What processes, tools, methods are used by game artists to prepare materials for the programmers?

I am interested in tools (ie: photoshop, pixelmator, etc for drawing) and also how they are used together to produce texture atlases or individual images for the programmers.

Methods or way of working (tool-chains maybe), which can be used by the artist to

  • Present ideas (sketches)
  • Mesh up game images (photosop: front menu, in-game)
  • Cut up images/layers into (ie: copy paste?)
    • smaller individual pieces
    • texture atlases (some other tool)
  • Generate coordinates ie: (xywh) for button "Options" on the main screen which is stored as main_options.png or (uvhw, xywh) for in-game HUD which is in a texture_atlas.png.
  • Any way to automate some of the steps above?

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The artist(s) might use hand drawings-scanner/sketch pad for illustration. These are then imported and further improved in some other image manipulation tools. The result then can be used to produce both preview of the game (menu, in-game meshups) and final elements which will be used by the programmer(s): individual images or texture atlases.

Which tools are artists using out there and how for game development to produce the material used by game programmers?

I am particularly interested if there are automated tools where a small change at the illustration part can be propagated to produce final production images/textures without the need for the artist to cut/merge them.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understood :/ \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Jul 22 '10 at 23:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @speeder, clearly it's because you're a left-brain programmer, and not a right-brain artist. :> \$\endgroup\$ – Cyclops Jul 23 '10 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably :P Or maybe because english is not my native language and the english of this game is too correct or too wrong to me get it :P \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Jul 23 '10 at 4:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ tried to clarify. maybe the right question would sound like: "How do graphic artists really work?" \$\endgroup\$ – f3r3nc Jul 23 '10 at 13:16

Pretty much agree with the above - Max/Maya and Photoshop are the de-facto asset creation standards. What happens after that and how is often custom per engine, or even per game. There's as many pipelines as there's developers I think, ranging from manual labor, via command line tools and editor scripts to completely automated inhouse editors and batch processing tools. Most larger studios do have a custom build tool for the final conversion that can be integrated with the build system so that whenever new source assets get submitted they get automagically converted to the final ingame asset.

As for presenting game ideas, again as many methods as designers. Sketches, photoshops, renderings, moodboards, anything goes as it gets the message across.

Edited to add: Did I misunderstand the question and are you looking for a workflow that would work for you?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly what I am interested in. Especially how different pipelines are used in different setups. Should this question be turned to a community wiki? \$\endgroup\$ – f3r3nc Jul 24 '10 at 22:55

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but:

TexPack: http://texpack.sourceforge.net/

takes a bunch of images and packs them into one big image and outputs a file with the coordinates. You can see a sample on the website.

  • \$\begingroup\$ looks very nice. but how do you tell the programmer where to put the simlie face on the main menu for example. What happens if the artist makes it 2x wider and the main result should be put 1px to the left afterwards? \$\endgroup\$ – f3r3nc Jul 24 '10 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ It will depend on what your game engine tools provide. For example, some middleware allows you to build interfaces and UIs in Adobe Flash. Others are custom programs and are usually bundled as part of the game engine tools. A cheap way is to layout your UIs in photoshop/GIMP and have your programmer write a plugin which would extract the positions. \$\endgroup\$ – 5ound Jul 25 '10 at 6:36

I believe you are looking for this. Creation of a ready to use 3D model for a game engine from start to finish.

  • \$\begingroup\$ looks very interesting for 3D. \$\endgroup\$ – f3r3nc Jul 24 '10 at 22:51

Most engines have their own texture compression tools if thats what you mean. As for UV mapping/unmapping, thats usually somewhat specific to a given 3D tool and/or engine. Not 100% sure if either of those are what you are asking about though.

  • \$\begingroup\$ partly, what are those tools? Do they have built in drawing tools? Question is both for 2D and 3D. \$\endgroup\$ – f3r3nc Jul 23 '10 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is no single set of tools, there are hundreds. Common 3D suites are 3DStudioMax and Maya. Photoshop is generally used to prepare concept art, and for editing 2D assets. The glue in between is too numerous to count and usually comes with your engine or is built in house. \$\endgroup\$ – coderanger Jul 23 '10 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you name some of these glues? Should this question be turned to be a community wiki and so many aspect can be discussed how to create such glues. \$\endgroup\$ – f3r3nc Jul 24 '10 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example, XNA game studio has importers for common file formats in it. Panda3D ships plugins for a wide variety of 3D tools so they can export to Panda EGG files. For the Source engine you need to convert your model to SMD format (via a variety of community supported tools) and then Valve provides a tool to convert SMD to their native binary format. The list just goes on and on but is mostly driven by your choice of engine. If you are using raw OpenGL or DirectX there are loader libraries that speak every format under the sun, so you just need to pick one and run with it. \$\endgroup\$ – coderanger Jul 24 '10 at 23:12

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