Side note – this post will serve as both my 500 word ‘Reflective Evaluation’ and also my 500 word ‘Identification & Evaluation of New Learning over the Project’, as outlined in the brief.
Now that Lee and Joe have finished with the final version of an actual playable demo of the game – I’m excited to say that after all that hard work it’s available for download here!
It’s probably a good time to look back over our individual and group working methodologies and analyse the effectiveness of those…
As an individual
Examining the Learning Outcomes that I had from the Practice 2 Media module, I would say that many of these lessons have been worked upon throughout this project.
Time management has been a big thing for me throughout the whole year, and in particular this last term as it’s seen the most amount of hours per week consistently put into it. I have a part-time freelance job in Graphic Design, and work at least 2 days a week doing that. Although there has been some raised eyebrows about that in the past and whether I would be able to keep up with the demands of the course, I can honestly say that it’s been a fairly welcome change to have that variety (and also not be massively stressed about a source of income whilst studying).
Project Planning – The Gantt charts that we set at the start of the project with our pre-production folder has been largely adhered to, with a few exceptions. I have reached all of my project deliverables, apart from one – the Dragon Harness, which was swapped out for a Ballista design (full explanation of that here). There was a lot of built in time towards the end of the project where I had anticipated for doing support work for Lee and Joe, and we utilised all of that time pretty efficiently. It also afforded me some extra time to go through everything and get it all into my project presentation sheets, which was also one of my project deliverables.
3D & 2D Techniques, I feel that I’m at a point now where I can comfortably hop back and forth between the two simultaneously, for example doing WIP paintovers on active production models (as blogged about previously), and I feel that as the end of the project got closer I was much more fluid with this. In particular my work with the Plague Wraith I felt was pretty fleshed out and took advantage of almost everything that I’d spent the year learning. I would say that it is one of the stand-out pieces in my portfolio because of this.
Using basic blockouts has also been integrated much more into my style. Whilst ZBrush is fantastic for those organic shapes, it’s great to be able to block out large architectural forms for when it comes to more environment centric concept art. Although my work on the modular designs for the castle relied on some base shapes pre-determined by Joe (thanks to a modular grid system to ensure that everything snapped together)
Digital Painting I feel has also improved, I started the module with a 30 day challenge to paint every day, and did a series of self-developmental studies that had no-relation to the project, but was part of the ‘sharpen the axe’ mantra written about previously. I’ve noticed that I’m less reliant on line work in my concepts (unless it’s been the strictly instructional work like with the Elf Armour breakdowns where that style is beneficial), and am a lot more confident in describing form with colour & light.
Critical self-awareness – As a critically self-aware comment on myself, my work is not yet at the standard that it should be for a professional concept artist.
That is a fairly bleak sounding self-assessment, but I believe it to be a fairly honest interpretation. To have not yet reached a bar where I would consider an Art Director would look at my portfolio and want me on their team is not an analysis that puts limitations on me, or in any way brings down the work that I have done this year, as I believe that having taken the time and effort to really focus on my craft I have improved a huge amount.
I feel that my latest work is beginning to do that, in particular the Plague Wraith designs I believe are starting to be of a professional quality. I feel a few more months of working on building up a portfolio of similar work utilising the same techniques will eventually get me to that position.
This makes me a more effective practitioner because I am honest with myself, my current level of ability and will not have my ego harmed by job rejections. I know there is more work to be done, and that there always will be no matter how good I get.
As a team
Fluid and flexible teamwork have been pretty essential to this project, and I’m pretty happy to say that it’s largely been a success. There have, of course, been very minor problems with miscommunication, but they have had no bearing on the overall project and are minor enough so as not to warrant mention.
Communication – we have a Facebook group chat which is useful for text updates and sending screenshots that we have used every day throughout the project, and we have also have a Google Hangouts where we have spent many of our evenings working together. The screen-share option in Hangouts is very useful for obvious reasons, anyone with a technical question can be helped very easily, and it also enabled me to view Joe and Lee’s live execution of my concepts, which I could comment upon.
A note on team dynamics – Lee has fallen into a role of being project co-ordinator, which is natural, as the project was his idea to begin with. His management style has adapted to our group dynamic – he is fairly hands off for two reasons – firstly he trusts me and Joe to do our jobs, and also he has his own workflow to manage (as well as working freelance himself).
My direct involvement with Lee has been general thoughts and discussions about world-building and art style, as well as working on the Elf character, which went past the concept stage as I then went on to assist with the texture and alpha creation for the armour.
Outside members – Lee is in a better position to comment on the roles of Jan Kaluza (Technical Artist), Matt Jenkins (Character Rigging), Adelaide Coldham (Animation) and Sanna Kempe (Assisting Game Artist), although I have worked directly with Sanna on game assets where I sculpted the high-poly versions and she got them down to being game ready.
Honestly it’s been delightful to work with everyone – all the team members have been highly professional, and most importantly, very enthusiastic about their work.
I cannot comment on professional dynamics within a game studio, as my own personal experience has been from a freelance perspective, but I’d imagine that, as with other types of businesses, the management styles, corporate structure and production pipeline all vary pretty widely dependant on studio size, the type of game being worked on, and general scope of the projects.