12/30/2012

Gamedev vs. creativity

I wanted to continue the topic of ideas for games. Last time I stated that the gamedev companies rarely need external ideas and I mentioned that they have enough of their own. Now many people might imagine that once they somehow get into game development, their ideas will finally get heard, used and praised. The industry oldies would probably disagree here, just because they wouldn't want to get your hopes up, but... Yes, once you are in, you do have a nice chance to show off your creativity!

There are of course various positions in the industry. Some are very strongly based on creativity, some can be completely devoid of creativity-based tasks. The most logical question to be asked here is "which ones are the creative ones?" and sadly, the answer is the all-hated "it depends". Sure I could, for the sake of argument say, that in general a concept artist gets to use his artistic ideas more often than a producer and in most cases I would probably be right. Sometimes though, the Art Director has a vision so strong, that the concept artists don't come up with too many ideas, they just follow the guidelines to draw armors, spaceships or ponies exactly like the ones the AD needs. At the same time, the Producer could be deeply involved in game design area and be in charge of the whole game's coherence.

Comparing the amounts of creativity in each role aside - I'd like to show how some of the gamedev jobs might be perceived and what "uncreative" elements they contain. This list is by no means complete, some jobs I just don't know enough about to include here.

CONCEPT ARTIST
Generalization: A guy that sits and draws cool stuff that then gets used in the game.
What can happen in reality: Tweaking the same concept for days or even weeks, recycling concepts, hours of looking for references, hundreds of feedbacks and overpaints for the 3D modellers.

3D ARTIST (character or environment)
Generalization: A guy that builds cool locations and models.
What can happen in reality: Tweaking the same concept for days or even weeks. Trying to work with a really blurry concept and then hearing "it's not as cool as the concept" and "it lacks details" at the same time. Months of adding tiny details to the architecture, tweaking the textures. This job requires patience. Really.

GAME DESIGNER
Generalization: The guy that comes up with the whole game.
What can happen in reality: The idea for the game might have just been given to him and his main role is to design gameplay elements on a very numeric level (how the damage changes thanks to strength, armor, upgrade level, weapon type, range, weather, type of surface, number of destructible walls and price of oil in 1950). 

PRODUCER
Generalization: The guy in charge of whole project.
What can happen in reality: Lots of micromanagement, problem solving, motivation issues with team members, PR conferences, productivity reports, budgetting, middleware negotiations, paperwork, paperwork, paperwork...

Yeah, I know hot it sounded...

Of course, what these jobs offer is always somewhere in between. We all need to remember that a job in gamedev is a job. You get paid for it and it just so happens that a bigger or smaller part of it is something you love doing. 

Getting back to the ideas part - from what I have seen, internal input is very often appreciated. Cool concepts are flying around on a daily basis and really, lots of them get to be used. No matter what you do in there - test, draw or sign papers. If your idea really adds to the game's core esthetics and is reasonable productionwise, there is a big chance it might get implemented. In the end, after a project ends, you might not be able to say "I came up with the idea for this game", but there will be lots of team members that could say "this is my bossfight idea" / "this is my crew management idea" / "this is my idea for presenting achievements".

Trust me - in AAA industry around the world there ain't a single person that could say "I designed this whole game". All the biggest games are a joint effort and when working on them, you have a really big chance to add your ideas here and there. Just don't expect people to implement all of them.



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