One of the best panels at C2E2 was “Behind the Graphics: A Video Game Industry Round Table.” Several members of the games industry answered questions and held discussions offering a unique insight into video games. And we’ve got all the info you could need.
The group was moderated by Allen, lead designer at Wideload Games, and featured guests Matthew, an animator at High Voltage; Ryan, founding member of the Men Who Wear Many Hats; Kyle, a programmer for Neatherrealm; Daniel, a technical designer at Wideload; and Seth , art director at Wideload. Between their experience they have worked on games such as Kinect Star Wars, Disney Guilty Party, Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, Organ Trail, and Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse. As each question was answered each member of the panel chimed in with their own opinions and feelings. Now, unfortunately, I can’t directly quote everything said by the panel but hopefully my paraphrased responses can give you a look into the wealth of information shared. If something is in quotations, however, it is a direct quote from the panel.
Question: What do you recommend to people looking at getting into the game’s industry?
Matthew: Being a jack of all trades is not the best of ideas. Focus is very important. If you want to be an artist, be an artist. If you want to program, program. It’s good to look at current games to find where your skill set should be. Your modeling skills should make things that look as good as Uncharted 3.
Ryan: Passion is the most important thing to have. You should constantly do what you want to do and let people discover you. Don’t try to appease to an existing audience. If you like what you do, others will find it. “You make sh*t until one person likes it. Than you have an audience.” The most important thing to do is to do. Having a drive to make a game will help you find what you need to do to make a game.
Seth: Games are a great way to express art. Artists who work for movies will often be texturing rocks while a game artist can work on a realistic medieval world at one time then be making a cel-shaded futuristic world the next. It’s important to keep a focus but understand all aspects of games. As an artist the key aspect is to learn the craft of art. Don’t study other people’s work and how to recreate it but study how to make art. Let your own style grow instead of copying anime or manga.
Kyle: Developers need to know what programmers use and then learn that. Don’t waste time learning programming languages that the industry never touches. C++ is the big language in gaming and learning that is the best way to prepare for a programming job. The best advice for an up and coming programmer is to keep working and become a really good programmer.
Daniel: Details are important. Being detail oriented will help stop bugs and stop problems when they are still little. Some may complain about being obsessive but details make the difference.
Allen: You should know not just the craft of making games but also the lifestyle. Understand the mindset of making games. Don’t lose your passion. The desire to make a good game will turn into the desire to learn your craft. The most important thing to do is not to try and make the thing you enjoy your job but make your job what you enjoy. Find the fun in what you HAVE to do.
Question: How has the changing landscape of gaming affected you and your job?
Kyle: Starting on consoles but then shifting to iOS as a platform is a big change. The baseline technology is very similar but, especially with mobile devices, the differences in control schemes change the way that playstyles can occur. This also changes the way that we think about how to make a game. A differing control scheme can change everything about the game.
Matt: The good thing about being an animator is that in modeling and animation nothing changes.
Allen: The move to mobile gaming changes not just controls but also time. You have to plan for time spent. A console game can build an experience for a player that lasts several hours. Hardly anyone sits with their iPhone to play a game for an hour.
Ryan: As an indie developer, the changes in business practices are really upsetting. The want to make it should be enough to make it. It’s more important to get the game out there rather than make the most money. It would be best to change the current business model. It’s best not to try and make a game for everyone and dilute the experience but rather make a good game for fans and hope they support it.
Question: For an artist, what is the best program to use?
Seth: 3DS Max. Some people at WideLoad love Blender, but the main standard to use is 3DS Max. It’s better to learn the basic skills of modeling and art first, then try and pick up a program. Skills are transferable and while the buttons may be different most art programs are functionally similar. If you’re concerned with cost there are many free student versions to use.
Question: What are your thoughts on used games and how is it best to combat them?
Ryan: Used games are hurting the industry. The emphasis on multiplayer and other ways to extend the use of a game beyond the single player mode is not the best way to stop used games. It only diverts resources away from the single player modes which hurt the game in the long run. There will most likely be one of two things that happens to the industry to get away from used games. Either everything will move to digital distribution or the big publishers will continue to use bad tactics against used games, like safe codes against them, and the whole industry will collapse on itself.
Daniel: Games that have functions you need online for or games that push online multiplayer are not good. Despite what statistics say 90% of Americans do NOT have high speed internet capabilities. Sometimes connections are bad. Many connections aren’t fast enough to play games on a solid connection. Many people are worried about used games but should be more concerned with DLC and disk locked content.
Ryan: The thing about disc locked content is that it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes things are slipped on at the last minute or the beginnings of plans are made and there’s not enough time to finish it. There’s a delicate balance between pleasing fans and making money.
Daniel: Sometimes disc locked content is made because a developer needs to keep working. Studios are closing left and right. Having idle time while working on a development team is a very bad thing. You need to keep working.
Allen: I’m not against used games exactly. What I’m against is companies pushing used games immediately after a games release. If you go into a store a week after a big title is released, they have a used copy that they’ll offer you. There’s also a set of rewards programs for people who trade in titles as soon as possible. Now obviously buying a used game two or three eyars after release can’t be stopped and is possibly good. Having a discounted title you never played might five you incentive to play it. Having that same discounted title after a few weeks is bad. There’s a lot of layers to making money in games and used games cut out a lot of the money that developers see from consumers.
Daniel: The biggest industry problem right now is the middleman. Publishers and stores are seeing way more of the profits than the people actually making the games.
Allen: There needs to be better communication and connections between the consumer and the developers. That’s why Kickstarter is such a great thing.
Much more information was shared so be sure to check out Part 2 of our panel coverage.