Tips on writing to artists

Alright, everyone, I’m totally new here, and I figured this would be a good place to get feedback. I’m a college student writing a professional paper for an advanced English class in the field which I plan on entering. Well, games is that field, and I felt that maybe the professional paper I could write would be a how-to on interactions between programmers and artists. I realize that most of the confusion is probably in relating technical issues to artists, but then, there could be problems the other way round.

My paper is titled “Talking to Artists: a Guide for Programmers dealing with non-technical discourse.” I have been thinking maybe I could have chosen a better subject, but I’d like to see what your various thoughts are. Do you have tips on how to talk with artists if you’re a programmer? If you are an artist, are there things that are difficult to explain to a programmer? (If I get enough feedback, I might do the inverse paper as well.) Is this even an issue any of you have trouble with? And if so, how did you go about solving it?

So far the guide is very short, basically saying that programmers, in my inexperienced opinion, need to remove math and get to the function of what their program actually does. The other thought, just musing on this issue now, is how often must programmers actually talk about their work with artists? I work in Flash, and there’s a medium level of interest, but my little company works in one room together as well, so whenever we get tired, we go look at what another person is doing.

Alright, I’ve rambled enough. Hopefully this piques interest even a little, and any response, however short, would be quite appreciated. Thanks a lot.


Ok, I’m wanting to go back to Vampire: Bloodlines The Masquerade and play it with the newest 3.0 unofficial patch.

To install said patch, you have to unzip the patch to the main folder (“Vampire”) while keeping the directory structure solid so that it replaces all the files in the various subdirectories/folders in that main folder. I used to know how to do this, but the newest versions of both winzip and winrar don’t have the same options as the older one I used to use.

So you’re writing a “guide” on something that you have almost no experience about, hoping to substitute the opinions of random strangers on the Internet for actual knowledge? Way to go!

The answer is pretty simple. It helps if developers have done a little art, and artists have done a little programming. I like your comment about math though, pretty funny since most developers I’ve met don’t like (serious) math either, enough that I’ve often found it helpful to “remove math and get to the function” when talking to developers.

Beyond that, you’re hosed writing such a paper without any experience. Switch topic now before you’ve wasted time on it. I can appreciate wanting to know more about how to work with people in your field, but IMHO this isn’t the way to go, as you’ll most likely end up with snide (but spot on!) comments like Chris’. Hell, are you even an artist or a programmer? Or just a writer?

Programmers and artists communicate just fine. It’s the designers who can’t communicate with either of them. :-)

Actually, I’m both an artist and a programmer, but only a student in either. What I meant by inexperience is really the lack of working in a full-scale team environment. As an artist I’ve been working in 3dsMax for the past 7 years now (just started learning Maya in school, if you want some proof that I’m not completely inept: and have been programming in Flash for a couple years. (And I don’t know how this qualifies me, but I’ve been working in Hammer for awhile now.) I realize that I’m going in over my head, but either way, my rough draft was already over the heads of my classmates.

The point our teacher wants is for us to be able to write a professional paper in the style and voice that our respective fields would state such a document. The writing I’ve always seen from game designers uses very logical layout and order and often pretty simplistic language. Designers love bullet points, hell, I love bullet points (trying to work in a little relation). To be honest, I don’t think my experience with the knowledge will be important as long as I write it down well. :-P

Anyway, my professional experience is nothing like what I imagine many have here, and so I was hoping for assistance because I’ve run into a dead-end. The problem I think I’m having is determining where programmers and artists intersect. My little guide, and honestly, it does not have to be more than 1000 words (it’s about 350 right now), is all about how to write a function for someone with no programming knowledge.

· Divide the program into the most basic elements: the engine code and the sensory interaction (visuals and input)
· Further divide the program into subheadings
· Consolidate functions
· Never write about the internal elements of a function
· Write chronologically in order of code being accessed for the first time
· Eliminate math

But I think that this is only one element, and I’m having trouble finding other things that programmers would need to talk about.

p.s. I guess I forgot to mention that I’m an animation/multimedia student, not an English major.

The intersection is on the engine technology. An Artists wants to create something and the chances are, the game engine doesn’t work the way 3dstudio max does.

At the last place I worked, there were all sorts of ‘rules’ artists had to follow. For example, the core of any object was something the programmers called a “widget”. This widget had to be aligned a certain way otherwise multi-part models would link together wrongly or animations would animate wrongly.

This caused unending problems. Artists kept getting it wrong. You would correct them, and then 3 weeks later they would have a new model with the exact same problem.

The fundamental philosophical problem was that programmers wanted to restrict what could be done (simplifying their code and making it run faster) while artists wanted to expand upon what could be done. That caused a lot of friction.

What I would recommend for any large teams is to have one programmer become the Art Liaison, a single point of contact. He or she will bring the requests and gripes to the programming team, and also help the art team ‘debug’ their art.

That is exactly the kind of information I need. Thanks very much! I guess these stories of conflict between artists and programmers might be the best source of information.

Don’t poke fun, Chris. He’s from the Artichoke Capital of the World!

Okay, I have nothing else to add to this thread.

Err, nice try, but actually, that’s over the hill from Gilroy. Gilroy is the Garlic capitol of the world. It’s all about alliteration. And accuracy is the key to poking fun. :)

Castroville, CA is where most of the country’s artichokes are grown, not Gilroy. They are in the same neighborhood, though.

I’ve been congratulated at every job I’ve worked for my ability to interface with artists, and I know that most programmers can’t manage it and the problem is actually pretty simple: Don’t assume the artist knows how anything works below the point and click level. It sounds snide and condescending, but the simple fact is that programmers know how things work and by default tend to assume others do, and use those assumptions when talking with people. That leads to confusion and miscommunication.

You simply have to speak to artists using their terminology, not yours.

Heh, in my opinion, Artists never seem to understand that when a programmer gives a rule to follow, its a hard and fast rule that should never ever be broken. I think they are used to rules of art, where none of them are solid and can be bent and broken, ie they can use artistic license.

That’s why it’s best to enforce those rules in code. If the exporter simply won’t export badly-formatted art, and the level editor simply won’t load it, you’re saving yourself a lot of headaches.

Chris discovers the dark heart of journalism.

I would just like to thank the last few entries. I think they just drive home the point that one cannot assume anything with the knowledge of artists. Alrighty, well, this will give me ideas to work with. I’m really not writing a technical paper, but trying to create a tip-sheet on how to deal with artists, a memo, perhaps? (After all, who doesn’t love a memo?) Thanks though, for those who helped, and to those who felt the need to snipe, the cynicism was quite enjoyed.

Gilroy Garlic Festival:

All I know is, it’s happening in Soledad!

All I have to say, shift6, is that in pic 5 I see the edge of our Gilroy HS Marching band Bruschetta booth and the sign my mother made.