As we round the final corner towards the end of Shibe Warz development, just about 2 months overschedule, a number of things have been brought to our attention as novice video game developers. And as the lead art director, many of my particular problems lay within my realm of the artwork.
Simply put, as we began Shibe Warz back in the first week of October, I did not know what I was doing. As an aspiring artist, I'm completely self-taught with no background in classical art. Walking into this work I knew it would not be a piece of cake, but I never realized the depth of my ignorance. My background is in classical literature, philosophy, astronomy, and scientific philosophy. This aids me in helping to develop video game concepts and to analyze nuance, but it absolutely does not help me toward my artistic goals. Before Shibe Warz, my technical "skill" was ever-broadening into the realm of not only 3D modeling and texturing for Spell Bound, but also into 3D animation and environment dressing.
But while my technical skill was increasing into new realms of understanding, I was still ignorant of all of the fundamental basics of artistry. I had, and still really have, no idea what to do with all of the technical information being absorbed at near-light-speed. Composition, shading, blocking, even the color wheel was unknown to me. Well, it was "known," like everybody "knows" the color wheel exists. But I never understood the intricacies of its combinations, corollaries, and contrasts/blends.
It's embarrassing, really. Very, very embarrassing. Looking at my complete lack of theme and concept work for Shibe Warz, and realizing that there's no where to go but "through" to the end of this project, I feel as though I've just been playing an entire high school Talent Show in my underwear with my violin upside down. And I didn't realize it until the final thirty seconds of a ten-minute set.
My point is, I have more learning ahead of me in the next ten years than I've had in the past 30 (I turn 30 next week, by-the-by). Over the holiday my girlfriend surprised me with what is probably one of the most life-changing gifts I'll receive in the next decade: Drawing Basics and Video Game Art, by artist and game designer Chris Solarski.
Solarski does incredible work which you can view on his website www.solarskistudio.com, or follow him on Twitter. Basically, he began the same way I have begun, with a growing knowledge of 3D graphics design (while I have not received a degree in this field, he did), and he began his foray into the deeper wisdom of art technique only after he realized he was lagging behind much better graphics artists who were classically trained. After several years of study, he wrote the above book which I now own and am poring through every day.
I won't bore you with details, but I will say that I have a lot of work cut out for me in the next 365 days. I began putting pencil to paper today at Starbucks (as you can tell from the photo) with the first lesson from this book, and I am committed to practicing Solarski's techniques for an hour each day until February 28th, or until I complete the book. For our next project, a fully 3D, co-op-centered First-Person Shooter code-named "Red Shift", we have already decided on a 1-month timeline for preliminary conceptual work, during which I will be both practicing and conceptualizing the game's horrifying subterranean world.
I will be ready.
My real piece of advice for other aspiring game designers, not only artists but all aspects of game design, is to pay attention to that sense of ignorance that you get when you enter a new realm of your work. It's vitally important that you know your own weaknesses and where you need to improve, as much as knowing your strengths. While you're just starting out in your field, chances are not-astonishingly high that you're entering well-traveled territory and someone else in the world (either through a terrific book or a YouTube tutorial) can help you get through it easier than you could alone. Learn all you can about your field.
As a final point, we at Verus have decided that we will no longer publish "Verus" blog articles on a weekly basis. We are now moving it to a "monthly" schedule for main Verus articles, especially pertaining to our projects and major changes/ideas/plans with them and us as a collective. Nicholas is working hard to bring a new section of this website online called the "Dev Corner", which will contain our individual blog entries and will be relatively unscheduled. We'll post our future diatribes (such as this one) there on a personal basis.
Hopefully you've made it this far in reading, perhaps learned a few things along the way from this entry, and I didn't bore you to tears. Thank you for reading! Tomorrow's another day, but don't let them go to waste. LEARN!