This is something I, and probably others, would like to know. The Technical Artist role is a fairly new concept to the game industry. I believe that our roles have developed out of necessity as development of games have become much more costly and difficult.
I'm sure each company has a different view on what a TAs role is, since it probably largely depends on the type and needs of the games the studio is developing.
At Volition, we are focusing on developing open world games, and along with that focus comes a complexity of issues to deal with. So, our Technical Artist role encompasses many different roles. Here is a rundown of what we typically do:
- Provide tech support to artists, and in some instances, the entire team. We are typically the first line of defense in diagnosing a problem. Whether it be debugging a crash in the game, or why 3dsmax won't behave properly.
- Develop tools using MaxScript, Python and sometimes C/C# in support of a pipeline, feature, or to simply make the workflow of the artist easier.
- We create the shaders for the game. If the shader needs to be optimized for performance reasons, this is usually when a rendering programmer steps in.
- Work with programming, design and art to develop pipelines in support of a game feature. In some cases, we end up acting as a negotiator between disciplines to come up with a solution that all parties can live with.
- Develop content creation guidelines and help enforce them through the use of tools and reminders when needed.
- Optimize content for memory and performance gains.
- Work with programming to develop risk/reward on game features.
I'm sure there are more, so others from Volition can chime in and add to the list.
So, what do you do at your company as a Technical Artist?