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NaturalNines

Communicating with Programmers

26 posts in this topic

[quote name='alnite' timestamp='1349313395' post='4986618']
You artists have the benefit of working on a constrained environment.
[/quote]
That was actually the basis of my concern, so I'm glad you mentioned it. I can look at a picture, an animation, scenery, whatever, in a game and get a pretty accurate idea of how the visual aspect was completed and the time and tools it took to do so, but I won't know if there are 10 or 10,000 lines of programming behind it. The good idea fairy must be a pain in the ass for programmers.

Again, thank you all for the continued assistance.
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You should have a solid understanding of math. It will help you more than you realize.
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Just make sure you know that something that may seem simple to you is not as simple in practice. They will probably tell you if you are asking for something that is too complex
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I particularly agree with SoTL.

Beyond that, clarity. Some things are very simple, or well understood in the industry. You won't know which things. In that case let them get on with it. If you want something more custom, it gets tricky. Some programmers you'll tell to do something and they'll just start. Sometimes that's a danger sign that they're making lots of assumptions. Or you'll tell a programmer what you want. They'll ask you to explain in more detail. You will. They'll look puzzled and ask for more detail, etc etc. For example, if you say you want a character to act cute:

[b]Artist:[/b] Make the character act cute.
[b]Programmer:[/b] What do you mean by cute? Big eyes and cute noises?
[b]Artist:[/b] No, ACT cute.
[b]Programmer: [/b]You have some animations you want me to play?
[b]Artist: [/b]Well yes... but no. Like very happy but easily scared.
[b]Programmer:[/b] Scared of which things? I can set up a system so you can tag which things it's scared of...
[b]Artist: [/b]That's going to take an awfully long time tagging things... any other ideas?
[b]Programmer:[/b] Er, scared of enemy characters and fast-moving objects? But we'd need to decide HOW FAST is FAST and if there are any exceptions. Also we'd need to add a sight system so it knows which enemies to be scared of... unless it's psychic? Psychic would be easier, just all enemies onscreen or within radius X. Hmm, but maybe disable this in cut scenes or things could get pretty trippy.

etc etc. Programmers have to (or at least should) consider all use cases, which is why the job can be difficult and pedantic. ;)
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this thread has moved from form of communication to content of communication. it also has indifferently talked about artist <-> programmer talk and director <-> programmer talk.
I hope just mentionning it will allow people to order all of that.
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[img]http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-wacMl1rl7tY/UC5CHob7nkI/AAAAAAAAASo/tz3-ia5oxPc/s400/Toystory-Kaj_ErlingFacebook120817.jpg[/img]

NaturalNines, thank you for asking. At least you inquire about it. I wish more people would see this thread as many great points were raised. Edited by UltimaX
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Feature Creep. Oh man, Feature Creep. "Wouldn't it be fun/nice/good if it did this?" Sure, but I didn't agree to that - You're piling straw on the camel's back, and sometimes what you're asking is just the last (and latest) one.

I'm using "you" in the general form of "the projects' client". Edited by Narf the Mouse
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I want to point out that it can also be beneficial to have only one person through which the majority of communication with the programmers takes place. It doesn't have to be an unbreakable rule but when you have one person who deals with the programmers most often, they will tend to get to know each others needs and methods better. Also, it's a good way to filter out a lot of the 'noise' that would otherwise be sent to the programmers directly and that issue that one end user thinks is critically urgent is properly classified as the medium priority item that it really is.
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trying to learn how to program as an artist is actually rather hard... its' just a very different way of thinking and approaching a problem.

i studied/degreed in art, and later decided to pick up programming (sadly started with assembly, and now many years later working with C#).. so i think i can completely relate to the OP.

the odd thing about all of this, as a profession... i did NEITHER as a whole, i became a technical manager (the middle man of IT.. you know, sorta like the guy in this scene from "office space": [media]http://youtu.be/mGS2tKQhdhY[/media] ...)

does it hurt to understand how a part of your projects workflow functions to do what they do?  nope.  is it necessary to do it as well as they do? nope.  but i think it can help to understand.

I honestly believe artists and programmers are very similar... creative, complex, and abstract thinkers.

so, to begin programming?  I would say to NOT pick any particular language, but rather learn the concepts to build a good understanding.

Simon Allardice did a couple great training videos on Lynda.com that I took and found to be excellent starting places, "Foundations of Programming: Fundamentals, and Object-Oriented Design".   They are mostly language independent, but show a few examples of concepts in different languages to show syntax differences, etc...

then i would say, pick a language that YOU want to learn.
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Generally speaking I think the bigger concern is the other way around. As a programmer who has spent many a day dealing with artists, the biggest barriers to communication have been when I didn't understand the content creation process well enough and was unable to effectively communicate the necessary constraints or requirements, or fully understand the implications of such from their perspective.

So I got myself a subscription to Digital Tutors and spent a couple of months learning what I could about developing game assets with Max, Maya, ZBrush and MotionBuilder, and typically now I spend at least a couple days a month doing the same, and the communication has become much, much easier.

This is probably not something that every programmer will be able to or want to do, but as somebody else mentioned, there should be one guy on the programming team that can act as liasion between the technical and artistic sides, and it would be a good idea for that person to have a reasonable understanding of the content creation process.
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Prefer talking often, to talking longer.
Prefer sketching small isolated ideas, to excessive feature planning.
Don't always talk at the same desk. Alternate!
'Knowledge transfer': The programmer needs to understand your problems, you need to understand theirs. (alternating helps to see it from both viewpoints)
A pint after work usually solves the very worst problems.
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[quote name='RobTheBloke' timestamp='1349818856' post='4988503']A pint after work usually solves the very worst problems.
[/quote]definitely, unless you've both had a bad day and are lookin' for Trouble (capital T style).ha!
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