So a few weeks ago I was contacted by Jason Della Rocca from IGDA to be a host to the artists iteration of the Montreal Chapter GameGafe. And, being a sucker for punishment, I accepted. I have to admit that it did make me nervous.
So I showed up around 18h30, managed to order a burger and we got started around 19h45. We were split in 3 tables, one for each topic: Pure Art, Tech Art and Business Art. I ended up with the Business side. I’ll try to summarize what was talked about at my table and at the group chat we had at the end. Keep in mind that it was really more food for thought than definite answers.
First, we pondered about outsourcing. Some of which is done to save money and some of it because some companies just don’t have all the staff they need to complete their game. We wondered if in the case outsourcing is done to save money, it doesn’t just move the cost to a different cost center. Like for example, flights and travel costs to go and visit the contractor teams.
We also considered the “Ubisoft way” which is to create an entire studio in a different country and try to export the corporate culture there by sending existing employees to work there.
We discussed the difference between outsourcing a whole project or just chunks of it, what factors make it easy to export something to a different work pipeline. The level of interaction between the asset and other assets similar or different plays a very important role in that aspect. Increasingly geometry is affected by physics (trees in the wind, etc) and that makes their outsourcing more tricky. Also, if installing your pipeline over at your contractor’s location is resource intensive and converting the assets from their pipeline is buggy, isn’t the future just to standardise pipelines? The game industry is almost reinventing the wheel for each new game with new tools, new engines. More standard tools would make it easier to find competent contractors, would make artists more mobile and would reduce training time. It was also debated whether or not a standard engine would make all games be the same, then the engine was compared to a movie camera.
In the case where your contractor is in another country, one has to be careful of cultural issues, the references provided have to be way more precise or else the items in the game will end up looking like your contractor’s locale. Which brings about the topic of art direction. You need to have a very available art director to handle having a constant look to the game, especially if it’s a very stylised game, that person also has to convey the style to the contractors and make sure everyone is on the same line of thought. Parallels between the movie and the game industries were drawn.
Another topic that was discussed was licensing and it’s pitfalls, how to deal with the license owner, how some licence owners consider games to be just another merchandise and how it affects the artists work.
That’s about it, all in all, a pretty sweet evening.