Monday, April 30, 2012

GDC 2012:  Art Director / Lead Artist Roundtable

3-Day Summary | March 7-9, 2012

Problem Topic:  Scope Creep
  • Mini-milestones. 
  • Weekly Reviews. 
  • Milestone Bucket. 
  • Prioritized Backlog. 
  • Sprints.

The next question posed:  What is the greatest contributor on your projects to scope creep?
  • Increasing Complexity. 
  • Shifting Priorities. 
  • Story Development. 
  • Competing Art Direction. 
  • Creative Director. 
  • Buffers.

The next question posed:  What strategies have your studios employed to address scope creep?
  • “Baby Kills.”    
  • Broad vs. Specific. 
  • Strike teams/Scrum/P.O. 
  • Find Allies. 
  • Pick Your Battles.  Priorities.
  • Change Date. 
  • Communicating Consistent Vision. 
  • Overscope Early. 
  • Broadcast for Ideas & Actively Cull. 
  • Know Team Strengths. 

The next question posed:  Is scope /feature creep always a bad thing?
  • Feature Creep Can Be Good. 
  • Art Leads Manage Process for Change. 
  • Tools Impact Viability. 

Problem Topic:  Creating Effective Art Critique
  • Meetings. 
  • Dailies. 
  • Artist-driven vs. Director-driven. 
  • Peer critique first. 
  • Animation – block out, checkpoints, asset viewer, game approval. 
  • Get it in Game. 
  • Group Meetings > Emails. 
  • Space Planning for Interaction. 
  • Let it sit; Use time. 
  • Remote Development -> Skype, Vid Conf ; Face-to-face > email. 
  • No Meeting days; Preserve time. 
  • Impacted by Team Seniority. 
  • Time for playing the game

Peer Critique:  The next topic that was discussed was how peer critique was leveraged in different studios.
  • 360 Feedback. 
  • Adaptable / Flexible. 
  • Safe but hierarchy for decisions. 
  • Start with technical checklist and then teach aesthetics. 
  • Break the production pace. 
  • Too rigid a schedule for reviews. 
  • Show WIP. 
  • Allow for iteration time. 
  • Different structures 
  • Different teams critique. 

The last component of the critique discussion focused on:  Taking Non-artist Feedback. 
  • Reframing / Understanding Comments. 
  • “Lunch & Learn.” 
  • Encourage whole team to participate. 
  • Providing context. 
  • Teaching visions and values. 
  • Clarity of Design. 

The struggle between leadership and delegation.
  • Student projects – lack of authority
  • Programmer / Tools feedback – usability from staff and priorities from leads
  • What type of leadership training is offered.
o   targeted mentorship
o   one-on-one interactions.
  • Structure of leadership training, identifying the right people. 
o   best artists frequently do NOT make the best leaders. 
o    “theater analogy” director != artist

  How the attendees’ studios identified leadership potential
  • The first quality voiced was sociability. 
  • Consistency over time. 
  • Response to critique
  • Willing to let go of content creation
  • Can share the vision
  • Caretakers for the careers of others
  • Maintain credibility with their team:
o   Regular interaction with the team
o   Focus on the culture
o   Commonalities
  • Sharing the vision while adhering to the stylistic goal?
o   "Stubborn in vision, and flexible in details.”
o   Clearly establish the guiding principles
o   The right team to accomplish the goal
o   “Letting Go.” 
  • Can learn from past mistakes,.
o   solicit input/feedback from the team
  • Break the routine
o   events over lunch
o   after hours sessions

Career Development for Art Teams:
  • Art Lead - reliance for input
  • career development regularly (from content to leadership).
  • Path to Senior Artist?
o   always respond with “Why?” 
o   talk about why they want to be a senior artist
  • Principal Artist. 
o   Most difficult problems
o   Sets the standards, in both process and quality
o   Frontline of problem identification and risk mitigation.
  • Senior Artist
o   Expanding influence
o   Mentorship. 
  • Lead Artist
o   Management and Organizational Ability
o   Communication Ability
  • Focus on those who ask for responsibility (not title)

What do you do when an employee asks for more money? 
  • Send them to HR. 
  • Discuss experience and level of contribution
  • Kick-off a conversation around opportunities
  • Number of projects shipped” as a contributing factor?
  • Entry level (associate position), little relevant experience.
  • Impact the individual has on the team

What was most important attribute in the next employer:
  • Values of the studio
  • Work / Life Balance
  • Defining Individual Growth beyond work
  • Size of company
  • Opportunity to build the art culture
  • Presence of Veterans (implied stability and satisfaction)
  • Opportunities to network, learn from others
  • Life drawing, Sketchcrawl

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