Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Eye-O Festival, Day -1

    I came to a really interesting realization this morning over some incredibly hot coffee (plus, Dunn Bros coffee on 15th? Yes, just, yes) that this may be the first time I've gone to a conference where I'm actually NOT interested in networking.  I mean, don't get me wrong, it'd be great to get my name out into the space a little, but I'd rather do it through real work.  Putting a few samples on github doesn't really count as compelling work, no matter how extensive the development might be (for the record, it's not much at this point).

    In all honesty, my interest lies in mapping the space, and again, not for a networking standpoint, I'm very interested just to see who's doing what in general, mainly because I think all this stuff is really cool (oddly enough, what brought me to intel).  I think if I had meant to network really hard, I would've tried a bit harder to make sure I brought business cards, so maybe my brain just knows things that I don't.  Yeah so, really excited to get a look at what people are working on, and just spend a few days writing code.  Workshops start tomorrow, first up D3 with Scott Murray, followed by Applied Math with the man himself, Memo Akten.  Mind preparing to be...expanded at least, probably blown.

My God, It's Full Of Code...

    So, here's a subject I don't talk about a whole lot, but it's definitely something I think about, for one reason or other.  This particular thought thread stems from my reading of this article: Intel Capital creates hundred million dollar Perceptual Computing fund.  Now, aside from this reinforcing my belief that it's time for me to go independent, a few things caught my eye.  First, there was the opening statement:

"That’s a lot of money, tech-art fans."

Second, the term "Tech Art" appeared in the Categories list for this article.  So of course I had to click on it and see what other articles fell under that category.  Quite an interesting list, one of them being an article highlighting the release of processing 2.  Being here at Eye-O festival, now somewhat surrounded by people who make art by writing code, really makes me ponder that term "Tech Art" and what a "Tech Artist" really is.  I'm probably not very qualified to speak on what the future of "Tech Art" as a game development discipline is, but ultimately, I'm not really sure there's such a thing as a Tech Artist in games anymore.  Well that's not true, but I definitely think they're becoming fewer and further between.

When code meets art (or at least my feeble attempt)...

    You see, somewhere back up the line, Tech Artists became much more specialized, almost to the point where I'm not sure the title "Tech Artist" was really applicable anymore.  All of a sudden we had riggers, technical animators, dcc tools developers, shader programmers, even physics artist, but to me, a proper Tech Artist was all of these things.  I wrote my first auto-rigging tool in 2002, and I wrote my first Cg (proper Cg, not CgFX) shader not much later, and you know, back then that was the job.  When that "normal mapping" thing started to be whispered in games circles (a lot longer ago than most of you kids think), I was one of the first people to write a normal map extractor from Maya and a Mental Ray shader to test it.  Yep.  And again, that was just the job?  A Tech Artist was rigger, dcc tools programmer, shader writer, fx artist, jack of many different languages, and sometimes even modeler and renderer.  I feel like nowadays, that original diversity and spirit of exploration that defined tech art once is gone, and now the extent of it is finding new ways to solve the same old problem inside whatever tech art sandbox you've chosen.  Sheesh...borrow someone else's solution and use all that free time to learn something NEW, trust me, your pipeline isn't that complex, and your toolchain requirements aren't that special.  Your production process is not a unique delicate flower, for shame.

    I can't really say if the current trend of specialization is going to continue, I imagine it will and people will make the argument that the increasing complexity of AAA game content will require it, but you know, I went from PS2 and low spec PC all the way to the dusk of the 360 and PS3, and I think I chose to work faster and smarter, rather then continue to add complexity to my chosen sandbox (or job security, whichever you want to call it).  I think it's that approach to Tech Art that continues to serve me well in the world of RED, and just to get a little sentimental, it warms my heart to see that original spirit of Tech Art continuing to live on as Creative Coding.

    Andrew Bell said it best at Eye-O last year, TDs (and of course, TAs) are Creative Coders for games and film.  I think this was much more true back in the day (FUCK ME I'M OLD), and I'd like to see Tech Artist return to that original spirit of exploration and diversity, rather than continuing to play "how many ways can i make up to solve the same maya problems everyone else has already solved?".  That said, tomorrow is Eye-O!  Time to shut my mouth, open my eyes, and engage my brain.  This should be awesome.

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