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#gamedev thread: ART PIPELINES

I can't stress how important it is to think about your art pipeline. It should work like a conveyor belt from idea to asset as smoothly as possible.
Setting up your pipeline to be as painless and simple as possible can make a huge difference to the project.

Artists, riggers, animators etc should be thinking about the work, not hung up on process.
What scale? What format? What export settings? What naming? What shaders do I use? What does each asset need? Where do I put this? How do I get it in the game?

All this is pipeline.
Here are some of my top tips for making your pipe smooth. Incidentally, I was Game Development Consultant for Autodesk doing just this for client studios.
Export/import: Don't guess. Know. Build a test scene with geo to ensure a 1:1 scale and coordinate system from your packages to the product. Start with a 1m cube. Then a character. Lock the settings and make PRESETS for the artists to use.
Store your presets and screenshots of the presets on your art wiki.

Don't have an art wiki?

Tip 2: make an ART WIKI

A live document that stores all the info your artists need. This can hold concept art, breifs, comments and step by step tutorials.
A technical artist or programmer can set up a round trip export system, which puts your exports in the exact right place, checks the naming and, if you are hardcore, looks for mistakes.

Common ones are "oi! Too many polys, did you export your bake mesh hmmmm?"

"Box01 detected"
Artists need to be able to iterate and update fast to give tou the best in game results.

If they have to, for example, run the game and go through menus to see the model or anim, you are burning cash.

Use fast test scenes that can be refreshed fast.
Substance painter allows you to set up export presets. This allows you to set up naming conventions and pack your maps how you need them.

Set up presets for a range of things that can spit our user channels. Set up outputs for prop, character, plants etc.
Set up your shaders/material instances to use standard inputs using a naming convention.

Use a core set of shaders with obvious naming to do the majority of your gruntwork. Ensure the artists use these instead of making new node graphs for standard tasks.
Indy studios often ignore pipeline, thinking it is about organising a huge team. It's more like oiling your engine, so even if you have a tiny team everything just runs smoothly.
Think about it from a "new employee sits down and..." perspective.

They sit down and... what? Where do they start?

Click the link to go to the wiki. Your task for today is modelling "Joe" here is the link.
Link: concept art, description, information, path to save, name.
Oh look, someone created an empty maya file in the folders with a scale guide, layers set up for high, low, rig etc. Named correctly, and ready to export.

How thoughtful.
Having 3d file templates set up can save a buttload of headaches.

What do they have in them?

Layers, groups, materials (m_head,m_torso, ID1(red),ID2(green),ID3(blue). Scale set correctly. A scale reference mesh if needed. A skeleton if modelling to fit a skeleton. Metadata.
Esure your artists have a place to store junk meshes temporarily and a place to put the final low bake models, high bake models, cage models.

Save backup geo to a format like obj or fbx so it is 3d app independent.
The less thinking about the vital organising part the artist needs to do, the more mental energy they have for art, and the less time debugging or hunting for assets you need to do.
At the end of the day, every asset should have a final version in a specific place, with the files needed to make and edit that model in a specific place.

This is bus accident cover. Every game asset can be remade from its source.
If you use substance painter, take time to turn some of your work into Smart materials and upload them to the shared artist resources. This will help unify and speed up production.
Artists should also keep their keyboard shortcuts and ini files copied to the server. When a machine goes down, they can restore their apps how they want them quickly.
Making placeholder assets and checking them in will ensure naming and placement of files is correct and make them linkable.
You need a file to check in a folder structure in most systems.
Set up "playground" scene files for everyone, so they can mess around making stuff and keep it without interrupting the main game.

Ensure you can launch these directly without it breaking things like spawning code. Set up killboxes early to reset player falling off edges.
Having to restart the game is time lost. So a "respawn and reset" command can be a blessing.
Get lighting set up in a test area early on. Include skyboxes, reflextuon probes and HDR. This will let artists preview their work in authentic conditions before levels are finished.
Concept art on the wiki should be final. A stamp on the art should denote ready to go. All other art should be below this with comments on WHY it WASN'T used. This will inform the artists of the decision making process and help steer them in making calls themselves.
"Oh, the spikes inside the arms would stick through the body... gotcha... no more stuff under arms."

For example.
I like to set up step by step tutorials for at least the most basic tasks. Here is how to put a character in. Here is how to export a texture. Etc

Videos are great too. Make it effortless. Put these on your wiki.
Hope all that helps. If this made your indy game go smoother, make me go smoother with a nice coffee or ten.
And remember, if you don't have time to make a plan, you don't have time to make a game.
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