Christopher "shaithis" Buecheler
It's with regret that I tell you all this is my last issue of Painting on Polygons. It's been a lot of fun, and I've gotten a lot of really cool feedback out of the column, but the time has come to move on. I've accepted a job with Gamespy Industries as their Senior Content Manager, which means I'm going to be handling a wide variety of web related projects that will eat up the bulk of my time. I'm going to be doing a lot of gaming, a lot of writing, and maybe a little bit of art here and there. And of course, textures in my spare time, as always. :)
Anyway, because the job's going to involve so much writing (contrary to what everyone and their grandmother seems to think, it's not an art position :) , and because it's going to be extremely time consuming, it seemed like a good idea to turn this series over to someone who can give it the time it deserves. Thus, though I'm sorry to be leaving, I'm really pleased to announce that Rick "Flatness" Grossenbacher will be taking over the column.
Rick is a phenomenal texture artist whose work can be seen in Daikatana and in last week's feature article: Two Programs, Two Dimensions. I've no doubt whatsoever that he'll be an incredible resource for those of you interested in 2D art in games.
So I guess I should say something art related, huh?
2D art is as important an aspect of successful game design as code, level design, modeling, writing, business management, or any of the other parts of a team. Anyone reading this and thinking it's not true is not giving enough credit where it's due. Games like Unreal and Half-Life depend on it, as do games like Fallout 2 and Baldur's Gate. But like every other aspect of game development, 2D art cannot stand by itself as a game. This is something I want to make clear, because the focus I've maintained in this series has always been pretty heavily 2D oriented. This series has focused on textures, because that's what I do best. It's not the only thing I do, though.
In addition to making textures, I've finished skins, modeled weapons, and designed a deathmatch level (which is now in final testing phase) for Half-Life. I've written design documents, composed game music, and drawn concept sketches. I think I'm a pretty well rounded guy, and I think that any artist who wants to make it in their career needs to experiment with multiple art forms.
So that's my point. Make sure to round yourself out. A lot of companies these days are only looking for people who are a great 2D artist, and have some 3D experience. Or they're looking for great 3D guys who can skin their own models. Or they're looking for that phenomenal level designer who can also texture his own hallways. It's tough at this point to get people to notice you with just one skill under your belt. Most developers are looking for a package deal.
Many people read this column, I would assume, to get advice on how to improve their 2D work. Of those people, I'd guess at least some of you are shooting for an industry job. I've had a couple of them (contract work, granted, but industry jobs nonetheless), and I guess what I'm going to say now is the best advice I could possibly give: diversify, experiment, and practice until you're so disgusted you never want to look at a computer again. Then go see a movie or something, come home, and practice some more. Make lots and lots of textures. Draw lots and lots of concepts. Model lots and lots of weapons and monsters and player models. It doesn't matter if they suck. They'll get better.
Oh, and it can absolutely never, ever hurt to take a couple of drawing courses. I don't care if your artwork is the envy of everyone you meet...you can always learn something new. Traditional art applies to textures, skins, 3D work, level design, game design, etc. Understanding fundamental art concepts will help you in nearly every aspect of game creation (I'm not enough of a coder to know if they'd help there, but I'd be willing to be they do). Already taken a ton of drawing classes? Take a pottery class. Familiar with sculpture? Try lithography. You can never learn too much, and your work will never suffer because of it (quite the contrary, in fact).
So there you go. Advice from a guy who makes some relatively cool looking textures. How much weight you put upon it is your decision, but it's been working pretty well for me so far.
Okay, I'm outta here. Thanks loony for giving me the opportunity to write some articles about something I love.
It's all you, Rick. :)
- Christopher Buecheler is a freelance 2D artist.
[The staff of loonygames would like to wish Chris Buecheler the best of luck at his new job. We'll miss you, buddy!]
Credits: Painting on Polygons is © 1999 Christopher Buecheler. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, or we'll paint you white against a white background.