Cometh the hour, cometh the woman

“Do women play games?” What a draconian thought, right? Women have always participated in video games since the industry’s inception. The percentage of female participants may not be as high as men, but they’ve always formed a considerable section of the gaming fraternity. With the rise of smartphones, more and more female consumers are pouring in. Women are not only playing mere casual games but also “hardcore” games such as Call of Duty, World of WarCraft, DOTA and Counter Strike, among others

Here’s an interesting question: Why do people think that the majority of women are not interested in playing social or mobile games? Maybe the lack of games with female protagonists is a reason. More often than not, the female characters in video games are showcased as damsels in distress or reinforce old stereotypes that no woman relates to. With time, we’ve furthered ourselves with technology and advanced methods of creating video games. And yet, the way female characters are designed remains quite outdated. Most female characters are stereotyped in the worst possible way, with heavy makeup, typically sculpted bodies with provocative clothes and high heels.

The tide is turning, though. Games these days are targeted towards mass audiences rather than gender-defined audiences or any other section, for that matter. Award-winning game Journey’s protagonist is a faceless character without a specific gender, culture or country. Also games like Transistor or Child Of Light are taken forward by female protagonists who move away from the usual stereotypes. They’re fresh and creatively conceptualised characters who actually fit the storyline of the game. Such games lean towards being more of a “heroine’s journey” than just female versions of a male specific/fantasy orientated game. This kind of fresh outlook on games, be it from any genre, works by targeting not only women but gamers of other age groups and races as well.

Women are not only consumers in the video game industry but also creators of these games. Though the percentage is not very high at the moment, it’s slowly increasing. Besides joining as Game Artists, the number of female Game Designers and Programmers is gradually growing. People such as Kellee Santiago – Game Designer, Producer and Founder of ‘ThatGameCompany’, makers of the beautifully crafted, multi-award winning game Journey – can only be expected to pull in more female talent into the industry. As more such like-minded women enter the industry, Gaming is set to grow by leaps and bounds by being all-inclusive.

Written by Shruti Ghosh, a video game industry veteran of 7 years, who’s currently a Game Art Trainer at DSKIC.


Cometh the hour, cometh the woman

Game artist vs. animator: what’s the difference?

When people learn that I work in the games industry, they think that my job revolves around playing games all day. The second misconception is that a lot of people associate video game artists with animators. Sure, a game artist and an animator do similar things: they draw. But that’s where the similarities end.

Like an animator, a game artist can specialize based on their skillset: Concept Artist, Promo-Artist, Texture Artist, 3D modeler, Rigging & Animation Artist, Technical Artist and UI Artist. But one of the major differences in the production of an animation and a game is the limit of polygons that a game can use. Polygons are like the atoms of any game asset. In an animation, since the movie is rendered beforehand, the frame-rate problem is non-existent and so is the polygon limit on the assets. The production mentality in most game studios is: “less is more”. So an artist looking to make it in the game industry must understand these nuances.DSKIC Blog

An artist can no longer just draw and expect the game to create itself. Having experience in engines like Unity, Unreal and the like could be the edge in job interviews between one artist and the next. Engine knowledge is of prime importance when designing assets and managing their file-size. Another major difference is that game artists work very closely with programmers and designers in their team.

A game artist and an animator use different tools, have different work environments and modus operandi. While what we do might elementally be the same, the end result and the way we do it, is essentially different. This is rightly why Game Art and Animation are two separate streams at DSKIC (Supinfogame  & Supinfocom). Under the guidance of the trainers at the institute and with my personal drive, I was able to learn a lot more than I could hope for at any other institute in India. Working on team-projects became viable as I met a lot of like-minded individuals. And working becomes easier when the institute provides high-end systems. Their Build Your Own Game competition is a great way to make your first game and is an invaluable experience.
In the end, being a successful game artist solely depends on you. You could be provided with all the top-notch facilities in the world, but you need the drive to push forward and improve. The goal of perfection is light-years away, but you can always get closer with each step.

Written by Rahul Narayanan, a professional video game artist and DSKIC alumnus.


Game artist vs. animator: what’s the difference?

Is sketching cool characters, weapons or vehicles your thing? Game Art might be for you!

Game development encompasses a variety of disciplines, and each of them is deep in its own right. Art, design and programming form the key pillars of any finished game. While dead-on fluid mechanics and user interface are influences in crafting memorable experiences (which could very well make or break a game); the game’s art is the one element that decides if the game lives on in the mind of a gamer years after its time has gone. This is precisely why skilled hands are highly-demanded in big-budget game productions. DSKIC Supinfogame Rubika, takes a different, holistic approach to the medium of games.

DSKIC Differentiators

Methods used at the institute enable an aspiring game artist to shape up into a full-fledged, competitive, always-improving conduit to any game team’s energy grid. At DSKIC-Rubika Supinfogame, Game Art students get a complete course driving involvement in the artistic side of production.

Before joining, an applicant writes an entrance exam and faces a personal interview. Similar to Game Design and Game Programming, Game Art includes an undergraduate course (UG) and a post-graduate course (PG). A student having cleared 10+2 applies for a 3-year UG course, then proceeding to complete the 2-year PG course. Alternatively, an applicant with a graduate’s degree and experience in any gaming field is eligible for direct admission into the PG course. A relevant, finished portfolio is a prerequisite in either case. Both courses are formed with industry-readiness as a focus, and pure individual skill as a point of grading – both on personal and team projects. All Game Art course semesters are designed with their complexities in mind.

In the beginning (year 1), students are empowered to actively refine core skills in traditional and digital 2D art. These include on-paper skills — perspective, lighting, anatomy, still life; and the all-important software-only skill — digital painting (usually in Photoshop). The goal is for them to be ready to take on the task of creating concept art, which lays the primer for any game’s vision. When a game is announced, its idea is marketed to fans via “concept art” regardless of the existence of a proof-of-concept (screenshots/ trailer) to show for it.

The course begins with traditional art, where basic elements like sketching, lighting study and character anatomy are practiced rigorously. What students learn from this section of the course is used in pre-production techniques like digital concept art, 3D character models, and environments as well as post-production techniques like interactive visual effects. Students apply their training to:

  • Work with designers in the shaping of mechanics, environments, props etc.
  • Produce smoothly flowing animations, visual effects, interfaces and cinematics with programmers.

Students are trained via constant revisions that test their knowledge and require them to remain updated. Numerous projects that take anywhere between a week to a year to complete make sure that the student masters the software and hand-drawn artwork skills required. Hence, the syllabus doesn’t stop at teaching the required artistic toolsets. Students are required to follow discipline whilst working in teams, akin to working in a live development studio — using source control software to track/share assets while adhering to deadlines and clearly defined project briefs.

Year 2 and year 3 mark students’ transition into advanced 2D and 3D applications. An example of an introductory project is creating artwork for a generic prop. As the course progresses, students work toward an ad-hoc capability to make artwork for the most complex battlecruisers, characters or environments. Through rigorous project-work, they internalize the process, which consists of:

  • Pure concept art created in Photoshop;
  • Creation of 3D Models in 3DS-Max and Maya using concept art;
  • Addition of anatomic and physical detail via sculpting tools ZBrush and Topogun and
  • A return to Photoshop for creation of textures — applied onto 3D models through mapping techniques (native 3DSMax/Maya functions) and lots of rework.

All the above “visual information” (3D and 2D), when ready, is eventually translated into files usable in game engines.

During regular lectures, students are encouraged to learn about the history of Arts, its evolution through time and its adoptions in different societies, myths and literature. Constant quizzes on these and on film analysis (a not-so-distant medium) guarantee equal exposure to art from films, paintings and games that were previously unknown to them.

As soon as the PG stage of the course begins (year-1), students are taught to harness a variety of software’s to smoothen the workflow – mainly to add flexibility for painting textures to use on 3D models and to allow easy molding or modification of 3D models/sculpts. These at-times super-heavy models are then optimized (simplified) to render smoothly, in real-time, inside of game engines.

They are taught to give movement to the above models through animation and add visual effects once these elements are in-game. Students are trained by now to proceed with their assignments and projects at the same pace as in the final stage of their UG; with an added layer of asset management and tracking which simulates the working environment of a game studio.

By the time students enter the final year (year-2 of PG), not only have they mastered purely artistic skills/software, but they also have enough experience with 2D and 3D engines. This allows them to seamlessly integrate into a team consisting of Game Design students and Game Programming students at the same level, for a year-long project — that of building a game prototype independently. They continue to get their trainers’ mentorship, but with distance. For the final year, the trainers themselves act as producers or investors.

Apart from giving students full exposure to the game art creation pipeline, the course also takes them through and grades their ability to use their creations in game engines. Starting simple with 2D games in Flash, they learn through trial and error how characters/environments/props behave once animated and introduced into the game. The next step is working with slightly more complicated engines, still 2D, that involve physics. They then move onto more complex 3D engines, where there are many more moving parts for them to work with – where 2D and 3D skills come into play.

When not engaging in academic activities, every student has the opportunity to seek mentorship from faculty whilst working on smaller games or other fun projects (photography, film-making, game workshops). At the same time, annual & bi-annual college festivities and celebrations for Indian and French holidays alike ensure that there is never a dull moment on campus.

While a generalization exists that any mistake with game art is the least forgiving, it is most rewarding when an artist’s creation becomes synonymous with a hit game loved by millions (its flaws included). Guess the guys who made Angry Birds didn’t think of that!

Is sketching cool characters, weapons or vehicles your thing? Game Art might be for you!