What is a Technical Artist?

Also known as: Game Technical Artist, Video Game Technical Artist.

The technical artist is a new concept and role in the game industry, and acts as a link between the artists and the programmers working on a game. They are something of a hybrid between an artist and a programmer.

Every company may have a different idea of what a technical artist's roles and responsibilities are, however, their main area of focus is to integrate art assets into a game without taking away either the artistic vision or going beyond the technical limits of the platform. This role requires someone who is not only artistic (as in, can draw or sculpt, design etc.), but also has more technical skills (like rigging and programming) as well.

What does a Technical Artist do?

The technical artist is a new concept and role in the game industry, and acts as a link between the artists and the programmers working on a game.

The role of technical artist is a relatively new one, but it is becoming increasingly important as consoles and PC hardware become more complicated. A technical artist works closely with the lead artist and the creative director, as well as the lead programmers. Their responsibilities include setting up and maintaining the workflow of art production, deciding which art packages and tools a studio should use, investigating new techniques, and then going ahead and implementing them.

Putting technical artists into a studio frees up the programmers time from being the only ones responsible for developing and maintaining the game's tools and pipelines. Programmers can still have a hand in the design and implementation of these things, but technical artists are the driving force behind them. This allows programmers to concentrate more on developing game code, and allows artists to concentrate on making the best content they can with easy-to-use tools and workflows.

Completed art such as character art or environment background are delivered to the technical artist, who then optimizes the art to make sure that the digital files run efficiently, and that the designs keep high standards of visual quality. This includes shader and lighting optimization; technical artists are often asked to develop in-house shading tools. He or she is also responsible for preparing and/or designing character systems like skeletons, cloths, effect emitters, and ragdoll collision, and for collaborating with the environment artist and physics programmer to optimize environments and establish physics barriers.

The technical artist ports the assets to the game engine when art is ready, and keeps an eye on the performance of the assets and sets standards for workflow through the production pipeline. He or she must be able to create custom tools; this is usually carried out using the scripting languages included in the main modelling and animation packages. Technical artists also research and oversee the implementation of rendering techniques such as normal and specular maps, particle systems and pixel shaders.

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What is the workplace of a Technical Artist like?

Technical artists typically work for companies that solely produce console- and computer-based video games. The game industry is expected to grow and the need for technical artists will only continue to increase.

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Further Reading

  • Technical Artist getinmedia.com

    Something of a hybrid between an artist and a programmer is the video game technical artist.

  • Technical Artist Guidelines ericchadwick.com

    If you are an Artist or Designer and you have a problem with your content or your tools, the Lead Technical Artist is the first person you should go to for help.

  • The Code/Art Divide: How Technical Artists Bridge The Gap www.gamasutra.com

    As game development becomes more complex, with bloated budgets and team sizes doubling over last generation development, the need to bridge the gap between art and programming has never been more pressing.

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