Game Assets Management (GLM) was an incubation project at DevDiv. The goal of ALM is to extend Visual Studio’s digital asset tools to all roles involved in managing and integrating digital assets into the Application Life-cycle.
Target Audience And Scenarios
There are four roles involved in the process:
- Technical Director: Determine the file types used by the game engine; define and enforce the technical constraints (e.g. poly counts); write scripts to help the artist be more efficient (e.g. render scripts); integrate with 3rd party tools
- Art Director: Keeps the big picture and overall creative feel of the game consistent; approve assets; keep track of where the assets are in the process
- Artist: Want to create art and are not technical; only want to share art of a certain quality; care deeply about the look & feel of tools; stick to tools that they know
- Developer: As long as assets delivered are in the right format and right name, it’s all good
Problems occur because artists do not organize assets like developers organize code. They are sloppy with naming conventions; forget to use version control; make mistakes when manually exporting their work; report done verbally or wait to be reminded to do it by producer; lost art due to re-imaging machine or leaving company.
The scenarios I worked to streamline covered asset organization; task creation, scheduling and assignment; asset creation and approval; and solving bugs.
GLM was a research-heave project. From early planning phase, we regularly validated our ideas with artists, developers and project leaders who work with art assets at game shops. All the final features had been repeatedly confirmed by participants to be highly desirable.
The GLM system placed the burden of reinforcing naming convention, format and other technical requirements on the system instead of the artists. To ensure that the rules and pipelines are properly programmed and provided to the artist, I prototyped a collection of tools. For example, a image diffing tool and a visual regular expression editor for the art director to define naming conventions:
A proof-of-concept prototype was built by the engineering team. I wrote part of the UI with them. It was one of my best memories from DevDiv: developers and I sit back to back. We implemented something, felt it, had doubts, turned around and raised questions, fixed designs on the spot. It was a rare luxury.