Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!


Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 13, 2010

I’ve been using an old-and-creaky version of Blender (around 2.43) for a long time, now. I had an exporter I knew worked for my engine (which is no longer being maintained), and I was pretty used to how things worked. I finally upgraded to version 2.49 – which is getting a little bit old-and-creaky on its own, but AFAICT that is the last version my exporter supported.

It took maybe a half-hour for me to get it set up with the last known update of the exporter, and to test things out to verify they worked. Maybe another hour to learn new ways Blender 2.49 does things over the older version, and to explore the differences in how the exporter now expects data to be formatted. There may be more to know, but it for now I’m productive.

And then I spent about another half-hour or so re-learning stuff I thought I already knew. As it turns out, there are far superior ways of doing things, like UV mapping and rigging, than I’d been using. Techniques that apparently existed even in my creaky-old version. Techniques that probably would have cut twenty or more hours out of my schedule had I taken the time to learn them two years ago.  That may not sound like much, but that’s a very good week of part-time game development for me.

So I guess the lesson is that while there’s no training as good as just hands-on doing it when it comes to game development, you do need to take some time for additional learning. Especially with tools as complex as a programming language or a 3D modeling package.

What keeps occurring to me is that I need to be better on the art side of things. While I may be able to get by to a degree with stock off-the-shelf content and a few horrendously underpaid contractors building up their portfolio, I still need to be able to do it myself when push comes to shove. Why?  Well, let’s see… I’ve had one artist disappear on me, and another one that’s had massive Internet and real-life issues. Content purchased off-the-shelf is rarely exactly what you need, and will often need customization to fit your game. And even if it’s a team member who is actively producing quality stuff, oftentimes there are quick, minor changes that may need to be made at midnight – like moving an origin or mount node around, or fixing a minor texture bug – and it is easier to just make those edits on the spot. It helps to be able to speak to an artist in their own language, as much as possible, so being fluent in the issues they face getting a model to look and work right is handy. There are times where you just need something small done quickly and can do it yourself, or when the rest of the team is overtasked and you can take up a little bit of the slack.  And finally, as I’ve said before, an indie should be able to carry the project on his or her back if necessary for whatever reason.

I still need a lot of practice.

I struggle somewhat giving myself time to practice, as I realize that for the immediate future, it’s not the most efficient use of my time, and my results are sub-par. But at least I can see that I’ve improved a lot. So something is working. I clearly suck less. I’m always about sucking less…

I’m not applying the same logic to music, though. At least not yet. One thing at a time.

So that’s my excuse for spending all my dev time this weekend working on something that looks like a cross between a manta ray, an alien face-hugger, and the Starship Enterprise. It was all about learning, see. And practice. And maybe, with about four more animations and a few more changes to the model, replacement of stand-in content with final art.

Filed Under: Art - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Haha. I know exactly what you are talking about, only substitute programming for art. I CAN program, I know all about using arrays and variables and designing and calling functions, loops, etc. but I don’t THINK like a programmer, and often have one of my programmer friends look at a long function in my code, and then replace it with a single simple formula. Cue head-to-desk, because I can explicitly SEE how the formula works and why – I just would have never, ever, come up with it on my own.

    Of course, I get my own form of gloating in when I turn out an art asset in 3 hours that is better than what they come up with after days of work. I guess that’s why teams exist! ;P

    I guess it doesn’t help you much, but Autodesk recently made all their programs free for students. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of savings! Might be worth enrolling in a philosophy class at a community college *cough*.

    I feel kind of crippled trying to work in Blender. I’m used to using 3DS Max, and I became familiar with Maya in college too. I just miss some of the tools and work-flows I’m used to. However, there is no denying that Blender just keeps getting better and better, and I have seen some amazing work done with it.

    Oh, and you should definitely name the manta face starship monster – “Flying Face Cuddler”.

  • Kelly said,

    The reason why I’ll never work on a 3D game (at least by myself) is because I don’t want to deal with the art. (Also the fact that I hate the z-axis. X and Y are enough for an amateur.) I dunno, somehow 2D art seems like it’d be eaiser for amateur artists, but then my sister is a 2D artist, so maybe it’s just what I’m used to…

    Anyway, learning to make art is a pretty incredible thing. Good luck!

  • Silemess said,

    These are the terrors of the USS ray-hugger. Its continuing mission to explore and enslave the universe’s beautiful oceans.

    It’s always great to learn new things that you can then immediately apply. It’s somewhat less great when what you have already learned is no longer applicable. Glad that your upgrade was of learning new things without losing the useful procedures of old.

  • (name_here) said,

    From what I’ve heard and seen, entirely self-taught programmers tend to do things that work but are really bad, like closing programs by triggering an infinity loop so windows crashes them, or calling up the mail someone else has recieved as part of resolving your attack on them, or having a speech option that executes code typed in (How do you do that by accident?) Programming just has a lot more ways of doing things that work than ways that are actually good ideas.