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Author Topic: Discussion - Art development: Getting Started  (Read 7577 times)
dekki
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« on: February 08, 2009, 02:41:55 AM »

Hints to Barra about art development.

These are some of the questions / problems the last project I work with had in the art department.

Source file sharing
Our largest problem was, how to share art source files so we could minimize rework and make sure everyone used the latest textures and so on.
For this we ended up creating an own media svn were all the art source files were stored. Some did not like the svn solution and instead send in the file via the forum or mail and I had to commit them to the svn. But the svn had some benefits, traceability, easy update, log messages, folder layout. However, it could not merge, people that did not want to learn svn had to use a web interface and download the latest version.
We would have preferred some kind of web interfaced art sharing / collaboration software but we never found any good.

Blender files packing of images / textures
The blender file format can include all images used in the model together with the .blend file.
The benefit is that you can not lose the image you use for this model. But if you wanted to change a texture for all models then you had to do it manually. An alternative is to not package the images so that changing one image you would update all models that use that texture. We ended up packaging images into our blend files and I had to spend time updating them several times. Now I think not packaging would be better.

Tasks
We did not have assigned roles as most mod projects have. But we did have similar milestones within a art asset to determine how far along it was, Concept, Modeling, Materials, Animating and so on. We used a wiki page to keep track how far along every art asset was, with a script that looked at the svn log that auto updated the wiki for us.   

SVN structure
We used two folder structures in svn, first a static structure were models are place when no one is working on them, either finished or done with a milestone. Then we had a more fluid projects folder were WIP files were stored, we included and used only textures from the static folders and not from others project folders. Check the media svn link (at our site) if you want to see how we structured the svn.

Automated rendering
Forgot about this one, create a automated script that would render all frames of an art asset and then a script to render all assets in your svn. You do not want to re-render everything by hand every-time you get the idea to chance one small stupid thing.

Template file
Create a easy to use template file with your license and a scale reference. See our for example. It should contain your render script.

At one point it went smoothly and there were 3-4 people working simultaneously on the art and we reused models and textures all the time. Of course the project then slowly started to die of and is now hardly breathing.
Check out the site, the site scripts are no longer active and after 2-3 server moves most of the site is not working as it should.
http://www.marsnomercy.org
« Last Edit: November 11, 2009, 09:54:43 PM by Gaspard » Logged
mvBarracuda
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2009, 08:30:09 PM »

Thanks for the detailed suggestions dekki.

Source file sharing
Our largest problem was, how to share art source files so we could minimize rework and make sure everyone used the latest textures and so on.
For this we ended up creating an own media svn were all the art source files were stored. Some did not like the svn solution and instead send in the file via the forum or mail and I had to commit them to the svn. But the svn had some benefits, traceability, easy update, log messages, folder layout. However, it could not merge, people that did not want to learn svn had to use a web interface and download the latest version.
So the unwillingness of artists to work with an SVN client was the main issue? Did these artists use Linux, Win32 or Mac systems? On win32 there is TortoiseSVN which is really easy to use so I hope that the PARPG artists would favour an SVN solution as well.

ATM there is only one SVN repository for PARPG but in case there will be a massive amount of source files later, we should consider to move them to a separate content_source repository indeed. Storage space is not an issue as we got 10GB at our host cvsdude.

We would have preferred some kind of web interfaced art sharing / collaboration software but we never found any good.
Cvsdude provides some DAV functionality, that would be another option. But SVN provides some advantages as outlined above. I need to talk to interested artists to see what they think about it.

Blender files packing of images / textures
The blender file format can include all images used in the model together with the .blend file.
The benefit is that you can not lose the image you use for this model. But if you wanted to change a texture for all models then you had to do it manually. An alternative is to not package the images so that changing one image you would update all models that use that texture. We ended up packaging images into our blend files and I had to spend time updating them several times. Now I think not packaging would be better.
Thanks for the pointer, I'll ask Lamoot (who worked in graphics department of FIFE in the past) and let's see what he thinks.

Tasks
We did not have assigned roles as most mod projects have. But we did have similar milestones within a art asset to determine how far along it was, Concept, Modeling, Materials, Animating and so on. We used a wiki page to keep track how far along every art asset was, with a script that looked at the svn log that auto updated the wiki for us.
I would be interested in any kind of automation that would ease the task, any chance that you still have the script lying around?

SVN structure
We used two folder structures in svn, first a static structure were models are place when no one is working on them, either finished or done with a milestone. Then we had a more fluid projects folder were WIP files were stored, we included and used only textures from the static folders and not from others project folders. Check the media svn link (at our site) if you want to see how we structured the svn.
Thanks, I'll take a look later.

Automated rendering
Forgot about this one, create a automated script that would render all frames of an art asset and then a script to render all assets in your svn. You do not want to re-render everything by hand every-time you get the idea to chance one small stupid thing.
AFAIR the Keys of Naand team used something like that as well. I'll look out for such a script or maybe even our programmers could either customize one or create from scratch if really needed (which is hopefully not the case).

Template file
Create a easy to use template file with your license and a scale reference. See our for example. It should contain your render script.

At one point it went smoothly and there were 3-4 people working simultaneously on the art and we reused models and textures all the time. Of course the project then slowly started to die of and is now hardly breathing.
Check out the site, the site scripts are no longer active and after 2-3 server moves most of the site is not working as it should.
http://www.marsnomercy.org
Thanks for all the hints again. I've added the link to this topic to my todo list so I won't forget about it. As soon as I find the time to start writing down the information for interested artists, this will be _very_ handy. Thanks :-)
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 01:36:40 AM by mvBarracuda » Logged
Lamoot
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2009, 01:06:28 PM »

Quote
The blender file format can include all images used in the model together with the .blend file...

Not yet decided on this one. I personally prefer to use only materials and procedural textures. Rather nice results can be achieved, but it doesn't work for everything. PARPG will still need to use image textures, for stuff like terrain tiles, since it's easier to make tileable textures in gimp and then simply make tile sprites out of them.

Quote
Tasks
We did not have assigned roles as most mod projects have. But we did have similar milestones within a art asset to determine how far along it was, Concept, Modeling, Materials, Animating and so on. We used a wiki page to keep track how far along every art asset was, with a script that looked at the svn log that auto updated the wiki for us.

A list of needed art assets is vital in my opinion. We currently don't have such a list because we don't know exactly what kind of assets we need. Other things will need to be done before we know this (for example the setting, story, defined NPCs etc.)

Quote
Template file
Create a easy to use template file with your license and a scale reference. See our for example. It should contain your render script.

Yp, no sprite work can be done without a properly done template file (I usually call it "rendering setup").

Quote
You do not want to re-render everything by hand every-time you get the idea to chance one small stupid thing.

This should be avoided altogether. The rendering setup should be tested before we call it done and never to be changed again. I already have possible candidate(s) for this. One rendring setup I made is used by open anno and they don't seem to have any problems with it http://www.openanno.org/site/

But I'm interested, what kind of "small stupid things" did you find neccessary to change in your template file? What didn't work?

The more we learn now, the less we have to correct our mistakes later Smiley Thanks for your input.



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dekki
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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2009, 02:35:28 PM »

sry for the wait.

The issue with SVN wasn't that some people did not want to use it, but that it does not fulfill the needs for art development. It stores and shares files, that's it. You want more when your working, easy access (thumbnails), tagging, linking tasks to files, a approval process and so on. SVN does not provide any of these and therefore require action outside the SVN influence. The wiki site we used to check status, forums to discuss work and for example trac to have tasks.
It would be much better if everything, the entire art development process was in one place. There was no such thing when we started but there might be such a tool today. I do not know if it can do everything that is needed but playing with it last week showed lots of promise.
http://www.montala.net/resourcespace.php

As for the scripts, I know they are stored in a backup copy somewhere and I will dig them out when I can.

The images that created most problems with packaged blender files were logos. A faction usually had a logotype or something that identified it to belong to a group. If we changed the logotype then we had to update all models that used that logotype, without knowing exactly what models used it. Then all those models had to be re-rendered.
The automated render script solved the last issue, just stick all the blends in folder and run the script and out came all sprite images. With non packaged blend files we could have just altered one image and then automatically all models would have been updated.
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mvBarracuda
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« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2009, 08:46:29 AM »

Thanks for the pointers again dekki :-)

One issue I can see is the lack of an own root server were we could host such an art management version control. SVN might not be perfect as pointed out but our host (cvsdude.com) gives us 10GB of free SVN space. I think we can start with the SVN solution and ask the art department how things could be improved workflow-wise.
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eleazzaar
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2009, 06:33:49 PM »

The issue with SVN wasn't that some people did not want to use it, but that it does not fulfill the needs for art development. It stores and shares files, that's it. You want more when your working, easy access (thumbnails), tagging, linking tasks to files, a approval process and so on. SVN does not provide any of these and therefore require action outside the SVN influence. The wiki site we used to check status, forums to discuss work and for example trac to have tasks.
It would be much better if everything, the entire art development process was in one place. There was no such thing when we started but there might be such a tool today.

I'm not saying you are wrong, but my experience has been different.  Generally only a handful of artists (even in a big project) are willing/able to use SVN.  That means one way or another the handful of SVN-capable artists is going to have to do all the committing.

But i've never felt the need for any kind of management interface such as you are describing.  The approval process is effectively taken care of by the handful of core artists that use SVN.  Thumbnails are provided by the operating system.  I've never wanted to tag files or link tasks to files.  Frankly it sounds like overkill unless you have a ton of artists working simultaneously



The images that created most problems with packaged blender files were logos. A faction usually had a logotype or something that identified it to belong to a group. If we changed the logotype then we had to update all models that used that logotype, without knowing exactly what models used it. Then all those models had to be re-rendered.

Well, since the game uses sprites, it will be important to make sure all sprites are updated when the models/texture is updated.
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mvBarracuda
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2009, 07:37:45 PM »

One of the programmer - tie - kindly offered to set up a DAM system for testing purposes. You can log into it here:
http://dam.morp.org/ (Should be available soon under http://dam.parpg.net but it might take some time till all DNS servers are updated, so use the link above for now)

User: user
Pass: user01

Let us know what you think. You can upload new assets after logging in via "My contribuations" >> "Contribute New Resource".
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mvBarracuda
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2009, 10:50:01 PM »

Just found out how to activate comments for the DAM. Please have a look into it when you got some time on your hands tie:
http://parpg-trac.cvsdude.com/parpg/ticket/3
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tie
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2009, 10:29:44 PM »

Comments activated. Sadly, they are not what you'd expect Sad - comments are imlemented just as an extra description filed.
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mvBarracuda
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« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2009, 04:35:29 PM »

The DAM has been renamed to PAR: PARPG asset repository.

New address: http://assets.parpg.net
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