Mods/Games using temporary art, your opinion?

So I can't go into it yet but I have a decent sized team trying to develop a pretty serious and complex SP/MP mod/game for the UDK. Currently we want to try and get as much stuff done at possible before our next semester starts up. However, while we are still learning certain things (like for me, Sculpting), everything else is kinda just hanging around waiting for normal maps to then make textures to then rig and get in game and such.

Is it "bad" to make temporary art that doesn't look like ass to use in public renders and promotions, stating that, and going back later on to fully develop the game assets? Or should I really just keep trucking and holding on to do everything to the fullest. I realize option A could end up being a lot of extra work, but just wanting opinions

thanks guys, always helpful :)


  • Tyler
    From personal experience with my team, i would say its good to make ass-ugly prototyping art, to get gameplay working, etc. But if you want to appear to be a half-professional team to the public, it actually takes a lot of work to market your game/mod correctly. So i would suggest you perhaps polish some artwork for an announcement/regular update to a blog/website. But have internal stuff that is in place of assets that will come later.

    They way we do it, is we try to get everything to a decent quality to start with, perhaps missing specular or normal maps (sometimes assets just have basic block colour diffuses too), then pick a location in a level of the game/mod and polish it up to a finished level, so that you can show that off.

    Some people might say its not the best, but remember, as soon as you announce a project, when people see something, they wont understand if its work in progress or not, the first impression will last, and they might hesitate to check back on the progress of the project later on.

    Its always nice to show in-progress stuff as well though, just so long as all of the work in half-finished, some behind-the-scenes articles/interviews with team members on a project blog is another nice way to market a project.
  • willy-wilson
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    willy-wilson polycounter lvl 8
    Gameplay first, with "programmer art" or just quick crappy art, then when the gameplay is solid move onto flushing out the art side of things.
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher ngon master
    most of the games I have worked on have a polished but short vertical slice to begin development after pre-pro. a couple levels or so of decently polished art content that showcases all the games major features or Pillars. by getting this vertical slice done and functional it give something to start marketing shots going.

    during actual production its always seemed to be get it done and in to an alright level of quality until alpha where everything is in place then go and selectively polish areas/characters/items etc to get the biggest visual upgrade in the time remaining before shipping. That's why games tend not to be shown before alpha and all the hype/marketing is done in the last 6 months or so as the visuals come together. almost every game has a time period of lookin' not so hot with temporary art in to get everything functional.

    I would recommend shooting for a vertical slice rather than an entire massive project right off the bat if possible so you can properly estimate an entire production.
  • cholden
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    cholden polycounter lvl 13
    For major shapes, such as scene composition, I like to throw in placeholder art. This is a very common practice.

    A great example was one of my leads once built placeholders for a set of buildings. These were simple boxes with similar silhouette to concept and accurate in game scale. This allowed designers to begin placing assets while the buildings were handed out to different artists.

    What I'm currently doing at work I pretty much dumped all my ideas in a level and started cleaning and polishing there. As I find with some engines I can polish all day in max and photoshop but it doesn't matter till I see it in game.
  • konstruct
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    konstruct polycounter lvl 13
    It even has a name if you want to add some fancy words to your vocab: Proxy meshes FTW!

    P.S. Chris you suck.
  • [SF]Three9
    Thanks for all the advice everyone, I feel a bit less stressed out then lol

    @Skulburn sounds like good info to me

    @PixelMasher, yea don't worry we aren't trying to do the entire thing in 1 release lol. It's going to be released in a series of phases. Going to go with MP first, then sections of the single player, all the while updating and fixing things

    @Cholden Yea when we were at Evolve CG the lead environment artist from Naughty Dog encouraged doing that for maps.

    @konstruct thanks, maybe one day I can actually sound like im in the industry :D...But I wasn't totally referring to just meshwork, textures mostly
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 13
    konstruct wrote: »
    It even has a name if you want to add some fancy words to your vocab: Proxy meshes FTW!

    P.S. Chris you suck.

    also referred to as Grey Boxing, as in "lets grey box this zone first"
  • Michael Knubben
    That, or Blockout.
    I've heard all three used, but it all boils down to the same thing.
  • McGreed
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    McGreed Polycount Sponsor
    It's always better to get everything blocked out and just get an general idea on how it all works, before creating everything to final, this way you avoid wasting work that you might have to change later on because it just don't work. Simple example is creating a room and its size, I discovered that even using real life units, when you place something ingame, it might look to small and too large and in this case, the room felt VERY small.
  • r_fletch_r
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    r_fletch_r polycounter lvl 7
    Blockout is a damn good idea. If you make an inventory and create some basic volumes to represent your assets you can pass them off to the artists. the artists are happy because they have a volume to fill, and when its done it will fit. and the level designer can get on with making a playable space. Personally I'd see it as a very organised professional workflow. If you read interviews with the guys from epic they seem to advocate this workflow.

    I did some mod work a couple of years agon and this would have saved so much heartache for the artists.
  • [SF]Three9
    Don't want to keep bumping this with thank you's so i'll make this the last one, but once again thank you everyone for all the advice and tips ;)

    <3 polycount
  • Zack Fowler
    +1 to what Pixelmasher said, first of all. To add to that, prototyping, greyboxing, mockups, blockouts, whatever you want to call it, is a pretty much a required practice at this point for anything that animates. The process of making a final character or creature asset is so complex and unfriendly to iteration that you need to figure out stuff in advance. Blockouts also crucial for starting on a new section of environment when you don't already have an extensive back catalog of assets to pull from. Even then, many may argue you should go down the blockout path before dropping in any already finished media anyway.

    Here is a good article on the subject with a focus on character/creature design: Gamasutra Feature - Concept Pipeline. I'm not sure I agree with some of the generalizations and statements made on the first page, but as I recall the rest is a solid case study on the importance of prototyping.

    If you think of your project as a handful of extremely complex illustrations, the best approach is to rough out the big compositions and gradually zoom in by degrees while passing over the whole image, not by starting in one corner of the picture and making inch by inch of finished art until you've filled the frame. That analogy breaks down a bit because you can crank out final game asset after final game asset once you've figured out your process and standards, but up until you've created that "vertical slice" that Pixelmasher mentioned the analogy holds up pretty well.
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