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Learning Animation/Illustration for Video Game Art Questions

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Ever since I knew games were made by people (and didn't just appear out of thin air), I've always wanted to make my own. I did make a few games when I was younger, but of course they weren't very good. Maybe good for a 10 year old, but no one played them or would want to.

Anyways, my last game was finished in 2008, when I was 10. Now I'm 18, and I have made nothing at all. I see the main reason being every time I tried to make a game, I'd get discouraged by how bad the art looked. I have attempted to make countless 2D games, and once I got to the art I just scrapped it. Now a few times I made some nice sprites, but I tried to animate them and it was just....terrible. 

Now I'm almost 19 and graduating high school, I have no idea what to do with anything. I still have that same dream, to make video games. Ideally indie games, but it doesn't have to be at first. The thing is, I might be okay at design, but if I can't make a game (which requires artwork and animation) then what am I good for? 

Now comes my questions:

1. I will not go to school for game design because I've heard it's redundant. I have looked at programs for game programming that seem more promising, but I am already decent at programming. I would rather go to school for art and animation for games over anything. Is this a good choice? Should I even go to college at all?

2. If I don't go to college at all, how long do you think it would take me to learn to animate high quailty 2D sprites? 5 years, 10 years? 20? 30?! I am talking quality such as this:


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Dude, no school will make you learn art, the thing school might do to you is make you procrastinate less and practice more, which is what you need to get good at art. Today theres the internet, the only thing school will do for you that you cant do alone is networking with ppl in the area you like (which IS in fact important).


Plus, this style of art (the one you posted) requires more time to produce, GENERALLY a sane person wont do both programming and art aiming to THAT kind of art, cause it take a big deal of time to produce. For example, skull girls took 4 years to get done (if I remember correctly), and had a team of animators. But its not impossible, if I again remember correctly, theres a japanese guy who made a fight game in MUGEN and he did all of the fighting girls characters, all super high pro quality, pretty insane (sorry, I dont remember the name).


Dust an Elysian Tail was made by one guy, he was into animation first, than took a book on xna and made his game.


Its possible, but ppl who make both programming and art aim to more simple stuff, like Spelunky, Cave Story. Its more realistic. Take that into consideration.


Now you already 19, if you have such interest in art, how is that you didnt keep practicing? I never saw anyone getting good at art fast, most good artist I know kept drawing from a very young age and never stopped. I cant guess how much time, but keep in mind it CAN take more than 20 years. Maybe it can be impossible for some ppl?


Why dont you aim for building a team? Its my impression that most indies have 1 artist, 1 programmer and a freelancer sound artist.



If you actually enjoy drawing, than it will never be a waste of time or a bad decision, have fun and keep improving together with your programming skills (try to find an artist to make games while youre not satisfied with your own art). Dont go for something that might be just struggle for years and yet you might end giving up on it.

Edited by Icebone1000

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Dude, no school will make you learn art, the thing school might do to you is make you procrastinate less and practice more, which is what you need to get good at art.

I disagree on this, school maybe can't teach you every thing about art, but it helps a lot. A teacher will be able to tell you what you will need to move to next where self study is the equivalent of stumbling around in the dark. You will find what you wan't but it will take longer and hurt more.

There is also a technical point to art rules that can be used to improve work but rules that need to be understood first, rules that some times can be ignored but only if you know where.


Being self thought isn't bad and is a good place to start, I myself started as a self thought 3D modeler. The thing to note is that you will learn things out of place and even with all the tutorials and books on the internet there will be things that no one teaches.

You should also get a job making your art as soon as you can, it teaches you the practical and industrial side to making art.


As for a time estimate: you can say it takes about six years to learn a new skill with out education. About four years with education, this however is only a rule of thumb and can differ wildly.

After this time you will be making what is known as "professional" art. As most artist will tell you: people will buy your work before you feel that your art is worth any money.

It will take about two to three years, after that point before you feel confidant in your work and start seeing your self as a true artist. It will then take a live time to attempt to master your art.


Last thing you should note is that you will specialize in a field, in your case it could be animation. The reason is that each skill a person learns takes a huge amount of effort to maintain and even more to improve, a single person has only so much time so you can't learn it all even if you wanted. The best part is you will never even be able to fully master the field you pick, there will always be some thing new, a thing you missed or just didn't understand at the time.



If you really want to make games don't go into a art direction. I started 3D modeling to make models for my games, now I spend less than a day a weak on my own games. Lucky it worked out for me as 3D modeling is the only thing I like more than games.

If you find you don't like animating then abandon it, the time and effort it takes to be a good animator will prevent you from making games. Hire a animator instead and focus on what you enjoy.

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If you're not sure where to start, I'm gonna recommend Draw A Box. It's mostly made up of clearly defined exercises, so it's a lot harder to procrastinate. I've heard that being good at 2D will carry over to 3D as well, and you're still pretty young, so you might as well.

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Icebone1000 basically said it all, however I kind disagree on the school-argument (if you really want to and can afford it, go to a school). To answer your question: as a rule of thumb, it takes around 5 years of constant use (at least 5 hours every weekday) of a skill to be on a professional/useful level (some degree of talent required). I just want to emphasize how difficult it is to basically become a master in at least 2 high professions (don't forget audio, finance and management,...) and use both skills (programming and art) in a steady workflow (in order not to become rusty in one of them).

Becoming a one-man sophisticated dev-studio is only possible by pure maths/theory. In practice nobody would dedicate his entire life (and by entire life I don't mean following a profession for all the time but literally ignoring a work-life-balance and neglecting relationships, family,... to transform your human being into a code-and-art-machine) for just one type of job that's not particularly known for stability / chances of getting it.

Nowadays there are options though to make up for lack of practice (besides money/hiring). If you're an artsy type of guy but lack the muscle-memory you can try to design some new game-type around your particular way of composing or as pointed out already keep it minimal. Keep in mind that by taking such "shortcuts" your creative options are very limited but maybe it's worth a shot or two.

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Getting your skills to a professional level in ANY field of work takes years of practice...

And with field of work, I mean being an animator... OR a character designer.... OR a 3D modeller... OR a 3D animator.... and so on. You get the gist of it.


There are some very talented, very hard working people that are able to become competent in many fields of art creation at once. Not every Indie Studio seems to have their own animators, or concept artists AND artists working on the actual game art. Especially in 2D, things are not THAT much different technically, and even a lot of 3D artists seem to try to master multiple stages of the pipeline.


Now, 2 things:


1) What you show here is pretty much HIGH-END 2D Art... I really appreciate people setting themselves high goals (guilty of this myself), but be prepared to face the fact that YOUR animated characters will NOT look like that for many years. It is a good end goal, but DON'T SCRAP whatever you produce with your current skill just because it doesn't match your end goal. This will not only crush your motivation because basically you scrap everything until you loose all motivation, but it will also slow down your growth.

Instead, experiment, see what you can do with your current skills, stay open to what other people do to become both more skilled, and more efficient. Work with simpler styles, learn to live with the errors you currently produce in your art.

Finish something, and be proud of what you are capable to produce. This will give you the motivation boost to keep going, and teach you way more than scrapping your stuff halfway through.


2) No school alone will teach you art. Yes, school is always good for learning some basics... more than that, school is an ideal place to meet likeminded people, exchange ideas and skills, and maybe find friends and teammembers to work and learn with beyond school.

The important part is what you do above and beyond just attending school. Real work projects in any school and subject are rare. And any skill, especially art, is not learned from theory.

Instead, you need to spend 1000s of hours drawing, painting, animating things. Produce something, make mistakes, learn from it, get better. This is where you will turn from Noob to Pro, not when listening to some color theory in school.


That doesn't mean that school has no value... quite the opposite. Apart from some basics (which you COULD learn on your own if you have the selfdiscipline, basics are seldom the most sexy subjects to grind through) you will earn a degree, that might open up a lot of job opportunities you wouldn't get without it. So if you want to work as an artist, an art degree will be highly benefical.

Just be aware that in art, more than in any other subject, without a good portfolio of your own work (for which just school work will most probably not suffice), the degree is not worth that much.



So, long story short.

You are already knowledgeable in programming. Good. That means you would start farther ahead than when going the art route. Now, the 1000$ question: do you enjoy programming? Or do you enjoy doing art more?

Because with 90% certainity, if you aim doing high-end games, and might they only be Indie games, you will need a team of DEDICATED professionals to produce the needed quality and quantity of code and art. Lone Wolf devs do produce some amazing things, but most of the time they will have to cut corners... or they just outsource what they cannot cover themselves (in your case, doing the art).


So rather than trying to improve where you are weak (art), you could also try to concentrate on becoming as competent as possible where you are strong (programming), get a CS degree and spend some free time on making your coding skills shine and start working on some of your own projects again. If you are good, and network well with artists online or in local art schools, you might even find someone to team up with.


You will most probably reach your end goal of making a high-end 2D Indie game with amazing animations quicker than if you try to cover all bases alone.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Dude, no school will make you learn art, the thing school might do to you is make you procrastinate less and practice more, which is what you need to get good at art

But it will teach him to produce art. Producing art and capturing art is nothing trivial.


You can be "greatly competent" for making art even without talent, if you happen to gain knowledge about art, wheather it'd be producing, resulting and effect/critic.


For an artist/designer, it is very benefitial to obtain a school. If it would happen to be some great uni, you cannot be turned away possibly from no one who wish to hire an artist or someone to work at artisitic results.


Without a school, you will never get proffesional in art production, you simply cannot- there will be too many competitors with school on every damn position.

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