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Want to be a gaming artist?

education Updated: Mar 18, 2010 09:33 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

A good artist can put pencil to paper – or work on a computer – and create a mighty superhero. He might admire his work for some time and then file it away.
A gaming artist is luckier. He brings his characters to life – making them play, fight battles, vanquish enemies – do whatever he wants. It was this desire to create worlds of fantasy that drew Sahil Mathur, an artist at Dhruva Interactive, an animation company in Bangalore, to gaming. “I was so passionate about gaming and animation that I chucked the idea of becoming an IIT engineer,” he says.

Making a video game is as interesting as playing it. “When you show the blueprint of the game to your team leader, it has to be projected as a complete source of entertainment even when it exists in the form of a few sketches on a piece of paper,” says Mathur.

Gaming is about entertainment and only very technically sound people can create interesting content. “The work combines art and technology,” says Vishal Gondal, CEO of India Games.

Not everyone has the talent to undergo an animation/gaming course and become a gaming artist. You must have an artistic bent of mind, says Bijoy Thomas, an art director at Dhruva Interactive.

There was a time when we would play video games at either game parlours or on our PCs. Over the last decade, however, there has been a spurt in newer technologies and mediums supporting the gaming industry, like smart phones, networking sites, consoles like Xbox and Sony PlayStation.

Regardless of the nature of the game, it’s indeed a mammoth task to develop one. It takes a team hard labour for days on end to design a game. “It means working late every night until the project gets over. You have to take care of each and every detail of the game. If it’s about car racing, you should have some knowledge of car engines,” says Vivin Chand, faculty member, MAAC, Preet Vihar branch, New Delhi. Similarly, when it’s a game of cricket, you have to factor ball size, weight of bat and the speed at which it strikes the ball. But all this detailing counts at the stage of programming when the game is put through a game-engine software manned by technically proficient hands.

Most of the game development work is outsourced to India from the US, UK or Korea and companies here work at the execution level. They are given the blueprint of a game and have to develop the idea, execute it and send the work back to the clients. Some companies, however, develop the entire game from the concept-building stage to post-production.

A country where gaming is expected to get on the fast track soon, India had its first national-level game developers’ summit in Hyderabad three months ago, where industry gurus mulled over gaming growth trends and patterns in the country. With some luck, we could have a huge gaming industry at par with the IT sector here soon.

What's it about?
A game artist creates art for games that are played on computers, mobile phones or gaming consoles. S/he is responsible for all aspects of game development where visual art is required. With new technologies — mobile phones, networking sites — offering gaming facilities, game artists are more in demand for their creative inputs that programmers, in a game development team

Clock Work
9 am: Meeting with art director or team head to understand the day’s project work
10 am: Designing and developing the idea by creating 3D characters using software like Zbrush, Maya, 3D mac
2 pm: Lunch
2.30 pm: Discuss project with teammates
3.30 pm: Resume project work
5 pm: Leave for home
6 pm: Do research by reading online magazines and blog posts to stay clued on to the changing technology scenario

The Payoff
Salaries are fairly low for starters, at about Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a month, because the Indian gaming industry hasn’t matured as yet. With time and experience, however, you can expect considerable hikes.

After three or four years, you can become a senior game artist and get paid around Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 a month. After spending seven to eight years in this line, you can graduate to the level of art director or senior art director at which positions salaries are much higher, i.e. about Rs 70,000 to Rs 80,000 a month

Skills
.
An artistic bent of mind is a must
. Penchant for working very hard. You might end up spending 14 hours a day in front of the computer screen
. Technologically savvy
. Ability to unlearn and relearn to keep up with fast-evolving technology
. Good team player because no one can create a game on one’s own. You have to coordinate with a number of people to create a good quality product

How do I get there?
You should study visual communication in fine arts at a Bachelor’s or Master’s level. You could also get training from any reputable technical institute that offers courses in animation and gaming. If you are aiming to become a game artist, remember that it is a seamless marriage between art and computer science, where art plays a dominant role. If you aspire to become a game programmer, then a degree in computer science with knowledge of C, C++ and Visual Basic can help you get a break with an animation company

Institutes & urls
. BFA/MFA in visual communication from the College of Art, Delhi
www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/lib_collegeofart/Collegeofarts/Home/Programmes
. Asian Institute of Gaming and Animation, Bangalore
www.aiga.in
. Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC), with centres in several cities
www.maacindia.com
. Arena Multimedia with centres across the country
www.arena-multimedia.com

Pros & cons
.
The industry is in its infancy but this is the right time to enter. You might make a killing if it replicates the IT success story
. Money is good in the long run
. Creative freedom is limited in India where most of the work has been outsourced by companies in the US or UK. You can’t think out of the box in terms of
concept or characters
. Long working hours — especially for a big project

we need more talented people

An industry expert on the relevance of gaming in India

How is this different from developing “non-entertainment” software?
Non-entertainment software is intended to solve a problem — playing music, sending e-mail, word processing, etc. To do this, we have a structured process and the development is geared towards solving the problem efficiently.

Game development is more of a creative collaboration. We are trying to create fun. We have game designers who conceive the basic game mechanics and the overall structure. We have artists who conceive how the environments and characters look. We have story writers, music composers, and then, we also have the software component, which is the engine that actually runs the game. People are bouncing ideas back and forth, trying them out, keeping them if they work.

Eventually though, we have to buckle down and get the job done — just like in conventional software.

What do you think about the growth of the gaming industry in the 21st century?
The Indian gaming industry has a great advantage: Lower cost of development, but there are some disadvantages too. We don’t have a domestic games market or enough talented people. Software and hardware is costlier here, and so on.

After the huge popularity of iPhone and Facebook games, do you think gaming has ‘arrived’ in the true sense of the word?
It is difficult to say. In the West, gaming had ‘arrived’ years ago, when the first 3D game, Doom arrived. In India though, it will take some more time I think.

Are there a few Indian game developers, too, who are making it big at the global level?
If you are talking about big budget games selling a million copies, then no, we don’t have any. However, Indian companies have developed games that sold globally on a much smaller scale. Chayowo games made a successful iPhone game, and Ironcode made a downloadable casual game for the PC (Pahelika: Secret Legends). Dhruva Interactive has been working on an iPhone game. So, we have people working on it, but no one has made it big – yet.

Pallav Nawani, co-founder, Ironcode Gaming Interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi

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