IN THE RING is a monthly comparison series that gives you insight on different careers in the creative industry and what they offer.
This month, we will focus on Game Development and Animation Production as major tech-related careers with increasing demand.
Game Development is the process of converting the sketches, layouts and storylines of proposed game designs into actual games. This is accomplished by writing tens or even hundreds of thousands of lines worth of computer code, which accurately represents what the designer had in mind.
Key Skills for Game Developers
- Designers must be creative
- Have the ability to tell a story and be able to work as part of a team
- Understanding of programming languages
- Ability to tell a story
- Tram player
- Problem-Solving Ability
- Communication Skills
- Ability to meet deadlines and client requirements.
Job Roles for Game Developers
- Concept artist
Concept artists help develop the visual style, setting and characters for a game from the outset and throughout production. They provide other artists with the starting points for their work. Producing concept art can involve traditional and digital art skills.
- 3D modelling artist
Using concept art as reference, 3D modelling artists create the 3D objects, buildings and characters needed for a game. They can use a variety of software tools including Maya, Modo and Z-Brush. The technical constraints of the game must be kept in mind, for example, the poly count for each object and scene and the size of the textures for each 3D object.
- Environment artist
These artists create the immersive worlds that bring the gameplay to life for the player. Environment artists blend artistic and graphic design skills with knowledge of technical processes and understanding of how colour and light interact. They and the software they use work in 3D space.
- Special effects (SFX) artist
Elements like smoke, fire and water are made by the SFX artist. They will work within the constraints of the game engine to create elements that enhance the player’s experience and the immersive nature of the game.
- Texturing artist
Every model or character in a game will need to be textured. One of the skills of a texture artist is to put detail into each 3D model’s textures, with the smallest amount of data. Simple “flat” textures make 3D objects look fake. Adding imperfections to perfect textures is one of the tricks a texture artist can use to make 3D environments and objects look real.
- Technical artist
Technical artists set up and maintain the art production workflow, as well as deciding which packages and tools a studio should use and investigating new technologies and techniques. They are the bridge between artists and programmers. They are employed by development studios, and as a specialised position, have pay rates higher than normal artists.
- Lead programmer
The lead programmer manages the software engineering of a game, developing the technical specification and then delegating different elements. They usually compile technical documentation and ensure the quality, effectiveness and appropriateness of all the game code. They also manage the production of the different ‘builds’ of a game, ensuring that coding bugs are fixed, and making sure everything happens on schedule. The lead programmer must also provide support and guidance to the programming team, which can include specialism in games engine programming, graphics programming, gameplay, physics, artificial intelligence (AI), tools development, networking and build engineering.
- Gameplay designer
Gameplay designers set the rules and define the possible actions within a game, as well as the mechanics of the gameplay. The rules and possible actions can evolve during the gameplay, as the players progress through levels.
- Level designer
The level editor designs a portion of the game usually referred to as a ‘level’, specifying all possible actions and events, the environment, layout, visuals, characters and objects and their behaviours. The level editor sketches ideas to be worked out in 3D and tested. They will also draw up an inventory of level ‘assets’ (objects and programming requirements), always maintaining an understanding of advanced technologies, technical constraints and what makes entertaining gameplay. The work of a level designer ensures that each new stage of the gameplay presents new challenges for the player.
- Audio programmer
The audio programmer produces the game’s sound design, working with sound engineers, composers and designers. They can develop tools to help realise the overall design. Games are non-linear, interactive experiences and the audio programmer needs to keep that in mind, in addition to technical constraints and tight production deadlines.
Animation Creation is a way of making a movie by using a series of drawings, computer graphics, or photographs of objects (such as puppets or models) that are slightly different from one another and that when viewed quickly one after another create the appearance of movement.
Skills of an Animation Creators
- Understanding of 2D animation process, including camera mechanics
- Understanding of animation principles including pose, timing, squash and stretch and how they should be applied
- Understanding of layout, composition, editing and film structure
- Understanding of relevant software and post-production possibilities
- Ability to communicate clearly with colleagues and work as part of a team
- Ability to take direction and a willingness to address comments and make changes
- Work with minimum of supervision
- Manage task priorities and meet agreed schedules
Job roles for Animation Creators
In character animation, animators could be cast, like actors, for their particular talents – comedy, dialogue, action, charm or simply their ability to animate certain types of character. They may be involved with pre-production to collaborate with model makers and riggers to ensure the models or puppets are prepared for action.
- Model maker
Model makers create the physical character models used in stop-motion animation. The precise responsibilities vary depending on the technique and mechanics of the models involved, and on the scale of the project.
- Storyboard artist
Storyboard artists illustrate the narrative, plan shots, and draw panels to demonstrate action and to maintain continuity. They may need to update their work to reflect a changing script or feedback. They may be required to prepare the storyboards for production. These include indications of dialogue, character performance and camera moves. Storyboard artists need to be aware of any relevant technical or budgetary restrictions related to the production, and they are responsible for delivering the storyboard on schedule.
- Layout artist
Layout artists plan the action of scenes and are likely to draw both the background and character elements within a shot. To do this, they translate the storyboard into a format and size that can be utilised by the animation and camera departments. This involves referring to production designs and model sheets to ensure the animation is on model (in style). Experienced layout artists will also plot the camera moves and give clear technical instructions.
- Animation director
Animation directors are responsible for the quality of the animation, for keeping it on brief, and for delivering consistent performances. They guide, supervise and review the work, understanding the implications of performance, style, quality, continuity, technical, scheduling and budgetary requirements. They keep the animation on model and often provide the main liaison between the animation department and those who are involved in the later stages of the production process.
- Digital painter
Digital painters add colour to the line images created by animators, using programmes such as Animo, Toon Boom, Opus, Toonz or Photoshop. They must follow the references they are given, and be aware of continuity requirements. Where appropriate, they may clean up the before colouring. Digital painters usually work as part of a team, under the supervision of a head of digital colour and compositing.
Inbetweeners are responsible for producing neat and accurate in-between drawings. They must be able to adapt to the style and technique of different productions and be aware of the schedule in order to deliver on time. Inbetweeners are often asked to produce cleaned-up drawings. This is often an entry-level role in the animation department and may provide an ideal opportunity to acquire both practical animation skills and a solid foundation for future work.
- Match move artist or 3D tracker
Match move artists position tracking points on live action shots to work out the coordinates in the relevant 3D programme. The information they provide enables the CG geometry to fit accurately and convincingly into the live action plates when elements are composited. Without accurate match moving, the later stages of production will not work. They work with current software, training or re-training as software develops.
Whether you want to become a game designer or an animator depends on your interest levels in the aspects of the job.
If you get a thrill from seeing a project from start to finish, getting your hands into every aspect of the job, and designing new and interesting mechanics, you’d probably make a better game developer or designer.
If you like the idea of applying complex technical skill and attention to detail towards making the game world or movies seem real, you would probably make a better animator.
Bear in mind the skill level required for each job, too.
A designer needs a broad but shallow understanding of all elements of the design process, whereas an animator needs narrow but deep technical knowledge about animation.
If you’re considering a career as either a game developer or animator, start your path with ADMI.