Specializing vs generalist


Hi folks, new aspiring artist/gamedev here,
A bit about me:
I used to work random odd jobs/temp jobs but I had a bit of a life altering moment of clarity a few months ago, and realized this is for me.
I started learning/working on as many projects as much as I could. Iv made some practice projects, and am currently in the process of finishing a game that actually looks decent.
Everything in the game(and previous projects) is made entirely by me, a one man team. I do everything from Coding/Programming, to 3d modelling/texture/sculpting, animation/rigging, game/level design etc etc.

I feel like I’m at a fork in the road now, my skills are starting to develop to the point where I feel like i’m doing more than just scratching the surface and my skills are starting to take flight.
But sometimes I feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do what I love. And that I’m trying to learn/do everything at once. What should I do? Should I focus on Coding and Game logic, or the artistic side? Ultimately all of this comes together to create a great game/finished product, but my understanding is that usually professionals work in teams and studios, where different departments are responsible for different things and, where each person/team has a focused task.

Should I continue to juggle everything best I can? Should I hunker down and just focus on one area to master? What have you all done throughout your lives/careers?
Another thing I am trying to consider is whats more in demand? And where is more money?

I’ve done enough stupid pointless things in my life, and held enough sh*tty meaningless worthless jobs to know that THIS is what i’m meant to do (Playing and Making video games) and if I’m doing this on the day I die, I will go a happy man. Knowing I fulfilled my destiny. Ultimately it matters not what I do(programming or artistic stuff), but that I make cool games and am involved in the process.

I live in Canada, but I have no problem whatsoever going where the work is.(I hear Montreal is a hub…also Vancouver)

I should add I have no desire to work in anything other than gaming really. I learned programming only because I can use it to make games…(I have no desire to ever write banking software for instance)

I should also also add that at the moment, I am able to concentrate full time on this.

I don’t want to hamper my career by choosing the wrong path. Your inputs would be greatly appreciated.



It would be interesting to see what your output looks like. Then people could say what direction you could move into.
I’m really surprised you can do all at once. As it’s really rare. Having both artistic and math background is a good foundation, which you seem to have.
If you can create your own product and sell it, what else would you want? Just ask what goals you personally want to attain, then plan your learning accordingly.
A generalist usually specialises in one field, with a bit of knowledge in others. Though you can switch later to another position. For example, usually people start learning modeling, then materials or animation.
It’s a pretty complicated question to which extent to learn something, as life is short, and learning one discipline can take to a year, or more. Modeling, rigging, lighting, animation, artistic foundations, and you have 10 years of your life. If you’re in your 10-20’s, good for you. But if you’re over 40, I’d think carefully about becoming a generalist even in a general sense.
There’s this mistake, many 3d-artists make, as it’s easy to bury yourself into technical side of things. Some learn two similar programs, while being bad at art.
it’s important you move into the right direction, rather than practise, which might be just wasting your time.
Concept design is crucial, if you want to stand out. Or you have to be a technical specialist.
It’s just not a straightforward way to success as people envision. I think I know quite more than the average joe in 3d, but I don’t make more than the average 3d-specialist in my country. So it didn’t give me monetary gain, but I was able to pick interesting projects, not being stuck into one field. You might wear different hats in this industry.
I think anyone has to understand the magnitude of becoming a generalist. It’s really time-consuming. Those you see on artstation, which can do many things, they are rare. Many of them have a really good education by the age 20. Respect to them and their parents, or countries with good education.
There is a price you have to pay, and it’s not always evident. It might take many years, of no pay, no return. But this story isn’t unique to cg–market. The same in sports, where some become great, most don’t. And being a generalist doesn’t = great or rich As well as being a specialist. A specialist can be actually more confined in his\her knowledge, doing the same thing for years.
Today is a great time for learining, with so much knowledge. It also can be owerwhelming.
I would advise focusing a year or two on one thing. And then move to another.


I think it very much depends on where you want to go. As a freelance 3D generalist what you end up learning is largely driven by the jobs you get. Developing the faith in yourself that you can leverage what you already know and quickly learn the things you don’t to accomplish the task you’ve promised to do is what gets you the jobs. What those jobs turn out to be steers your direction more than conscious choice out of necessity. That’s how my career has gone, doing animation for corporate video mainly, then later mostly product visualization. It chose me more than I chose it. I’ve now left the freelance world for a full time position as a visualization artist and it’s probably where I’ll stay until I retire. That said, the fact that I was ready to step in to a company with no in-house 3D capability and be a one man band is what got me the job over other applicants who could model but not texture and render, or were fine artists but couldn’t do modeling, etc etc.

If your goal is to get on staff somewhere as a game developer then I’d wager your best bet is to specialize and let your other skills be added incentive to prospective employers. I have zero experience in the games industry so take that for what it’s worth (i.e. not much). If you enjoy being a jack of all trades (which I still get to be), then that may affect the kind of career you want to aim for.


I was just like you 15 years ago - I did 2D, 3D, interactive, web design, graphic design, UI design, web3D, 3D game prototypes, programming, scripting and so on.

Basically, the large companies want 1 or 2 skill specialists - model this object from a drawing, rigg this character, put this kind of fur on the 3D lion, simulate a waterfall with particles and fluids, light this exterior level in XYZ ways, write a Python script that makes car traffic and pedestrians move along city streets, and so on an so forth. You may find that a game made at such a company employs 100 specialists all doing what they do best.

If you want to do it all - or nearly all - and like working like that, your best bet might be to join a good indy game developer team. There it is usually much smaller teams - just like in the 1980s and 1990s - and pretty much everyone likely has to do more than just 1 job on the team - whatever the game being made requires. So you might code some AI there, and model some 3D characters, and create some level layouts. If you are 8 people versus 80 people, of course everybody has to do multiple jobs.

A third option, if you are financially secure, is to go solo developer completely - smartphone and tablet games (“Mobile Games”) are currently overtaking AAA PC games and PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch games in popularity and sales numbers right now. Many people choose to game on a phone or tablet today, not at a desk or in front of a living room TV.

Most of those games are rather simple (not all that hard to make) yet very addictive and rewarding - kind of like the games of the 16-bit Amiga/Atari ST era remade with some nicer 3D graphics.

You could get an emulator like Amiga Forever (about 20 bucks), playtest the top 50 or top 100 games of the Amiga era, and remake something similar, alone, with OK 3D graphics and sound good enough for a smartphone or iPad game:


Look at games like Speedball 2, New Zealand Story, Ski or Die, Cannon Fodder, Buggy Boy, Stunt Car Racer, Zany Golf, Flood, Klax, Atomino, Lost Vikings, Double Dragon, Pinball Dreams, Lemmings, Worms, The Incredible Machine, Great Giana Sisters, Silkworm, R-Type 2, Chaos Engine, Rainbow Islands, Virus/Zarch, Gods, Magic Pockets, Black Tiger, Midwinter 2, Xenon 2 Megablast, Marble Madness, Bombuzal, Paradroid, Pirates and others.


A lot of the smartphone and tablet gamer crowd is much too young to have played these classic games at all - they were born 10 to 15 years after these games were made. And a lot of popular mobile games today still borrow very very heavily from the successful gameplay concepts of old 1980s and 1990s game classics.

So you could get 5 - 8 really cool gameplay ideas from these classic games, remix them into a completely new mobile game with a new name and look, and then do the coding, 3D graphics, sound yourself.

Mobile games are often played for 15 minutes to 1 hour only at a time - sometimes at home, sometimes at work, sometimes on the bus or in the subway - so they are simple, easy to learn, addictive, yet challenging and rewarding games just like the 1980s and 1990s stuff.

Of course, this stuff is best done not alone, but with 2 to 4 people - 1 coder, 1 3D graphics person, 1 sound/music person, 1 level designer/play tester.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot build a mobile game from start to finish yourself - there were people who did that back in the 1980s and 1990s.

The best thing about today is that physics/dynamics engines can take care of a lot of the player-objects-level interaction that the programmers of the past had to painstakingly code by hand.

So 3 options - join a big company and do 1 task, join an indy game team and do multiple tasks, or make and sell your own mobile game and do everything yourself.

Whatever you decide to make, get a good knowledge of the classics of the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s and make something really interesting and unique that people genuinely want to play for hours and pay hard money for.

Good luck! :cool:


Awesome, thanks so much guys.


Check out this video if you don’t want to bother with emulators: