Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Generalist Or Specialist?

Coming to the end of my second year has raised  few question for myself. Such as what job area I want to go into in the games industry. But also how do I become more employable.

So should I become a specialist in the field I want to get into, such as being a character artist. Where I just spend all day every day creating awesome characters. Or do I broaden my skill set so that one week I animate characters, then the next week i'm creating foliage for the level. By the end of this post ill hopefully have an answer, or at least a better idea.

Since I first started working with 3D software I've always had a passion for characters, so that’s all I really did. But as I've gone through this course I've started different projects that before I’d never attempt (such as buildings, vehicles and foliage). It’s made me reconsider what field I’d like to get into. I love seeing a massive project through to the very end, seeing the end results of weeks and weeks of hard work. But lately with working on the Crytek ‘Off The Map’ project, I have been really enjoying spending each week working with something completely different. With working on something new every week you never get into a rut where you start to get sick of what you’re working on.

I should focus on being one of these types depending what type of studio (indie or major) I want to work for. If I go down the generalist route I’m going to be more valuable to an indie developer, as they do not have the resources to employ many people. So being able to pick up any task and complete it effectively is vital. Whereas working for a major studio it would be better for them to have a specialised people on board. This is down to them having enough resources so they can employ people who are the best in their field, allowing them to create the best quality assets for the game.

But I do think there is a middle ground which benefits everyone - being flexible within a specialised job role. So a person specialising in being a character artist should be able to rig and animate as well as create the character. A environment artist should be able to use a game engine/script as well as being able to create the assets which go in them. It’s also good to show you can adopt to any type of art style, as some studios only work to one art style (Crytek go for photo realistic whereas Blizzard are known for their hand painted style)

Being ‘T shape’  is also another good middle ground. It describes a person to have some knowledge in all areas, which related to the vertical line on the T. But this person is highly skilled in one particular area, this is represented by the horizontal line in the T.

Vavles model employee

Having knowledge/experience in a broad range of skills is a bonus to any employer. As this allows you to effectively communicate with other people within the team who could have an impact on your work. So for an example if you are a character artist, it’s an advantage to at least know the basics of rigging and animating. As this will allow you to talk to the animation team to solve any technical issues with your model without being lost in translation when talking to them.

I believe this is why technical artist are highly valuable. As they have skills in programming and art creation they can work with programmers but also work with the art team effectively because they can understand the workflow/pipeline for both teams . They almost become the middle man of the two departments.

The way this course is laid out it makes everyone ‘T shaped’, as it makes you work with every type of art in a game (environment/characters/props/vehicles etc. Then you specialise in whatever area you want for your final project. ). This is why graduates from this course have a high employment rate. So from what I've researched I think to become more employable as a character artists I think the best thing I can do is become proficient in rigging and animating along with character creation.

Out sourcing is becoming more and more used by the industry. Especially with the bigger studios, in fact according to the article here 83% of studios outsource. The reason why this is happening is because the economical sate of the country and the industry along the increase of man hours required to make a AAA game. Even with budgets of 10s of millions £s, outsourcing is still a major factor for development studios.

An interesting article on ‘T Shaped’ roles:

An interesting forum debate about being a generalist or specialist:

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