I’ve been struggling with this question for quite a while. Talking to lots of people it seems that if you want to be successful in the field of CG, you need to specialize. Become just a character modeler. Do just hard surface modeling. Be a texture artists. Just do lighting. Be a rigger. Do straight up character animation. There are so many pieces of the pipeline, and its impossible to get good at all of them. I’ve been really hesitant to pick something to specialist in, as I feel that would pigeonhole me too much. Or worse, my skills become obsolete with new technology, or employers hire more people from overseas, leaving me to be highly skilled in one niche area that I can’t find work with.
Yet, I also read that generalists are better for freelance work, and for smaller studios. Still though, the common piece of advice I read is to specialize in something. Maybe its my stubbornness showing again, but I really do not want to pick something and abandon the rest. I think about what got me into this in the first place. I don’t like doing CG, because modeling is fun. I don’t do it because texturing is fun. I also don’t do it because animating is fun. Although doing certain things are fun, what I like about it all is the whole package. I remember the first time I created an entire scene in 3D. I can’t find the file, but It was a simple snowy landscape with a snowman character. It was so simple, and very crude. Yet, I was so proud of it. It was mine. I used a tool which was the computer, to create a world and a character that didn’t exist. I brought life out of nothing.
I’m having a hard time explaining what I mean. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think I would be happy if I was making a lot of money doing just the same thing over and over. I’d be a cog in a machine, and I would constantly have to worry about layoffs. I would only be able to work on other people’s projects, and I wouldn’t be able to do my own.
Ok, so I want to be able to do everything. Is that even practical? I like to think that it is. I don’t see a problem working for smaller studios or indie projects. Yes the smaller guys wont have the funds to hire a specialist in every piece of the pipeline, so it makes sense that they will hire a smaller number of generalists who can get the job done and wear more hats. At least in theory that’s how I envision it. Maybe I’m wrong.
I just know that there are things that I want to do, that will only be done if
A: I do it all myself (maybe bring on a few teammates to help, but overall its my baby)
B: Somehow get the funds to hire a specialist in every other thing that I am not, and then also play director role.(Which by definition means that I’m no longer specializing)
I’m not rich, so Option B is out. It has to be option A.
Does option A offer a realistic way to make money and afford living? That’s the question I wonder about. In theory yes. If I do everything at a high quality then yes I can make it work. There are lone indie game developers who can afford to make ends meet. Most of them don’t however, but they do exist. Can I be one of them? I would have to take on programming in addition to art, which makes things VERY difficult.
So I wonder, if I decide to stay a generalist, and create my own stuff in hopes to support myself, am I being naive? Or am I being ambitious? That seems like the harder option. Yet, at the end of the day I would prefer to be successful doing what I want to do, than to be a cog in somebody else’s machine. Is that a childish mentality to have? I think about what got me into this in the first place, and it wasn’t the modeling. It wasn’t the texturing. It wasn’t the animation. It was creating.
I think I need to at least give it a shot. The worst that can happen is I fail.