Unless you live under a rock, you might have heard about Unreal Engine 5’s early access release. Also, Marmoset Toolbag 4 transitioning to RTX-based Global Illumination has consolidated these recent advancements.
With new workflows on the table, I can’t resist thinking how these could have helped me when I started as a game artist. I could have presented my pieces in a better and easier manner because, at the end of the day, presenting a portfolio piece required some intermediate knowledge of lighting and rendering in general.
Creating good materials depended a lot on how you understood node trees in a best-case scenario. If you didn’t, you were tied to using already made shaders that might not serve the purpose that you are after. I remember struggling to find good glass materials back in the day. Now it’s a matter of a few clicks.
Nowadays, you don’t have to worry about texture seam fixing in photoshop, substance painter does it for you. We don’t paint dirt anymore. We use generators to do the job for us. While I think this is great for agile pipelines, there’s been a disconnection with understanding how 3D art behaves.
I don’t think anyone is responsible, as it is the natural evolution of any technology. The antidote to an “issue” like this would be never to move forward in any field, and we absolutely don’t want that either.
There’s something we can do about it tho. As a teacher, I always advised my students to texture something in photoshop before trying 3D painting. With this, students better understood what was happening with their art, and as a huge plus, they also appreciated the value that the newer tools brought to them.
The same example could be applied to lighting a scene in an engine like Unity, as they found that raytracing was replacing the very tedious job that lightmapping is. It blew their minds.
I could continue giving examples and making this a longer read, but now I think the message is clear. As a starter, learning the new advancements without understanding what they advanced is not a good way to learn.
First, because it will disconnect the student from the reasons behind these newer workflows, and second, it won’t do them a favor if they enter a company that hasn’t been able to update their methods yet, or is developing for a platform that isn’t ready for these heavy technologies.
To wrap up these thoughts, I’d like to raise a question. Where is the point at which we start considering methodologies as valid? Am I too disconnected from the process of making art for games because I’ve never textured in 2D or baked a lightmap?
We will probably never run out of tools that allow us to texture a model in 3D, but more serious issues occur when we talk about lighting. What if you develop for mobile? Or VR?
Well, Forget about raytracing for those two platforms.
As my final addition to this topic, I think it’s good to move out of your comfort zone, to challenge what you know, and try to understand where it comes from. It will make you more versatile and help you understand the random issues present in any development.
Learning means understanding, and understanding requires a background. If one’s background comes from what AI or Automation is doing for you, missing those advancements will demolish your knowledge.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Even sharing your experiences would be great. I’d love to read what you have to say, so please, keep those comments coming! And remember:
Good developers know what is happening with their creations.