Crafting a Series Pt 2 - My Production Process

General / 25 novembre 2018

Hello Again!

So I've been getting some questions regarding my process and how I deal with finishing projects in time so I thought I'd just jot down my thoughts here.

I think the first steps to how to achieve something like this is to compartmentalize what you’re trying to make. It's way to easy to become overwhelmed if you start thinking about everything at the same time. Big projects have a natural order to them and a lot of the time it's easier to follow the same structure that most game-titles follow.

But here is a recap of the steps I take for each project I do:

GATHERING REFERENCE

I think the first step I usually do is to gather reference and I think most experienced artists does this, I gather a huge amount of reference; everything from concept art, to video-game art to real life reference. I usually stack everything in on folder and then I tend to move things over to more organized folders once I've figured out what I like and don't like.

The most important step here for me isn't that each concept need to fit the style that I'm currently aiming for. You can easily get find real life photos with great composition that can work for you, swap buildings with trees, swap the main portrait person to a shrine etc. Don't limit yourself to only look at the style and concept art.

Oh and the most important thing:
IF you're working from reference completely like the Artstation Challenges, then it's important to pick the right concept.
The Right concept is the concept that has great composition, great storytelling & actually viable for production in 2 months. 

This is the most important thing.

The more experienced you are, the easier it gets to quickly breakdown an environment in your mind into chunks of time you would spend on asset creation but doing some initial calculations is always good to do before you decide to jump head-first into making an environment.


COMPLETING THE GROUNDWORK

Getting the groundwork over with is pretty important and it's something that I usually do first before anything else.
I tend to ask myself a bunch of questions to just start to narrow my scope and nail down what I want to achieve

  • Should I make a realistic piece or a stylized one?
  • Should I make an interior or exterior?
  • Should I use Lightmaps or Dynamic Lighting? 
    • What are the pros & cons?
  • Do I want to have a day night cycle? 
    • What are the pros & cons?
  • Should I make an open world or contained levels? 
    • What are the pros & cons?
  • What visual design pillars should I have? 
    • Dark / Gothic / Happy / Colorful / Busy
  • What is the absolute basics of the lore of my piece?

etc

NAILING DOWN THE ARTSTYLE & BASIC ASSET PRODUCTION

The next step I usually take is to try and nail down my art-style, this isn't something that is easily done, for realistic art its pretty straight forward but for everything else, then this becomes a pretty important step to do:

I Generally do visual development of each asset type:

  • How should my trees look like? 
    • Create workflow ->  match visual style
  • How should my rocks look like? 
    • Create workflow -> match visual style
  • How should my grass look like? 
    • Create workflow -> match visual style

etc

After that:

I ask myself : is this workflow viable for production when I'm all by myself ?


This is an important point because generally people tend to have a workflow/pipeline that is way too cumbersome, like creating unique UVs and normal maps for each individual asset they create. Sometimes it's just too much so you kinda have to figure out a good middle-point that is sane and viable for you otherwise you won't finish in time or you'll just overwork yourself.


So this is why figuring out the "ground-work" is important. You need to get a grasp of how long it'll actually take to create an environment with the style you want to do. Sometimes I spend weeks before a project "really" starts to just do research about shaders, colors, compositions, visual pillars. So that when the time comes, I can focus on just making art.

In my latest piece Western Challenge -  the Demons Control Us, I used mostly Stock Textures that come from UE4. It's a shortcut I decided to take because I was spending so much time just dealing with the baked lighting.

Yep, that's right so what I'm trying to say is:

TAKE SHORTCUTS

So Game-Art is all about taking short cuts, to finish you're going to need to take some short-cuts. There are always quicker ways of working, every asset doesn't have to be super awesome quality. This becomes even easier the smaller your project is.


REACHING THE FINAL STAGE - SACRIFICES NEED TO BE MADE

I usually plan an escape plan for myself, this might sound weird to you guys but I tend to compartmentalize my projects so that I can make sure that I can chop it in half or more if I have to. It's something I started doing when I started making projects a while ago that I never finished, it's so that if I feel overwhelmed or life happens then I can half my project time or more.

If you make an interior scene, I make sure it can look good with the whole room or if I feel like chopping it up then I do a corner of the room.
If you want to make a forest + creepy house, then the creepy house is probably on the chopping block first if you start feeling overwhelmed.

During this I also tend to make an Excel sheet of all my planned assets, this includes VFX, Shaders, Lighting, Assets, Environments, Animations.


Assets are prioritized from Green text to Red,  Green Text = vital for the scene, Yellow = Good to have , Red = Nice to have but not necessary

But then I also mark out the stages, initial stage = Prototype, Revisit = Second pass, Polish = Polish.

So what I tend to do is to deal with everything that I've marked with green text, those are the most important things for the scene. It's the absolute bare-minimum needed to create a decent art-piece. The rest is just cherry on top.


WELL THIS IS ALL FINE AND DANDY BUT WHAT ABOUT REAL LIFE?

Looking at this huge blog-post I still feel like I haven't given any decent answers to anything maybe because every step of the way could probably be a lot more detailed. There is no straight path to success sadly, there are things that help for sure but in the end, discipline & hard-work will carry you all the way to the finish line. That and an unhealthy amount of energy drinks.

Either way, I'll try to show off as much of my thinking and production in this blog. I'm going to start writing the next one now already and it's what... 3:15am? Oops.


Until next time!

Warping Out
/Chris Radsby