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.
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!