Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 2

And so began Day 2...

Wacom Pester-session
- To start the day off, I decided to give the Wacom booth a visit. They had a few example Cintiqs sitting there, just waiting to be used, so naturally I took it upon myself to stand there, drawing, for two hours on end.
- This actually ended being a great idea. A lot of people stopped and watched for a while. Eventually, the Wacom staff told me to draw the logo in with the dragon I was drawing, so I did. The more I drew, the more people stopped and talked to me.
- I gave out so many business cards that I kept my little card box next to the Cintiq rather than putting it away each time. I met countless students, freelancers, lead artists (a group from Bighuge Games watched for a good while), and even a man from Barnes & Noble.
- If Ringling has their own booth next year, I will strongly urge them to have a Cintiq for students to draw on, as this seems to be an amazing method for instantly catching the eyes of all who waltz by.

Blizzard review

- I had about an hour to kill between pestering Wacom and the Lead Artist Roundtable I planned to attend soon, so I decided to give Blizzard a visit. They had two art staff giving portfolio reviews when I stood in line: Ben and Seth. As soon as I got to the front of the line, Seth (Art Manager) looked at me and said...
Seth: Err, I'm so sorry, I have to go to a talk I'm giving now.
Me: Aw man, really? Wait, is that the artist roundtable?
Seth: Yep, that's the one.
Me: Can I come with?
Seth: Um.. you know what, yeah! Let me just get my things. In the meantime, please let Ben review your work.
- He waited for my review to finish, but he ended up having to go and set up early. Regardless, I got a fantastic review from Ben:
- - - Great creatures, concepts, and colors. Very bold, recognizable, original designs.
- - - If you want to be a concept artist, leave out the 3D stuff (but keep it in your resume!).
- - - More silhouettes, explorations. He was happy that I had a few for my 3D character.
- - - We then geeked out about Wayne Barlowe's creations and books for a good 10 minutes after I mentioned a similar project I'm working on. He told me if I want to specialize in creatures, I could definitely do it. Should that be the case, my portfolio must include a huge variety of creatures and explorations, each one boggling the mind as much as Mr. Barlowe's.

Artist Roundtable Part 1

- After the review, I rushed to the Lead Artists' roundtable Seth Spaulding was conducting. I got there early because Ben understood a review from Seth was important. He gave me similar advice, but still valuable:
- - - Less local colors
- - - Keep the pieces I'm passionate about; leave out the ones I'm not
- - - Keep refining environments to have more, smaller detail
- - - Mention 3D/game design/programming work by spoken word and on the resume, rather than including it with the concept art
Seth particularly liked the green beast, which also appeared on the back of my business card:

It attracted a lot of attention during the entire conference in general.

During the actual roundtable, I mostly sat quietly and listened rather than spoke. The room was filled to the brim with lead artists, art directors, and specialists who wanted to share knowledge of how to manage the job. We discussed:

- - - Asset tracking
It's important to keep tabs on assets. Many of the art leads had issues when several different employees would make the same prop, or would have one of their props handed off to be improved upon without being told. Because of - and as well as - this, they had to make sure all the assets fit together in the game world. If an asset didn't fit, the game would not be uniform. For this reason, they discussed having a good amount of consistency for workflow as well as aesthetic result.

- - - Communication w/ the tools team
The art team can greatly benefit from the tech or tools team, but lack of communication has hindered a lot of potential here. Some artists spoke of their experience with tool creators who had an amazing tool, but no artist was told about it (simply that). The same goes vice-versa; an artist will want a tool but never ask if the tech has something like it, or can create it. In one scenario, the tool was ready and available, but no one knew about it.

- - - Scope control from design & Level of empowerment of artists
Some lead artists had the issue of their underlings doing too much amazing work. They would come up with brilliant ideas and designs which would unfortunately magnify the scope of the game. They had to reel in the creative flow of their team and make sure they stayed on track, but without destroying their imaginative thinking.

- - - Budget
Staying within the confines of the budget. This was a pretty basic topic.

- - - Vertical slice
I had no idea what a vertical slice was at the beginning of the roundtable talk, so I was a tad confused at first. A vertical slice is like a preliminary progress update to show the people investing in your team 'Yes, we can do this, and here's all the cool stuff we have so far to prove it!' Many of the artists had stories about vertical slices. One story involved the vertical slice going too far - they basically had to make the whole game in order to appease. When they needed to make changes, all that effort had gone to waste.

- - - Hard talk
The art directors mostly spoke here, about how to let troublesome employees go without being too harsh. Sometimes the artist was magnificent at their job but simply didn't do the work / get along / meet deadlines. Other times, the artist was the social butterfly, eager to make the team happy, always smiling and fun to be around... but they didn't do work well enough to pull their weight. (Those were the hardest to let go)

- - - More does not always equal better
Speaks for itself - quality over quantity.

Alumni party
- Later that day, we waltzed over to the Ringling Alumni party. Beforehand we stopped for some dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which was a great way to settle down and relax for a bit. At the party itself, I successfully got Amanda tipsy (yesss), and we yelled about nothing with British accents for a good long while. We met and pestered a few Ringling alumn who worked on Metroid, pestered Jim, and almost got a recent CA graduate to sing. It was, needless to say, a blast.

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