Learning In Progress #9: Concept Art Repository

Here’s to thinking out loud!

I’ve decided that I need to have a clean and clear concept art repository. As it is, everything is really spread out and too dependent on me remembering where random crap is instead of actually being intuitive. My motto: If it only exists inside your head, it’s worthless.

So where do I begin? Let’s build a list of desired qualities:

  1. Accessible. I want it to be checked into Perforce so everyone syncs to it. (not all of my data and working files are in Perforce)
  2. Organized. I want it to be organized by primary asset types.
  3. Simple. I MUST limit the number of directories to as few as humanly possible. In my case, it’s four: Characters, Creatures, Environments, Weapons. Any further levels of granularity beyond “character” or “creature” should be designated in the filename, and NOT in a new directory. Why? I don’t want to have 500 different directories to look through! I also don’t want to have to sort through them all to decide how to classify something.
  4. Named. There should be a consistent and thorough naming convention that applies to everything inside it. And that convention should never, ever be broken or have exceptions made. I want to avoid proving the Broken Window theory right. It helps everyone stick to the convention if they see an uncompromising internal logic to it.
  5. Segregated. I want a totally separate directory that’s full of concept art that’s 100% ready for marketing PR web people to use at any time. This will keep things organized, AND prevent anyone from picking pieces of concept art I don’t want out in the public yet! People will meddle… give them their own playground to meddle in, and surround it with an electric fence.
  6. Finalized.The concept art repository will ONLY, ONLY, ONLY ever contain fully finished pieces of concept art. Fight THAT battle elsewhere. Dealing with iterations and latest versions of concept art should be contained in each artist’s submissions folder.

Here’s what the directory structure of that might look like:







Here are a few useful points I’d like to note:

  • I chose the filenames the way I did to keep things organized. “Dungeon_Runners” ALWAYS comes first in case any image is ever removed from context. There’s nothing more useless than finding “Stuff.jpg” months later and never knowing what the hell it is or where it came from.
  • Inside the Creatures folder, I organize it by race, the creature’s name, and whether it’s a color treatment or an orthographic view. Every piece of concept art I send out for characters and creatures has both, so I can quickly pinpoint the two separate files my contractor needs and send them to him without having to go hunting for it.
  • Inside of the Environments folder, there’s a simple breakdown of tilesets (the overall world) and props (the basic environment objects that inhabit them). If I put either “Tileset_” or “Prop_” first, it’ll help me sort through them by filename more easily. The most specific descriptions always come at the very end before the filename extension, because at that point, everything is already sorted by the type of concept it is and what world it belongs to.
  • In the Weapons folder, the first designation is “1H” or “2H” to indicate whether it’s a one-handed weapon or a two-handed weapon. After that, it’s the class of weapon (Axe, Sword, Staff, Pick, etc), the quality level (Normal, Unique, Mythic) and the number designation of that particular weapon sheet.

Of course, this will all be completely useless unless I actually maintain it religiously. The best time-saving devices in the world only have as much value as the amount of time you’ll put into keeping it updated. The trick is to make this a part of the concept art approval process. The SECOND a piece of concept art is done and approved and I tell my contractor to send me an invoice for it, the VERY next step I take is copying it to the proper directory. (I don’t have to rename it, because it’s my contractor’s job to name it properly.)

Now that I’ve written all of this down and set all the rules, and made it a part of the concept art approval process, it’ll be easy for me to follow them. Better than easy — it’ll be INEVITABLE that I follow them. Score!

This has all been totally stream of consciousness so I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. Anyone else have any ideas on what would make this even better?

[EDIT] As a happy note of triumph, I used these conventions and rules to completely organize my project’s concept art directory and I’m done after only three hours of work. Kick ass. 🙂 [/EDIT]

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