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Old 06-14-2008, 10:11 AM   #1
Geffex
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Default In Depth: Art Tests and What They Require

I have received a few PM's and e-mails about Art Tests so I decided to post an in depth discussion about them. This post will just discuss what I have been given for an Art Test and what some of you may want to prepare for since a lot of people are greatly naive when it comes to knowing what will be required of an artist in the industry.

In total I completed 6 Art Tests from all types of companies. I can not say which company requires what since it has the chance of breaking the NDA I signed but, I can say what kind of things you will see based on what these tests all had in common. So lets begin by category on what companies will want you to be capable of and then I will move into a simple list and simple breakdown of what I was required for each test.


Low Trinomial Counts:

First off I am distinguishing this - Polygons are made of two Trinomials and Trinomials are three sided. A lot of people do not know this and a lot of game companies call Trinomials Polys since everything is based on a per Trinomial count and not a Polygon count. So, you like to model things with 10,000 Tris (5,000 Polygons), which in reality is not that high, but in the game world thats reaching the maximum limits of characters and next generation assets cap out at the 6,000 mark. If you are someone who enjoys MMO's then cut that character limit down to 4,000 and that asset limit down to 3,000. In the next gen world this is more then you need so if you can not model something with these kinds of limits, you need to learn it. Of course there are acceptions to this where there maybe a important asset that goes higher or there are low poly creatures that you fight but your character itself is higher poly. From what I have been told, the maximum display on a next generation screen is between 500,000 and 550,000 Tris. You also need to keep in mind that animations, effects, spells, etc. have to be added so your actually hard modeling has to be well under that limit.


Functional / Vague Geometry:

Every model I have been given has to be functional. This means that there will be concept sketches and they do not move on a 2D image. You have to figure out what would move, if anything, and how it would move and model your object to these functions. For example if you have a Turret and it has to rotate 180 or 360 degrees and then it has to be able to tilt up and down 180 degrees you obviously have to have a rotational base and a tilting pivot. The drawing most likely won't show you this so you have to figure out where to put breaks in the modeling and where to model pivots. Additionally, a lot of areas on the concept art are going to be vague or hidden since a lot of times you will be given one image compared to a complete layout of the object that shows 6 different angles of that object. So, you have to take that one concept image and continue the given style through the areas that are not depicted and you have to figure out whats on the other side of that wall that you can not see or how something functions. Here is a further example - going back to the turret, if a human can "man" this turret as a gunner there has to be a control panel and handle bars or some type of steering column for this gunner to "man" the turret. This may not be shown in the concept work so you have to figure out how that will function and what it will look like.


Smoothing Groups / Soften Edges:

I will touch on this briefly. Sometimes tests will require you to smooth the normals completely and sometimes they have specifics such as only smooth edges that need to look beveled or harden all profile edges for a comic look. In the end, they all require some sort of normal smoothing and usually it is smoothing all the normals.


Texturing Limitations:

So if you are someone who has 2,048 x 2,048 or 4,096 x 4,096 texture sizes, think again. The highest limit I had was 1,024 x 1,024. Most people will double this and then shrink it down to obtain more detail but I advise against this for most art tests. Let me tell you why. You have to base this decision on the test its self but two of my tests require a zoom test. One company was going to zoom in on my texture 7x (700%) and if there was too much noise, I failed. The other was doing a 4x (400%) zoom test. You create more noise by bringing the texture down from higher resolutions. Some companies won't care about noise but let me put it this way, the better resolution you can achieve with less, the more you are worth and the more companies will want you. Additionally, the amount of texture maps you can use per test will vary. Usually I was not allowed more then 2 diffuse maps which could not exceed 1,024.


Texture Creating:

Another challenge with these Art Tests is how you create your textures. I have had ZERO tests that allow you to phtosource your textures. I am a person who has learned to hand paint and generate all my own textures so this is the norm for me but many, many college students photosource everything. This means you can not take images offline nor clone stamp textures you find or anything of the sort. You must use a wacom tablet and paint your textures or learn to generate realistic textures in Photoshop. Some tests even require extreme specifics. I had a few tests that require hand painted textures in a specific style such as a painterly look. They want all the textures to look as if they were painted showing obvious brush strokes and they must not break up on zoom tests so you have to use hard brushes. One test even required hand painted normal maps in order to reduce noise and achieve a hard edge style in the normals. Just be advised you will have a hard time getting a job if you can not make your own textures. Trust me on that. So, begin learning to hand paint stylistic textures and generating realistic textures in Photoshop. This will also improve your texturing since generated textures and hand painted textures look much sharper, clearer, achieve higher resolutions, and have better optimizing then photosourcing. The difference is night and day.


Texture Map Passes:

This is a brief section but if you can not make one of these maps, it is time to learn how to because they were required for most of my tests. The maps I had to generate were; Diffuse Map, Specular Map, Gloss Map, Alpha Map and Normal Map and sometimes Reflection Map. The one map I had no idea about was Gloss Map. This is a map that controls your specular map. For example if you have an object with both stone and metal on it obviously the metal has more specular than stone. The Gloss Map will allow the metal to have a brighter Specular than the Stone. The map is read in gray scale and white is brighter than black. Additionally these texture maps usually do not have to be the same size as your diffuse. For example Specular can be 1/2 or 1/4 of the size of your Diffuse so making it 512 or 256 greatly saves space over a span of 75,000 assets per game. You simply have to do trial and error to see if the object looks the same at lower resolution maps.


Time Limit:

Simple, you have time limits and you better get it done on time even if you have to cut things out or make some textures simplistic. The time is a test to see how you handle optimization and short ends under a deadline as well as what you are capable of with less time than you normally will have. I am sure you notice things in games where something looks awesome but then some areas or objects look less detailed. Sometimes time takes a toll on quality. Just make good decisions.


So these are the main things you have to focus on for multiple Art Tests. Here is a quick breakdown of what I had to do:

Art Test 1:
Single Object for a MMO:
-3,000 Tri Limit
-Hand Paint All Textures
-Stylistic textures with painterly feel
-All texture map passes except reflection

Art Test 2:
Two Objects for Next Gen RPG:
-1,000 Tri limit per object
-Generate all textures
-Realistic textures with defined look
-All texture map passes

Art Test 3:
One Object for Next Gen Shooter:
-4,000 Tri Limit
-Generate all textures
-Realistic textures with defined look
-All texture map passes

Art Test 4:
Three Objects for MMO:
-2,000 Tri Limit
-Hand Paint All Textures
-Stylistic textures with defined look
-All texture map passes except reflection

Art Test 5:
Full Environment Scene for MMO:
-MMO Ideal Tri limit
-Generate all textures
-Self chosen style and defined look
-All texture map passes except reflection

Art Test 6:
One Object for Next Gen RPG:
-4,000 Tri Limit
-Generate all textures
-Realistic textures with defined look
-All texture map passes


Hopefully this helps you guys prepare for your tests if you get them. Have fun!
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Old 06-14-2008, 04:01 PM   #2
EvilLlama
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Do the pattern brushes on Photoshop count as photosources?
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Old 06-15-2008, 09:20 AM   #3
Geffex
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This depends. If the image is your own that you took and it has amazing resolution, then I would say it is safe. If you just lay a image from offline over as a pattern overlay than it still has insane noise levels on zoom tests. Additionally photos have built in shadows which you want to avoid in your texture. You will define shadows in texture painting with Occlusion Maps. If you Pattern overlay your own texture, than that is fine. I have 100+ patterns in Photoshop built from my own texture archive that I have made. Doing this really helps a lot and it avoids noise since they are all your own hand painted textures or generated textures. If you want to use pattern overlays for form, I recommend using Bevel and Emboss with the texture defined to get the form and then hand paint in the colors. Sometimes this blurs to much so if you want the form more defined, convert the photo to Black and White and then use Filters > Style > Emboss and then set that as a Multiply, Screen or Overlay for the form. Also if you want to make the image look even better, I duplicate the emboss and Color Range Selection the black in one layer and copy it into a new layer and set that to Multiply for the Blacks and then do the same for white and set that to Screen. I use that quite often and then just generate my texture over it or hand paint it with a Wacom. Anything you take in real life can be generated, of course it will have a slightly more stylistic look, in Photoshop.

In the end you want to learn to make your own textures especially hand painting them. You are worth more and more companies will hire you. Some companies will not hire you unless you can generate and hand paint your textures. I had an Interview with Blizzard Entertainment and they said hands down if you can not hand paint or generate your own textures you can not get a job with them. BioWare is another company much along those lines who expect you to be able to make all your own textures.

Last edited by Geffex : 06-15-2008 at 09:30 AM.
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