Without question the biggest problem I find during the design and implementation of games is the lack of interactivity amongst the various team members of a project. We've all heard the comments (laments, shouts, etc.) "You wanted it to look like what?!?!?!", "This is the dumbest character I've ever seen!", "I said round! Not spherical!"--and so it goes. As someone once said "Without communication, chaos rules."
This article will focus on the relationship and communication between artists and designers during the development process. Topics will include: "Blue sky" meetings, the design document, methods for streamlining the production process and a few other random thoughts. Now a couple of those random, but important, thoughts.
Designers: Many (myself included) are Autistic, Not Artistic
While some individuals (show yourselves demons) are gifted with a plethora of skills- creative thinking, the ability to speak well, write well and create great art-others are not so lucky. Many designers find themselves in the position of being thoughtful, creative and having reasonable (hopefully) communication skills but a total inability to draw, model or otherwise communicate their ideas visually. Worse, many are not well versed in the diction of art (you know, "those dark highlights!" -or umm, shadows). Therefore, it's important to remember the "artistically challenged designer" needs your help. Designers can envision what we believe will be cool looking and we know the types of game play we are after, but without significant participation from the art team it is almost impossible to realize (much less enhance) the look and feel of the game.
Designs: Looking At The Big Picture.
One final point before we dive into specifics. Design documents speak to a large audience: Programmers, artist, level designers, producers, marketing and business folks, etc- the whole enchilada. This can often make the document large, fragmented and a "hard read". While nobody loves reading several hundred pages of semi-literate writing, understand that the document contains information that is crucial to an artist's ability to do his job. While you may want to skip over the treatise on AI (artificial intelligence), or the hyped up market speak this is almost always a mistake. Read the document, the whole document, you'll be surprised (hopefully pleasantly) to find information pertinent to the artistic content hiding in some of the strangest places--read the document, get the big picture.