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Programmers are from Saturn...

Programmers can’t draw… but can Artists code?

 “Programmer Art” has always been one of the longest running jokes within the games industry and for a very good reason. As a generalization programmers draw like 7 year olds, there are certainly a few exceptions but for the most part programmers just don’t seem to have the ability to draw. The irony is that nearly every programmer I know has an artistic ability of some kind lurking in the background be it photography, acting, singing, composing, etc. But when it comes to the artistic ability of drawing, modeling or texturing the results are best removed as fast as a perforce/Git/SVN check-in will allow.

Just for the record, I cannot draw.


I can however take a decent photograph.

  StillLife020403_01_23.jpg    Landscape060806_0438.jpg

During the process of learning setup, exposure, composition, lighting and presentation I also got a glimpse into the world of the artists and how they think and work. This insight has been incredibly useful when discussing and planning ideas and thoughts for new game play.

Over the last couple of years there has been a growing “buzz” around a number of game systems with Unity3D and UDK probably being the biggest of them. What I have observed is that these latest systems with their highly visual and easy to use interfaces are attracting a large number of artists to try their hand at game programming. This is something that I must admit I hadn’t seen coming, but find it nothing short of a miracle. Artists that previously were not interested in the technical aspects of game making are now asking questions about how they can generate a path around the world? How to confine the player to the screen? How to query the physics world? How to implement a loading screen? How to build a state machine? Etc. Some questions are easier to answer than others but the fact that they are asking questions and learning about the engineering side of development can be nothing but a good thing.

Somehow I doubt “Artist code” will become as clichéd as “Programmer Art” but two things I am sure of, I am looking forward to working with artists that understand what I do a little better. I also look forward to seeing what becomes of their adventures into programming… Do we have some awesome engineers hiding in Artist bodies?


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