Thursday, October 27, 2011

Artists != Programmers: Make Those Tools Early!!!

A problem we have been having in the development of Tribal Aeronauts is the problem with getting assets into the engine. Ir's rendering engine is extremely flexible, but is limited in the formats that can be used. Ir's rendering engine is based off of another rendering engine called Horde3D, which uses the Collada format as an intermediate format. Converting this to a format the engine can use is accomplished by running the asset through an intermediate tool. As it stands, it currently only exists in command line form. I should have realized from the get-go that this was not going to go well.

There is one thing that I have realized, and that is that most of the time, artists do not have the time or patience to learn how to use the same tools that programmers use and are used to. If our frameworks require special tools, then we can't approach the problem the same way we always do. It is like using Qt's moc from commandline versus from Qt Creator. When artists are involved, it is essential that you automate the workflow as much as you can and provide them a visual method of making sure that the assets they create will appear as they expect them to in-engine.

So to that end, I have been working on an asset conversion tool that I call "ictoanots" [ick-toe-an-ots]... yes it's an acronym. It stands for "I Can't Think of a Name On The Spot". Aren't I just so clever? The experience so far has been rewarding. Conversion of Collada files works, and I am currently in the process of implementing the visualization aspect. I believe it can also be expanded to any other assets that may need to be converted in the future. But this tool may be too little too late as deadlines are fast approaching. This is something I should have been working on from the start. I believe alot of problems could have been solved had a dedicated GUI tool for file conversion existed.

So lesson learned, if it involves artwork and file conversion, just bite the bullet and write a GUI frontend for that thing.

1 comment:

  1. Keeping an open line of communication with your artists is also another option when it comes to trouble shooting. Sometimes an importing an asset could of been an issue for the artist to deal with and not the programmer. Topology errors such as poles, overlapping geometry, clusters turned-edges and, deformations might not be tolerated in some engines. While other engines might find topology errors neglectable , others might accept them.