Left Brain / Right Brain

Video games are a strange beast I’m finding. When people hear the term “Game Developer” they generally may think about Programmers and maybe if I’m lucky, Designers. They envision men with glasses and ill lit rooms with the colors of the screen dancing on the wall. Like an Indian spirit walk in 5.1 surround sound. Some people do miss the other part of that – the art. It doesn’t occur to them that every level, every model, every picture is built, modeled or drawn by somebody. In real game development these artists are most of the team. The reason the Programmers and Designers are in a small little room is because the Artists are taking up all of the rest of the room in the building, their mouse/brush/tablet wielding Legions filling the rooms to the rafters.

To wit – My team has 4 people in it. Two of them are Artists. I still think they’re overworked. If you add me, then we have 2-1/3 artists or almost 60% of the team.

Of course, they’re important. Some could argue that a good game is made 0f mechanics, and technically, those could be done by Programmer alone. But they’re missing the point. Adventure looks like ass. Oblivion looks like what meth must feel like – amazing. One some level, they’re similar, but with one, you pretend you’re looking at something awesome, the other you are actually looking at something awesome. The artists are doing all of that. The art is always the part that people see.

However, I’m finding that they are a totally different breed than other developers. They’re like the Programmers and yet totally unlike them. They both have jargon and etiquette I don’t always understand. But even worse, they can almost not communicate with each other. Or at least, I can’t.

I’ve been trying for the last few days to see how my artists are doing, and the generally, they seem confused by the level layout. When I did it, I used the editor and clicked around and found the levels and knew how they connected and all that. I figured that everybody could do that. What I’m finding is that isn’t always the case. I’ll rephrase – I used the Editor that I programmed and I designed to get the work I needed to do. It didn’t occur to me that the process was convoluted, and my lack of documentation (I feel a “What Went Wrong” coming on) for the tools means that only somebody with either first hand experience or hard core technical knowledge would be in a position to easily do work that way. In other words, the tools were not built for Artists, they were built for Programmers.

One of the artists said, and I paraphrase, “Less Tech-ie, more Art-ie.”

So, it may have been unfair to assume that the problem isn’t mine. I think I’m onto a way to help and do something bordering on the cool, but I think that this is always an issue. These differences between what is needed and what expected, between ways to work, the Left Brain and the Right. I think that I, as the Designer, as the Director, need to be able to communicate to both. I have to live in both worlds and be able to translate and coordinate. Grr…I’m not a Designer, I’m a freakinBard.

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