what's the approval process like when working on game assets?

polycounter lvl 3
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pableaux polycounter lvl 3
Noob questions: as an artist, when working on a game asset (character, prop, environment piece, whatever), who do you show progress to, and at what point? Specifically:
  • Who's your superior, and/or the person or persons who look at your progress and approve further work or suggest changes and so on?
  • At what point(s) in the blockout, modeling, and texturing phases do you show progress?
  • Do managers try to keep major changes confined to the early stages of working on assets, or do you sometimes get requests for major changes late in the process, resulting in redoing lots of work and burning lots of time? What's usually behind these late-stage revisions?
  • Bonus: is working w/ other artists in a studio pretty collaborative, or do people mostly keep their heads down and work on the assignments they're given, not really helping each other out on a given asset?
I come from a graphic design background, and I've worked both full-time and freelance, with managers and directly with clients, so I'm used to the process there, but games are still a mystery to me.

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  • Ged
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    Ged polycounter lvl 10
    I guess it depends on the studio and on the project. I've had a few different situations. Sometimes its just a matter of here's the concept and budget (tri count, texture sizes etc) and examples of already completed assets, you just get on with it and when you're done show the lead artist / art director. Sometimes I end up working collaboratively, on a large landscape scene for example.  I believe if a project is well managed, they will think of ways to use good assets and not throw them away without very very good reasons. I get the impression that very large publishers may have a lot of money, so to some of them throwing away 1 year of a good art , because of some market research or user test for example, is not such a big deal.
  • Eric Chadwick
    That does happen quite a lot actually. Publishers will definitely switch course mid-project, causing rework.

    One thing that's different about game dev, you will probably be tasked with making temporary assets for early prototypes. This art is almost always thrown away, as the game idea is clarified and the art style is polished.

    In the end you just need to be flexible and go with the flow. Sometimes the development process can be a bit chaotic.
  • Kevin Albers
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    Kevin Albers polycounter lvl 12
    It varies wildly between studios, projects, managers, executive producers etc.
    "In the end you just need to be flexible and go with the flow. Sometimes the development process can be a bit chaotic."   <<< So basically, this.

    My general advice would be to keep your direct 'manager who knows about art' in the loop early on (especially for assets that will take a long time to create).  In a perfect world, often you just deal with that person (e.g. a lead artist or art director), and they can act as a hub for approvals. In an imperfect world, you may have additional people or many additional people who can mandate changes.
  • Add3r
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    Add3r polycounter lvl 5
    My experience thus far with AAA in-studio development as an artist, has been working directly with art directors and designers, as well as surrounding teammates to work out issues.  As for approval processes, definitely art director first to work out their vision and then working through the steps to realizing that vision.  Once it meets art direction's approval, design will make sure it works for game-play, and then iteration happens based on all feedback from whatever point of higher authority.  

    During all my jobs in the games industry, they have been highly collaborative, probably the most of any job I have ever worked.  There is very few, if any at all, projects that I have worked on where I can say I did "X portion" of it 100% independently.  
  • Dudestein
    Like complaints, approvals go up.

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  • pableaux
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    pableaux polycounter lvl 3
    Cool, thx fellas. So basically you might report to a superior artist and/or art director, but it can vary, and there can be multiple levels of approval. I'm used to that.

    Question: what's an art director, in the context of a game studio? Is it someone who in addition to telling lower artists what to do, is *also* a 2D or 3D artist who works on stuff alongside everyone? Or they basically just have a vision and use worker bees to work it out for them?

    The only analogue that comes to mind is a movie director, who has a vision and directs the specialists under them. (W/ the exception of Ridley Scott, who drew his own storyboards and was a damn good artist in his own right.)
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm polycounter lvl 7
    pableaux said:

    Question: what's an art director, in the context of a game studio? Is it someone who in addition to telling lower artists what to do, is *also* a 2D or 3D artist who works on stuff alongside everyone? Or they basically just have a vision and use worker bees to work it out for them?

    Depends. I've worked with ADs who had time to model some stuff themselves, or play around with new tools and workflows. But I also worked with ADs who were more "vision guys", who had time for little else. In any case, ensuring that the game looks uniform - i.e. you can't have styles of different artists mix - and that it sticks to the vision of the people higher up is the main responsibility of an art director. If there's time left beside directing depends a lot on team composition and skill level, and how likely people above trust the AD's abilities.
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