all and stop trying to be someone I'm not. Anyway, thanks for setting me straight into the right path.

Big thanks to all who posted here,
Eric

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