View Full Version : Game Art Briefs

10 October 2005, 03:55 PM
Hey everyone, I understand that quite a few of the regulars here are actually in the Gaming industry and I was wandering; What kind of briefs do you guys get?

The kind of things I am looking for are, time deadlines, number of polygons and texture resolutions, if at all possible would you be able to put up old briefs for those of us hopefuls to look at, I am sure it would help us in improving our prespective portfolio's

If anyone else feels they may have links that are useful post em and I will try and compile them here.

Thanks in advance - Shane

10 October 2005, 08:48 PM
What kind of briefs do you guys get?

Briefs? Don't really have any idea what you mean by 'briefs'..

As for deadlines and limits I can tell you what I am usually limited to where I work.

We have an art department schedule in excel format that everyone can get at that has deadlines for everything. Whenever some new art asset is needed it's added to the schedule and either the person who is directly responsible for it, or their direct lead is told via our intranet messaging system (it's like ICQ or MSN, only it's just for our intranet) so they know to check the schedule. If something is needed sooner then later, the person doing it is told - otherwise most stuff are due for milestones and art lockdowns - that sort of stuff.

No one ever sends me a doc detailing each and every thing I need to do and when it's due. If that's what you mean by Brief, well... we don't do that here.

I work for one of Sony's American studios, btw. We're currently making a PSP project, before this we were working on a PS2 project.

I work on the Character team, so that's what my poly and texture limit experience is really from. I'm not as familiar with the limits From the terrain side of things.

As for the characters when we were working on the ps2 project, with our engine, and with the number of NPCs and the size and resource needs that the terrain took away, we got around 2,000-3,000 tris per character (our main character got more, but that's cuz he's on screen alllll the time) As for textures, the PS2 cannot load anything about a 512x512, and we NEVER got to use those for chars - the most we ever got to use were 256x256 maps, and most of the time we used 128x128 and sometimes even 64x64 for smaller things like accessories and boots, etc.

We also had a parts system so each part had it's own texture. The shirt was it's own mesh and it had its own texture. The pants were their own mesh and they had their own texture, etc. So the shirt got a 128x128, the pants got a 128x128, the face got a 128x128, etc. These were 24-bit textures, and we supported opacities, so it wasn't so bad.

PSP is another story....
This isnt nessecarily some limitation of the PSPs hardware as much as it's a limitation of our engine, and memory resorce allocation, but we get CRAP res on PSP. We still get to use 128x128 maps, but they're 4-bit textures. You know what that means right? 16 Colors. Sixteen freaking colors *shudders*

Plus the whole character needs to be around or under 800 verts.

Our PSP game is almost done tho and next we're gonna start on a ps3 game, and we're all greatly looking forward to using more than 16 colors per texture file. haha..

Limitations vary a lot from one system to the next, but they can also vary a lot from one game to the next. One type of game might have massive enviroment needs, so they cut down resources from other departments, while another game might have really simple enviroments so they go all out with characters and particles, etc.

I mean, think of a fighting game versus a 3rd person action adventure. The figher can put loads of stuff into the characters and animation, and put in some dynamics sim for cloth, hair, chains, whatever, all because they have very small enviroments. Even games like Dead or Alive where they can break through the windows and suddenly they're in a different area - that's still very little enviroment stuff to load and keep in memory compared to some action adventure where the player travels through huge levels with loads of NPCs.

So it really can vary a lot.

10 October 2005, 09:33 PM
Thanks alot Athey, that is exactly the kind of information I was after, The term brief can also vary alot from one or two lines about limitations to whole design documents, thinking about it I think the concept artists probably would get a larger written document describing what is needed, where a modeller may just get the model limits and the concept work to go from.

Once again thankyou for the input.

10 October 2005, 10:53 PM
I agree with Athey, with some minor diffrences.

We do get design docs - but the artist is generally responsible for creating reasonable poly and texture limits for themselves. I second the datails about low map size. You see a lot of stuff online with game characters posted that use 1024 maps and several of them. These are just not reasonable limits from my experience. There are exceptions of course but gererally I don't make antything over 256 for PS2 and maybe 512 for XBOX. Maybe.

Edit: I'm an environment modeler/texture artist.

10 October 2005, 01:27 AM
Interesting insight, Athey. Thanks for taking the time for that. :)

Oh, luciferous, I'm a boxer wearer myself btw. But I'm thinking of switching to briefs. They are much more comfortable. ;)... kidding.


10 October 2005, 02:51 AM
Interesting insight, Athey. Thanks for taking the time for that. :)

Oh, luciferous, I'm a boxer wearer myself btw. But I'm thinking of switching to briefs. They are much more comfortable. ;)... kidding.

haah i wonder if briefs/boxers is even used over there...i remeber when i was in london someone saying they never heard of "underwear" ... they call underwear pants... and what americans call Pants are called trousers.. well anyway

"vary" alot ill say;
where i work the game doc can sometimes come after assets have already started.
and since im a a "developer" (wich means i will be called upon to handle concept all the way to exporting for the programmer) sometimes im writing the game doc.

poly counts;
aim for 10k on screen; aprox 900-1300 for primary chars, 300-400 for props.
textures i dont go above 256's (png opacity supported) for a full character,, usually stick to 128's and no higher
for props we put a bunch on the same sheet so instead of a bunch of 32's and 64's we make a single 256

deadlines are harsh (usually), meeting them is important, this can/does cause quality sacrifices;
props are budgeted about 4-6 hours model + texture (such as a chain saw or dead flower in a bowl)
primary characters are given about 30-40 hours from concept to texture;
rigging/skinning can be about 8-16 hours
animation is budgeted at 1 hour for 1 second. (a 1.5 sec idle motion (about 6 key poses) is expected in under 2 hours)

some other specific tidbits, (remeber all this is specific to my work environment ofcourse)
usally the concepter is NOT the modeler. (this makes for harsher scrutiny imo :) )
the person who does the texture ALWAYS messes with the UVWs, and therefore is usually the modeler as well in our pipeline.
um thats all i can think of for insight atm

10 October 2005, 08:24 AM
very very interesting.

i think (from Experience) that alot of outside the industry (thats experience of being outside the industry), trying to get in, people use over the top Map sizes, because, either, they work with PC engines(working on consoles is really restricted to Pros), or that they look at specs, quoted by industry (like developers and manufacturers saying what the highest possible texture quotas are for a mmachine) and stick to these. its espesially easy to think the easiest way of making this model texture look better is by having it as large as pos.

Very interesting thread, for those not yet there. Where ever that will be

oh and were not the one who wear aour underwear as trousers.

Wayne Adams
10 October 2005, 01:43 PM

Boxers Briefs!! I GO COMMANDO!!
Well not really, but anybody remember that old NES and PC game, Commando? does he actually GO COMMANDO!?

10 October 2005, 03:16 PM

Boxers Briefs!! I GO COMMANDO!!
Well not really, but anybody remember that old NES and PC game, Commando? does he actually GO COMMANDO!?

I remember that game.. was a good old game and BTW I also go commando where ever I am... so much more comfortable and less restricting. that any kinda underwear.

Anywho, thanks everyone so far for... okay having oneo f those moments were the word just wont come... supplying (thats the word) info so far.

P.S 0 jerkazoid, what kinda game where those poly counts for?

10 October 2005, 03:29 PM
Athey + all...great thread, very insightful to someone like myself who wants to break into games soon.


Bazooka Tooth
10 October 2005, 04:28 PM
Yeah! This is great info! I really had the feeling that I was too high on my usage, but everyone was telling me I was low... Going off what you guys are saying, I am way, WAY too high. Thank for the info, would love to hear more.

10 October 2005, 06:33 PM
Yeah! This is great info! I really had the feeling that I was too high on my usage, but everyone was telling me I was low... Going off what you guys are saying, I am way, WAY too high. Thank for the info, would love to hear more.

I was talking to a friend the other day about hame asset limits and he begun to spout some rubbish about developers wanting game models that have upwards of 10,000 polys just for a head! at this point I releaised this friend og mine hadnt got a clue, but I got curious about the actual limitations.

Somewhere in my hopeful mind I think my friend my have been thinking about the detail that goes into normal maps... but even thinking this way it still seems mighty high up there

10 October 2005, 12:54 AM
Cool thread.. I look forward to hearing from more of our professionals!

10 October 2005, 08:51 AM
Yeah! This is great info! I really had the feeling that I was too high on my usage, but everyone was telling me I was low... Going off what you guys are saying, I am way, WAY too high. Thank for the info, would love to hear more.

As stated earlier, it completely depends on what you are aiming for. Knowing how to do really low poly and higher poly models and textures is a valuable skill so go for both.

Being able to create 6k characters using 1024 textures (diffuse, normalmap, specular, self illumination etc) is good for next generation games such as Gears of War while 300 poly characters with a 256 or 128 texture is good for current gen consoles and some handheld projects. Even lower than that works for handhelds so go crazy, try everything. I mean, some next gen projects have 10k+ polys for backgrounds such as a house and use several 512 textures (again, diffuse, normal maps etc). That's a completely different beast from creating 50 poly props with a 64x64, 16 colour texture :)


Oh yeah, normalmaps. When it comes to generating normalmaps, the models can be anywhere from 2mil to 14mil. The model they are generated for are a lot less. 10k for a face could make sense if it was a HUGE boss or something, perhaps with a small body? 10k for genrerating a normalmap doesn't make any sense since you can go completely bonkers when doing that (10mil? Sure! Go right ahead)

10 October 2005, 04:20 PM
10k for a face is extremly detailed.
1 guy at my work (its internet games btw luc) he loves to do higher poly stuff, hes more impressed with good modeling detial.

imo when u wanna get real good at modeling u go for the higher poly (yeah 10k for a head) so u get better at handling large amounts of realistic detail, if u keep making 100 polys for a face ur not really learning how to sculpt a well refined realistic head.

so in that respect its nice to show off that u have the know-all to sculpt a realistic high poly char.

i on the other hand always aim for slightly lower meshs and make up for it by working on getting better at texturing. i suppose however texturing as i know it will be obsolete in 10 years. (or maybe still used only on cell phones)

but as said its gonna depend;

do u want to do high poly chars realism/cinematics
or low poly mmorpgs?

me i even like doing old school 32x32 game sprites (just finished a game with some) so i guess i aim "low" even in 3d

10 October 2005, 04:39 PM
Something I have been noticig alot over the past few days, especially in the 3D still WIP forum, is that alot of the really smart looking meshs are quite conservative with the polys, Using thousand on one head means alot of detail, however with abit of cleverness you can cut that number down substantially and not loose much detail, only gain in render and manipulation ability.

When I first started in 3D a few years back I kew nothing and so I foolishly though that more polygons lead to better meshes, I was a huge fan of the smooth tool, but recently I have started teaching myself 3D again and i discovered the average normals tool, which can make a medium poly count stretch alot further than slapping in as many polys as possible.

When I was at university i specialised in 2D animation and conept art/ design and thinking back to my final year now I understand why alot of the people on my course who specialised in 3D couldnt produce anything worthy of applause, it was because of the belief that moreis better, so they spent ll their time putting together these hufe meshes that the university Pc's looked at and said ' screw this for a game of soldiers'; I tried to talk someo f them into using smaller meshes and concentrating on using bump maps and clever texturing to create and illusion of detail, however they shrugged me off as being the low tech artisan of olde, but now with the knowledge I have come into, ever since I started participating here, I know have to question my tutors who only taught modellng at ridiculous high poly levels.

I am quite tempted to try an experiment, over the next few days i am gonna model two heads, both based on the same schematics, one I will limit myself to 1500 polys the other... i shall go as high as my poor Sasha* will allow, I shall post both heads here when I am done, I will be interesting to see how much difference there actually is


*Sasha - My PC AMD Athlon +1700xp 1GB ram Nvidia GeForce 3 200ti

10 October 2005, 11:57 AM

It naturally depends on which company you intend to apply for and the platforms in which they produce games for. You should manufacture your portfolio to suit. Also, think of the style of game that the company your applying for produces. A game level I produced for my folio was basically cartoon proportions with realistic texturing, which I felt would be perfect for working at Rare.

If you wish to work on current generation technologies then take the advice from this thread regarding poly counts and texture sizes. Handheld devices perhaps slightly lower

However if you intend to work with next generation systems I can honestly say that you should not need to wory about polygon count anymore. Dont go totally insane and use millions where they are not needed though. But for example, if you would like an object such as a barrel to appear rounded, dont be scared to make it look perfectly round. It is well known now that the cars in PGR3 on the 360 use 80,000 polys for example. On paper the 360 can handle half a billion triangles per sec (b4 lighting and effects), so in my opinion there is no longer really an excuse for polygon-y, square objects.

One fact regarding textures in next-gen development that may interest you is that colour maps are quite low priority as surfaces are represented with more complex materials now. So there is not really a need for 1024 or even 512 tileable colour maps anymore, as most of the material information is created through a combination of colour, normal, parallax maps etc. Some of the textured surfaces I have used have used as little as 256x256 colour maps. These have been very simple too, but when accompanied with a good normal map and a tinkering with other attributes, these surfaces appear spectacular. lower res colour maps frees memory space for more complex materials.

Hope some of this info is useful

10 October 2005, 12:07 PM
very interesting post, but i have to say about your last point, im not sure that lowering the colourmap res will work for every style. you are working on quite a cartoony (sorry stylised) game, where this is very possible as the colours are going to be bright and bold. but in more realistic, or "gritty" styles the need for highest res colour maps will still be nessecary.

cheers for the input

10 October 2005, 12:30 PM
Yeah I can see your point.

It would kind of depend on the type of game you are developing for. However I think the point I was trying to make really would only refere to next gen development, or indeed any game that intended to utilise more complex materials than a simple colour map.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that if somebody were trying to create a texture that they wanted to appear realistic for a next gen game, then they wouldnt necessarally have to put a painstaking amount of detail into a 1024 colour map. As an example, if you wanted to create a sheet of metal texture with rust and scratches on, the colour map itself could be as simple as a flat grey with patches of brown on it! So given the low amount of detail the colour map can be tiny (id say 128x128 would suffice in this instance) The scratches, patches of rust and maybe dents etc would be represented through a normal map, which would be a higher resolution (id use 512). On top of this, a reflectivity map and a spec map could combine to make this surface appear very realistic, and hours was not spent painting every single minute detail in photoshop

I certainly wouldnt want to discourage anybody from producing beautiful, detailed colour maps. I used to do them myself and any company loves to see eye for detail and 2d art skills! This is very important. Its just that the new games technology has opened up new ways for artists to generate realistic surfaces for games.

10 October 2005, 12:51 PM
To add to what Dean Wilson said, with the new pixelshaders you can have several layers of textures.

Take, for example, a brick wall: You can start with a fairly small brick diffuse, maybe 128x128 or even 64x64, add a more detailed normal map, 128x128 or 256x256. To break up the tiling you can add a 32bit tga with grit, dirt, shades of colours etc, say a 256x128. This map you can then use on other surfaces as well, changing the opacity of it (in the shader, not the alpha), You can also scale it so it fits on a 2-3 story wall without any problems. On top of that you can add a second layer for dirt/shadows from windowledges etc. Or you can create a large graffitti piece depending on the wall. Of course, you could add a specular map as well but brickwalls aren't shiny so that'd be kind of silly :)

The new shading tech opens up a whole new world when it comes to texturing :D

10 October 2005, 12:57 PM
well i'm working on some multiplayer levels for a pc game being released next year and for the environment and props in the environment we are using anywhere from 150-275 different textures per level and the avg size is probally 512....i'd say we use 60%-512, 30%-1024, and 10%-less than 512. That's just a quick estimation. As was said earlier by somebody, polys aren't really that much of an issue as far as our environment stuff goes. I think i've only had to cut back polys on a room a handful of times

10 October 2005, 01:04 PM
arrgh, just deleted all i w4rote, quick recap.

i see what you mean, Dean, i too have a style fairly close to rares, and i put in a bit of grit. i get quite alot of stick for it from people who think a cartoony styled spaceship for example should have a cartoony styled material, just because thats the way drawings/cartoons have been drawn for years due to time restrictions. I will endevour to try out reducing the colour detail on the ship i am working on, and see what results i can acheive, i have always been too much of a chicken to try this befor. Link to ship below in signature.

urgaffel, i have used this kind of texture use for a while in some of my non-game stuff, its interesting to see that its starting to become a real possibilty within the game environment, it cuts down on alot of work.

10 October 2005, 02:23 PM
Your post is interesting, Dean. It reminds me of something that John Carmack said recently about not needing more polygons at this stage of game development, but more "passes" per polygon. It's pretty amazing what multiple passes on a 5000-8000 polygon character will do for you rather than just pumping more polys per character.


10 October 2005, 02:30 PM
texture layering and shading skills really seems to be where its at for the next gen. ive seen some very nice models with an added layer of specular/bump, for those up close sweaty shots.

10 October 2005, 02:48 PM

pleased some of you found my post interesting. yes it is true that is is materials as opposed to insane poly counts that are driving the progreesion towards greater realism in games today.

However, naturally, I would encourage anyone intersted in next gen games development to push their polys out. if somebody is used to making levels that are 50,000 tris, double that to 100,000! Include more details i.e - more trees, more debree etc. Make any objects that appear square and jaggedy more rounded and natural. People will soon understand that you do not have to have awkward looking geometry in realtime anymore, as the hardware is more than powerful enough to accomodate the extra polys. For example, I produced a level for my folio which was an outdoor environment with big rock faces and rolling fens. i boxed out the landscape to a basic standard and then imported the model into zbrush and literally 'painted' all the geometry for the landscape. It would have taken me days to replicate the same thing using conventional methods, and would never have looked so rounded and natural. I cant emphasise enough how next gen technology (im working on 360, but id assume ps3 and perhaps revolution will offer similar standars) can allow developers to push their 3d art like never before!

But yes, with regards to materials, I think there will come a time (maybe this generation) when we wont need technology that can push out more polys. I believe progression of shader technology will drive games further. I dont think anyone will ever have to model a scratch in a marines armour or every brick in a wall for example as a normal map can already produce a convincing result. 1 single polygon can be made to look like thousands, with use of a normal map, and a displacement map, which next gen technology can handle with ease!

10 October 2005, 02:58 PM
well maybe that scratch wont be modelled but it may be generated from polys, using poly diplacment maps, as dont you get problems with thes new hardware "virtual" displacement maps. like i heard that they dont like 90degree or over convex angles.

i hadnt thought about using Zbrush for landscape generation, interesting, do you use the pinch function to pull the geometry into important, detailed places, or do you leave the geometry fairly grid like for lod purposes, do you use lods, for level geometry.

10 October 2005, 03:19 PM
i dont think polygon displacement would be a good idea for something like a scratch, brick or other minor detail as it would require a higher poly count than would be necessary for such small details. The displacement maps I use are essentially pixel displacement.

As you probably know, the maps are black and white with white areas representing height and vice versa. although you may have a flat plane, the pixels will shift accordingly depending on the viewing angle of the player creating the effect of 3d. This is very good for surfaces such as bricks, cobbles or maybe archetectural details! If you have seen the unreal 3 engine demo that was showcased a while back, you may have seen them demoing this effect of a brick wall. One tip I would recommend when producing a displacement map for this kind of purpose would be to make the contrast quite soft. If you have a black area and a white area, make sure there is a progression between the two, or a blur if you like. Otherwise, you can get some nasty looking warping on the material. Yes it is also true, that if there is a particularly sharp angle on a piece of geometry, like a corner of a wall, the displacement map will look a little ropey, as the pixels shift around. This is why I would probably recommend using a few extra polys in an area like this or maybe taper edges slighly. This problem cannot be fully rectified at the moment due to the nature of the shader, so you may see one or two instances of a warping displacement map (or parallax map) in next gen games. Although these instances are rare!

As for your zbrush question, no I dont use LOD. Nor do I really use any extra polys on gameplay areas, although I suppose you could do! The entire environment mesh remains a similar density throughout. One tip though, if you plan to use this method, make sure you keep the base mesh as quads so that it subdivides correctly in zbrush! :)

10 October 2005, 03:31 PM
i havent had the chance to get me hands on a displacement shader yet, but its very interesting to know some of its limitations. i guess the best way to get around the corner issue would be by designing a corner detail, like a pillar or something into the object. i suppose they are very good for things like inserts, but could they be used to produce the effect of something like grass, i guese its not though as you are not using this in Kameo or Perfect dark, me thinks. how far can the projected pixel be from the underlying surface befor it starts causing problems.

10 October 2005, 01:04 AM
Guys... i have to say.. thankyou so very much, all this info is pouring into my poor sleep depraved mind... At the moment I have a few commissions to finish 2D wise anyways, then i cant start full on with my 3D stuff...

Shep... I just realised your from Manchester, my current neck of the woods, I live in Denton, Its nice to know someo f the talent here lives fairly close, lol.

Once agin cheers guys and keep it coming


10 October 2005, 01:10 AM
Oh before i forget.. Dean, how often do the powers at be down at Rare hire new staff? I wont have thing like a demo reel ready for a while and was wondering if they have a hiring time strip.. like alot of normal companies take on new staff in september... if I make sense that is.. earlier on I made a post and wasnt paying attention to what i was typing and when i read it back i had called the poor individual a raddish head... I edited before i think anyone saw... I hope cos i have alot of respect for the chap im talking about.

10 October 2005, 06:10 AM
Dean, could you post some examples of using Zbrush for landscapes? I'm really interested to see how you use it.

Shepeiro, for grass you can use specific pixelshaders, for example an adapted version of a fur shader. Using a displacement map for that would probably not be the best way to do it :)

10 October 2005, 08:48 AM
denton sounds nice Luciferus, im from down town MOOOOSSSSS SSSSIDE.

Urgaffel probably not, but im always on the look out for any way of twisting the rules of 3d, to produce new and interesting effects.

10 October 2005, 10:16 AM
You can of course do it in renders, but I doubt it would be worth the processing time if you'd use it in a realtime engine since you can have proper fur/grass shaders which would most likely look better :)

10 October 2005, 10:35 AM
do displacment maps work well with transparencys. or do they distort whats behind it, actually that could be a good thing.

10 October 2005, 10:48 AM
I guess they distort whatever is behind it. Never tried it but that's how I'm guessing it would work. I guess the effect you get also depends on in which order the passes are being processed (glass or displacement first?)... Anyone with some shader programming knowledge avaliable to fill us in? I wonder how parallax mapping and a glass shader would work together, if they even can work together...

Good question :)

10 October 2005, 11:10 AM
I have seen some interesting glass refraction effects in next gen stuff that are probably done in a similar manner.

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