As a recruiter that specialises in Tech Art I’ve been keeping an eye out and, apart from the odd ‘What Do Tech Artists Do’ article or video, not much is out there that focuses on such an important part of the development process.
I really think understanding the ins and outs of other people’s jobs can help support everyone whether that’s people doing the same job, on the same project, or even just those that we interact with day to day.
From talking to people over the last few months I’m aware that there is a huge range of challenges in being a Technical Artist so I got back in touch with a range of Technical Artists from across the industry to try and find out…
What’s so difficult about being a Tech Artist?
Before I go into it, I want to break all the rules of blog writing and first off tell you the punchline of this article - What makes Tech Art difficult is exactly what makes it so interesting!
Every person I spoke to of course had an opinion on the difficulties they face, but what I kept hearing ever and over is that each of these challenges is why people enjoy the job so much.
But even though I've given away the final answer you'll (hopefully) still want to read on! So - what are the difficulties of Technical Art jobs?
I've categorised the answer into 4 categories....
- The Job Title
- Getting Started
The Job Title
Knowing what a particular studio means by ‘Technical Art’ is really important, as every business will need different aspects and define it differently. Some studios will be aware of which areas they need Tech Art to cover but sometimes it can be that a Technical Artist is simply brought in to help the art and programming teams work better together. In this case, figuring out what is needed is an important first hurdle. The main sections of Technical Art can be broken down into 5 sections…
There can be more areas depending on the size of the company as shown by this video by Riot Games which also goes into more detail if you’d like to learn more.
So, the difficulty with the job title is that when searching for a job as a Technical Artist, it is not as straightforward as other positions. You first need to figure out what is actually needed and if that matches your skills.
Due to there being so many aspects of the role, fitting into a new company with the new systems can be a difficult time. The job of a Technical Artist was very cleverly explained to me as...
So, obviously the first step is to look at the bricks you’ve been given! Most jobs done by a Technical Artist involve helping other people to best do their jobs, so the initial period is all about seeing how things are currently done before any work can begin.
This ties into the difficulties of such an encompassing job title but the main issue here is that even with the best outline of a job, figuring out the lay of the land is a daunting task.
This isn’t as negative as it sounds! Tech Art is (unsurprisingly) seen as a very technical role but understanding the people around you is such a key factor in succeeding.
With the pipeline - what works at one company may not work with another and this is down to the figuring out what these people and this company will respond to and what will work best day to day. You could implement the best organisational system ever, but if it’s too complicated for people to use then it will fall apart.
Also, outside of the pipeline, Tech Artists need to solve problems that people don’t even know they have yet. Finding the time to really understand every software and system used by their colleagues is crucial and can be difficult but is a very rewarding process when you get it right!
This is one for everyone in games I know, but the rate at which technology is evolving is something that isn’t for the faint hearted. What makes this particularly difficult for Technical Artists is that they must be on top of all programming and art software to be at the top of their game.
Being able to make tools or organise systems if you don’t understand them to their core can frequently end in disaster. Technical Art needs constant study to understand what is being used and what would work best in these situations rather than in other professions where it can be that the software is provided and that’s just what you work with.
But what’s the positive?
These are only a few of the positive responses to my question which shows that Tech Art can be one of the most incredible and challenging areas of game development and I love that I get to be a fly on the wall to such an interesting area!
Huge thank you to all of the Tech Artists that got involved with this blog. I will be trying to do new topics throughout the year so if there is anything you’d like to comment, suggest or get involved with then please do let me know!