Monday, November 4, 2013

The Artist's Struggle

There's something which has been happening to me lately.  Something that is both a blessing and a curse.  It might happen to you, too, if you do art for your own games.  It's something that needn't be feared, though it is a very easy trap to fall into, and, if your will power isn't strong enough, it will consume you completely and might even cause your project to be delayed, or worse still, never finished.  What is this horrifying phenomenon, you ask?  I'll tell you: it's getting better at drawing.

I know, I know, you must be thinking, "how is getting better at drawing a bad thing?"  I'll be the first to tell you that it isn't.  Improving your art is a great thing.  Growing as an artist, or programmer, or writer, or any other facet of game design is truly rewarding.  You can look back at your previous work and you smile to yourself, pleased in the knowledge that what you're doing now is miles beyond what you thought looked good in the past.  There's just one small problem: what if that previous artwork is comprised of several backgrounds in your game?

We all know making a game takes time, especially if you're doing it on your own.  If you get better at art, it might cause the stylistic consistency of your game to change.  What if you learn a new technique or trick for lighting backgrounds?  You feel it looks amazing, but when you look at your previous work, you realize it would benefit from said technique, so you go back and tweak everything to achieve some sort of similarity.  That's all well and good, but where do you draw the line?  If you have to go back and redo everything every time you learn something new, you'll be improving things forever, and your game will never get done.

This has happened to me already with backgrounds in A Golden Wake.  There are some scenes I've tweaked 3 or 4 times since I drew them just because I've learned something new and want to make them look their best.  Same with the character portraits.  I even posted on this blog demonstrating the new technique I learned.

The other day, I tried yet another technique for character portraits, and I feel it makes them look way better than what I've been doing so far, but here is the dilemma: I've already got 31 characters in the game, and 95% of them have portraits, and most of those are already animated.  So is it worth going back and redoing them all?  At this point, I say no.  I am drawing the line, and leaving this new method for my next game.  Will I look back on A Golden Wake and wish I'd redone the portraits?  It's a strong possibility, but I'd rather have the game finished and out within the next year than delay it for who knows how long just because I wanted to change something.  Who's to say I won't learn something in the meantime that will make things look even better?  To get caught in that cycle is definitely not worth it.