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Generating art/content for a game with a small team?

polycounter lvl 2
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jinglesjosh polycounter lvl 2
So a friend and I are working on a game together and we're past the prep phase and more into making mechanics. I'm in charge of all the art but I'm hardly trained in it. I know how to model (kinda) and am trained only in animation. My teammate (in charge of all the programming) Wants me to "generate content" even though I have no access to the engine or build. 

(I can't draw and concept comes easiest to me in 3D) I have no idea where to start or what to do. He thinks I just lack the dedication but I honestly don't know where to start. I have a few ideas of characters or environments but I have no idea how to realize them.

Normally, when working on a project myself, I work in an iterative process. "Gameplay influences art influences mechanics influences art, etc, etc."
Now that another variable has been added, where should I start?  


  • rotblush
    Hey there! So basically you want to start generating content to promote a game?
    Is there any way you could ask for access to the engine or build? Explain that you need to get access to the game to generate content, even if you are working on mechanics, showing WIPs of how those mechanics are going can still count as content.

    Also, if concepts come easiest for you in 3D, try that approach. Make 3D concepts, then you could composite them in any 2D package if you need 2D art for content.

    Those are some ways to start. Hope they are helpful.
  • lefix
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    lefix polycounter lvl 11
    Your game idea ideally should be built around your capabilities. It's an important part of the game design process to understand your constraints. scope your project based on what you are able to build, and you might actually finish the project.
    if you're building some rpg with dozens of characters, animations, locations, you probably won't finish it, even if your programmer is able to build the systems for it
  • Eric Chadwick
    Agree with these assessments.

    If the programmer can't give you an engine to work with, you're screwed. Content depends on gameplay. Style depends on material and render limits.

    I'd suggest using another engine to prototype, then reload all the content in your custom engine once it's ready. Unreal or Unity are good choices for this.
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg ngon master
     Is this for university? It very much sounds like it's for university. If you're a two man team and he won't give you access to the engine that is a major issue. Like everyone else has said already.

    Is your teammate also your friend or are there more people on the team? Was this group formed by you or someone else? Can you add or remove members? Is there a director/instructor that can facilitate changes in the team dynamic? There is very little reason a programmer should be wholesale barring art from being in the current build/engine while at the same time making claims that you lack dedication. Unless there is some deadline approaching that is stopping you from adding or editing to not want to introduce bugs, but it very much sounds like this is the not the scenario. That to me is a red flag for that person working out in your team. Does he just expect  to be doing all set dressing, world building, level design, material work, particle effects, sound implementation, character and animation setup on top of programming mechanics? It's ridiculous.

    If this is university and you're stuck with it I would suggest a conversation with the instructor about that and get it solved before it becomes a greater issue. If it is not I suggest a conversation with the whole team and explain what and why things need to change. I do believe that ignoring the issue and working around it can work short term for an approaching turn in/ deadline but ultimately a discussion needs to happen with the team.

    As for starting with art focus on your block ins first, get an idea of the mechanics and how the gameplay will go through a level and get something interesting and quick that allows for testing of core mechanics and various ideas, you can play with theme here as well and try to nail your desired look and feel through concept work and blocking. After that breakdown what important assets are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Be it a modular kit, level architecture or reusable large assets get production started on those assets.

    If you find yourself getting bored with that switch to some other thing that will be impactful for the whole area/level/game and then come right back to the big important things. Getting burnt on doing a kit happens either push through it or take a day or two detour while remaining productive. I have no idea the scope of this or the timeframe but working on assets that are reusable and will be used a lot is usually the best place to start as you get your broad strokes in that can be refined later on.

    As for how to start, unfortunately there is no easy way. Concepting and reference gathering can get you more in the mood of your entire game and get you hyped for ideas but can also lead you down an endless pit of time wasting and procrastination. You have to just start, you  said it yourself, iterate. Blockin, test, refine, blockin, test, refine.
  • defragger
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    defragger sublime tool
    +1 to what Eric said. Use another engine to test your assets and your workflow. Ideally an engine which uses same file formats and has a similar renderer.

    We had countless textures in UE4. I even built a small level with foliage and had our vehicle in UE4 when we didn't have our level editor and renderer ready.
  • Alex_J
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    Alex_J high dynamic range
    Get the team dynamics squared away first. If you aren't getting paid by the other person there needs to be clear jurisdiction on who is in charge of what and who gets the final say. Teamwork means you bolster each others strengths to get the job done as best you can, not lay out ultimatums in areas you don't understand.

    If you don't know where to start, just start anywhere. Doesn't matter. Presumably you are in the phase where the most important thing is learning. If you have some idea you are going to create a hit you probably need to reel your expectations in.

    As others already mentioned, just try to get everything blocked in at like 50% of detail. Simple block models with flat color textures will be enough to start getting an idea what the game wants to be. The big questions you want to answer are rooted in your art fundamentals. Whats the color palette, hows it affect the mood of the game, what composition should each scene have to guide player where we want, and so on. You can focus on all of that without getting too far into the details of any one asset. There is just one big question you got to keep returning too: "What is the player experiencing right now?"  So as long as you keep that in mind you should always have some idea how to shape your art towards that.
  • jinglesjosh
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    jinglesjosh polycounter lvl 2
    Thanks for all the replies already! A lot of great advice in here for sure! 
    As for what this project is, its just a personal project among me and a single other friend. There's no other team members unfortunately. 
    I had another thought as well. Since im kinda running through an art block atm, would it be practical to hire a concept artist for the time being?  
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg ngon master
    Depends if you have the money to spend, if it's in your budget go for it. You might also just be able to find a concept artist willing to collab with you worth a look either way. Concept art is by no means required to make art but if you think it will help you then  why not
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