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MatthewMorigeau

What programmers want from a designer

39 posts in this topic

This was all rad feedback, its always good to hear personal accounts. There are always common streams of thought but its great to hear the more personal draw to building games. If you've got more, keep em coming!
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[quote name='FLeBlanc' timestamp='1348497986' post='4983234']
[...]only does character animation... well, in my experience, the character modeling and animation is much easier to find talent for than things like environment art, and maybe we could ditch that guy and find someone whose skills are more well-rounded. Everyone wants to be a character artist it seems (just get on DeviantArt and see for yourself) [...]
[/quote]

A character artist I might agree but few are willing to put in the effort to rig and very few can or will decently animate (hence the terrible animation in countless games). A large minority of DeviantArtists animate. I find Indie games tend to run and hide from animation all together for the most part, but even major AAA projects with beautiful character models don't get a decent animation polish like it should. Many are motion captured and then cleaned up with a dry eraser, leaving lots of odd poses or jitter that they often cover up with terribly sped up timing. Its a shame really. I couldn't agree more that great 3D environment artists are hard to come by but I think that that's more to do with the fact that it often turns into an architects job instead of just a modeling gig. However environment artists, like character artists are easy(er) to come by (many that can paint a unique character can paint a lovely environment since perspective skills are used for both). Could be that you have different experience then me but I would say there is a pretty good distinction between those that have graced the world with there Deviant collection and those that rig and bash out a couple thousand frames per day.
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[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1348488771' post='4983192']
The more important questions are:

1) Are there programmers who would spend a few hundred hours writing unpaid code for someone else's game (and not for himself)?
2) Would you be willing to spend a few hundred hours coding someone else's game for free?

Question 1 is to make sure that this is actually feasible: that it is not a waste of time trying to get someone to code your game for free. And the responses to Question 2 will allow you to zero in on what exactly is needed to get someone to code your game for free.

IMHO I don't think this will work. Are there really programmers who would code for hundreds of hours for free on other people's game project? (specific to games, open source software is very different)
[/quote]

This is why I kept the time frame wide in that statement, a few dozen hours on a project seems feasible for a hobby project to me as an animator. I could spill out a rig or two and/or enough animation over the span of a month and feel happy with my contribution to a project. I can only assume a programmer wouldn't be all that different. I can only imagine I'd be willing to do more cumulatively over a longer period of time if the project was to my interest maybe even landing my hours in the hundreds but its hard to say (ive never explored that project yet). But I'm mostly curious about what draws people to the project in the first place. We all know we're going to have to sink hours of work into a project if we like it and agree to join in the fun but its the hook or bait that I want to know about. I want to hear about the projects that you as programmers couldn't ignore and why. Why you looked at a classified add and couldn't resist sinking X amount hours into the project. Especially with free projects.

As I don't program I can't answer question 2, which is why I jumped in and asked the question. I know the reasons why I would animate for a project, and I know why I would want to help design a project, but until I understand programming to be anything other then mathematical poetry in a language I don't understand, I will not be able to explore question 2 properly let alone answer it. So we are here. Sharing. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]
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[quote name='Mratthew' timestamp='1348643756' post='4983911']
[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1348488771' post='4983192']
The more important questions are:

1) Are there programmers who would spend a few hundred hours writing unpaid code for someone else's game (and not for himself)?
2) Would you be willing to spend a few hundred hours coding someone else's game for free?

Question 1 is to make sure that this is actually feasible: that it is not a waste of time trying to get someone to code your game for free. And the responses to Question 2 will allow you to zero in on what exactly is needed to get someone to code your game for free.

IMHO I don't think this will work. Are there really programmers who would code for hundreds of hours for free on other people's game project? (specific to games, open source software is very different)
[/quote]

This is why I kept the time frame wide in that statement, a few dozen hours on a project seems feasible for a hobby project to me as an animator. I could spill out a rig or two and/or enough animation over the span of a month and feel happy with my contribution to a project. I can only assume a programmer wouldn't be all that different.
[/quote]

The problem with programming is that you really want one person to hold things together for the duration of the project, an artist can make one good animated model and have made a good contribution, if you swap out the lead programmer you will lose a lot of time getting a new one up and running. (I've inherited a few mid sized projects at work and it took a bit over 50 hours just to get a decent grasp of the codebase. (Good documentation and clean code can make this less painful, but in a semi amateur project it is very unlikely to happen and could get far worse). Thus the first programmer you get will most likely have to dedicate several hundred hours to the project. (This is why programmers are reluctant to join projects that hasn't been started) (If a project has a good lead programmer i could join, get a bunch of reasonably sized tasks and complete as many as i feel like and then leave without feeling guilty about it)
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[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1348645420' post='4983915']
I've inherited a few mid sized projects at work and it took a bit over 50 hours just to get a decent grasp of the codebase.
[/quote]

In some cases, it's easier to just use your own codebase, and port the existing features.

Actually, even if that process took significant time, it's probably saving time in the long run.
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[quote name='Goran Milovanovic' timestamp='1348646701' post='4983919']
[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1348645420' post='4983915']
I've inherited a few mid sized projects at work and it took a bit over 50 hours just to get a decent grasp of the codebase.
[/quote]

In some cases, it's easier to just use your own codebase, and port the existing features.

Actually, even if that process took significant time, it's probably saving time in the long run.
[/quote]

The problem really is that we get paid by the hour by our client, they want bugs fixed and features added today (or yesterday in many cases)
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@Legendre - Huh?

I'm coming at this as an artist with very limited experience coding, so please bear with me.

Creating a sketch concept shouldn't take "2-3 hours".

To me, an artist should be willing to pound out a dozen "sketch" concepts in like 20 minutes to get ideas on paper for the team to look over before going on to make more refined ideas. Taking those refined concepts and make model sheets; then from those to creating the models. And after, obviously skin, rig, animate, bake, etc.

The entire process to create a game ready asset should really take maybe 2-3 days in my opinion and I'm admittedly a very, very fast artist.

And this is comparable to programmers in my opinion. The team I work with had the engine working and playable in the game play style we wanted on the first day of a "game jam marathon". Ever since then, they've been refining and implementing, just as the artists and I have been creating and refining our contributions.

And programming is cut all the time. That's exactly what happens when a feature is dropped or cut since the scope is too large. Whenever I have worked on a game, (which is still a limited experience at this time, I admit) even what many people consider a simple game, there is always room to refine and distill that game. To take out needless bloat.

But don't get me wrong, I know programmers are important. They're like the engine in a sports car. Without it, the car might look fast and cool, but it's just going to sit and do nothing else.

All I'm trying to say is that the art assets need time to be refined and tweaked just the same as the code.
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[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1348676926' post='4984009']
2. You can cut back on art but not programming.
[/quote]

?
Of course it is possible to make a game without knowing how to program. That's what all the gamemakers are for, after all. (The most well-known being the RPG-Maker, but there are others for other genres as well).
Sure, it's quite likely that a game which was made this way is going to suck, but so is a game which uses no or only free/stock/cheap art.

Yes, programmers are important and definitely the least swappable members of a gamedev-team, but, at least when it's been planned from the beginning, even they are not indispensable. Nobody is.

bw,
Tobl Edited by Tobl
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[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1348676926' post='4984009']
3. It is much easier for artists to come and go, but not programmers.
[/quote]

While I don't agree with any one point completely, I think this is closer to reality than the other points. I'm a programmer and I know that it can be difficult to jump into code that you didn't write and start fixing bugs or adding new features right away. More so with code that is not well structured. There are times, depending on who developed the code that modifications are actually quite easy and take very little work. As far as the art is concerned I think that yes you can add and remove artists easier, but I think that each artist has their own style. The game will seem more polished if you can keep the same group of artists on board for the whole game.
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This thread has gotten quite long and I haven't read everything so I apologize if this is a repeat. What bothers me the most is people stating they are a studio when it's quite obvious they are working from their parents' basement or in a single bedroom apartment. Unless you've registered your business, are remitting taxes, and have dedicated office space - you are not a studio. The biggest dead giveaway that you are not a studio is the fact that you can't pay me. Studios have access to funding and/or an income from their previous game(s). Lastly, if you are not of legal age to enter into a contract (usually 18) don't even bother. I will never work (even free work) if I'm not protected by a contract. In short, don't lie about being a studio when you are just one person with an idea. Edited by Trevor10
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Bottom line: Really, all I care about is whether or not I'd be wasting my time.

What do I get out of the partnership?

If you're paying me fairly to work for you, then it's not a waste of my time since I'm getting something out of it (money!). But, how much you pay me had better be proportionate to the work I'll be doing. If you just wrote a five page word doc and called it the game design and I have to do all the rest, I'll be putting in 99.9% of the effort and will expect to get appropriately compensated. If we expect to make $100k, I'd better get $99,900!

If you're not paying me, then I'm already incredibly disinclined to do anything for you because [i]I don't work for free[/i]. What will I get? What is the likelihood of project success? My commitment to the project will be as wishy washy as I perceive the legitimacy of your promises to be. If your promises are contingent upon project success and the project looks like it's going to fail, then I'm out. (Note: It can fail in its construction phase or in its business phase)

I'd be happy to work together with Servant of the Lord. He sounds like he's got his shit together and the project will most likely succeed whether or not I'm a part of his team. That's motivating because instead of worrying about whether or not the project will succeed, I'm worrying about whether or not I'm pulling my weight and being an asset instead of a liability to the team. He's got what it takes to see a project through to the end and will deliver results. If you're a designer trying to put together a team, you need to implicitly [i]include evidence[/i] that suggests a high probability for project success. What experience do you have? Have you shipped a game in the past? Have you been a part of a team which shipped a game? What will you contribute to the team which a programmer can't do? If I can do everything you do, but you can't do everything I do, then why do I need you?

If you're recruiting, you're also the implied project manager. The project manager for a project is like a train engineer trying to convince people to climb aboard, stay aboard, and get them to the final destination (project success). If at any point your passengers don't think they're going to get to the final destination, they'll jump off and hop onto another train. What kind of train are you operating? Does it exist? Is it a hype train or is it based on something of substance? Is the track already laid to take us to the final destination or do we have to build the track along the way (which means we don't know where we're going)? Once the train gets moving, [i]you[/i] are going to be the one shoveling coal into the engine furnace to keep it going with full steam ahead! If your train loses momentum (lack of progress), or steam (lack of money), or derails (lack of direction/side tracked), your passengers are going to jump off and you'll never get them to the end destination. Then, you don't collect the fare and don't get paid. So, when you're recruiting, you're really trying to convince the candidates that you're the best train engineer to take them to their destination. Note that your passengers will have different destionations they want to visit along the way! Some people may just want to make money, some people will want to learn and get experience, others will want to test out an idea/concept, others want recognition, comraderie, status, fame, stability and benefits to provide for their family, etc. The best train engineers can run a train which visits everyones wants/needs while getting everyone to project success. Those are the projects everyone wants to join and be a part of (its not exclusive to just programmers!).
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We've discussed the 'studio' issue in [url="http://www.gamedev.net/topic/615259-need-a-new-name/page__p__4890178#entry4890178"]another thread[/url] earlier this year - the thing about the word 'studio' is it means different things to different people.

[rollup="Offtopic: Studio"]When you hear 'studio' you think 'movie studio' in scope (large number of employees, dedicated space, good resources). Companies like "Paramount Studios" convey this meaning in the United States.

When I hear the word 'studio' I think 'art studio' in scope (the converted attic of a house, for example). Things like "studio apartment" convey this meaning in the United States.

Wikipedia '[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studio"]studio[/url]':
A) "[i]A studio is an artist's or worker's workroom...[/i]" (what comes to my mind)
B) "[i]...or the catchall term for an artist and his or her employees who work within that studio.[/i]" (what comes to your mind)

A parent's basement could [i]exactly[/i] be called a studio or a single-bedroom apartment, in the actual meaning of the word, if part of it is dedicated to the work. Studio has been artistically portrayed for years as a Paris attic lone-painter work area.
These type of 'studios' usually could [i]not[/i] pay you. The (romanticised) painters in their attic studios were usually broke and barely making rent (or living there for free). This is exactly the situation most indies are in: Artistic people (or people who think they are artistic) trying to pursue their craft and make a living off of it, without much resources, and without a real business location.

There were [i]also[/i] successful artists who had the type of studio you're thinking of: large dedicated workspace not at home, with many assistants/employees (and there are successful indies like this). But that isn't what a studio [i]means[/i]. All it means is a room dedicated (completely or in part) for work of a specific type. A person can legitmately have a basement film studio, or an painting loft studio, or a single-room appartment wood-carving studio.

[url="http://www.gamedev.net/topic/615259-need-a-new-name/page__p__4890178#entry4890178"]Original thread[/url].
[/rollup]

Your post carries a very relevant point though:
How are you presenting yourselves when recruiting? If someone is small and posting an ad, acknowledge it. They should be open and truthful of their current state, and not pretend to be something they aren't - because it's very easy to tell, and they just come off looking bad, and then I won't want to work with them, and won't want them to work with me. Edited by Servant of the Lord
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