How to grow the forum?

I’m very happy with our tight-knit tech-art community, but for a long time now I’ve pondered how to grow it. The technical problems with the site have given me a new energy and capability and I feel like the time is right to at least figure out what to do :slight_smile:

We’ve been sitting relatively stagnant in terms of active member count and activity for a while. This has been expected, since our possible pool of members is relatively low and there’s only so much we can do to grow it. However I’m not willing to take that cop out and watch the site stagnate- it took a lot of work in the first year or so to launch and grow the site, and we have a larger and more mature community to contribute now. So there are two questions I’d like to ask you all:

[B]1) How can we better serve existing users of the site?

  1. How can we attract a larger or more engaged audience?
    I won’t go on at length because I’m really curious to hear everyone’s ideas. For the second point, though, the main target groups would be students/new TA’s, and the more experienced TA’s who may not traditionally hang out on forums.

I want to hear both tweaks or minor changes we could do the forum (such as adding a VFX section which definitely improved activity), or entirely new technology (which would be facilitated by vbulletin’s new API).

Thanks everyone.

Ohh I just had an idea- some IDE plugins that will allow you to post questions to TAO from your IDE (and get answers via email!).

One thing that could make this site a bit better might be to add more content in the form of tutorials and examples. Granted there is a lot of great information contained within the forum, but it can be a bit tough to filter through it all to find what you’re looking for. It could also be a bit intimidating to students and new tech artists when they’re really not familiar with the more advanced content on the threads. If TAO were to offer more in the way of easy to find and easy to use information, there may be a greater influx of users. This could possibly start from something along the lines of an “Intro to MaxScript” forum or the like (probably a lot less specific). New people to the industry or those who are just learning it may feel less self-conscious posting a seemingly “stupid” question if there is an area where the “I’m just learning this, guys. Cut me some slack” type questions can reside. I realize that the general community here is already willing to help, no matter how simple the question may be. Based on a lot of the thread topics here currently though, it doesn’t give the impression that this is the kind of place where those types of questions should be asked. (I may be wrong on that and no offense intended to anyone.)

Content for the tutorials/examples could come from more experienced users who are interested in helping the community. This could be a draw for the guys who don’t traditionally hang out on forums. Perhaps even starting the wiki up again would be nice. I know it was a very valuable asset to me as I was just stepping foot into the tech artist realm.

Those are just a few thoughts as to some expansion. I’m sure there will be a ton of other much better ones posted soon. Good luck with the work on the site. You’ve done a great job with it already and I hope to see the site grow even more! I’m pretty sure I’d shed a tear or two if TAO were to ever disappear.

Polycount wiki:
If we had something similar like this, or even work together with them (why re-invent the wheel? and they have some 1st class info there)

I agree, if TAO had organized learning resources especially geared towards TAs it would be extremely helpful. In the past I’ve been writing stuff like “Intro to databases”, “Intro to HLSL” myself. While I have good knowledge, it’s not the same as if you have articles or wikis where experts contribute. I think tutorials would help a lot to make TAO more useful and to spawn more discussion.

Another thing that comes to my mind is workshops just like in forums. Those guys have some nice programming workshops, maybe we could have something similar for tech artists like UDK workshops / rigging workshops / shader workshops / programming workshops and keep everything in the same section so it’s easy to find stuff. Of course the workshops would need to be approved by an Admin or Content Staff so it’s held at a quite professional level and follows some sort of template so everything is consistent. It should feel like a family not scattered tutorials. I think this would attract students and seniors.

If we go doing something like this I’d like to help out in whatever way you guys see fit for me :slight_smile:

Yeah, a well maintained wiki would be great. If polycount agree to colab it would be a great resource.
Something like nukepedia: essentially creativeCrash with a more focused and easy to navigate UI for tutorials, scripts and tool sharing as well as links to other resources.

A wiki like system would be great because everyone approaches things differently and especially as a student, it would be great to be aware of what methods are best for the task at hand. Especially with rigging, it would be great to have a resource on getting a modern full featured rig together.

I enjoy the format of the altdevblog system as well, I think that could be integrated and expanded for some good reading on a wider variety of topics.

Yeah, my first thought too was some great tutorial or seminar content. Also a place where we can perhaps gather material from previous talks/presentations at events (if they’re available). I’d love to see some more interviews and a collection of stuff from people who are in industry too - as tech art can kinda be a mystery from the outside at times. :slight_smile: I also support the idea of a wiki as comprehensive at polycounts, and also a place to encourage younger TAs/students like myself to ask questions we may feel are too stupid to ask elsewhere. :stuck_out_tongue:

I would like to make actual meetups in different cities, countries more transparent. Our own little social events were we could collaborate/network more and share our knowledge.
So a calender and official meetups would be awesome :slight_smile:

I was emailed this 2 days ago, it isn’t yet live on DePaul’s website. In the fall however there should be a whole new crop of students interested in the forum and specific to this field. Also any thoughts on the course lineup? Would be interested to hear feedback on here: [The following is the email]

I?m happy to announce that we have a new graduate concentration that starts in Fall: the Technical Artist concentration in the Animation MA. It won?t be posted on the CDM website for a few more days, but I thought some of you may be interested in it.

The description and requirements are below. At the end of this email I?ve included a collection of recent job postings for game technical artists so you can get an idea of what the game industry is looking for (it?s a long list). This is a growing field of employment in the game industry due the increasingly technical nature of game art and animation, and people enter it from both programming and art backgrounds.

In Fall we?ll be offering the foundational course in the degree: ANI 446 Game Art Pipeline. It?ll be taught by Heinz Schuller, former Art Director at Day 1 Studios and a 20 year veteran of the game industry.

Let me know if you have any questions about the degree. It?s also available as a 5-year BS/MA combo.


Read more about the Technical Artist role in games and film:

Tech-Artists.Org - ?a community for technical artists in videogame and film development?

Interviews from the ?2011 Tech Artist Bootcamp? at the Game Developers Conference, organized by Jeff Hanna of Volition Studio (Champaign, IL).

?The Code/Art Divide: How Technical Artists Bridge The Gap? by Jason Hayes. Game Developer Magazine, August 2008.

?Technical Artist Guidelines for Blue Fang Games? by Eric Chadwick.

MASTER OF ARTS 2012-2013

Technical Artist Concentration
The Technical Artist concentration prepares students for a range of roles, from the complex jobs of riggers, next generation modelers and motion capture artists to the hybrid specialization of the Technical Artist.

A game industry Technical Artist is an art department member who serves as a bridge between art and engineering. The art pipeline is the workflow of creating the art assets of the game: from concept to model to texturing to rigging to input into the game engine. The TA?s objective is to make the pipeline streamlined, efficient and documented. The TA diagnoses and debugs the technology used by artists. The TA specs tools that will help make the art department more productive, sometimes scripting the tools in the software and sometimes working with programmers to tackle more complex operations. The TA needs to understand the language of both art and engineering and act as a translator between the areas.

In the film and television CGI animation and VFX industries the Technical Artist is more commonly referred to as a Technical Director or Technical Animator. The TA in these fields shares many of the core responsibilities (pipeline, troubleshooting) and animation technical skills as the game TA.

The Technical Artist concentration is not solely for the person who wants to be a TA, since these disciplines are constantly evolving. It also prepares the student interested in technically demanding areas such as rigging, modeling and motion capture.

Technical Artists come from both art and programming backgrounds. It is recommended that someone entering the TA concentration have an undergraduate degree in one of the following areas: art, animation, game art, graphic design, illustration, game design, game programming, computer graphics, computer science, or interactive media.

Prerequisite Phase

ANI 230 3d Design and Modeling
ANI 231 3d Animation

Core Requirements
ANI 446 Game Art Pipeline
ANI 452 3d Scripting
ANI 453 Advanced 3d Scripting
ANI 444 Visual Design for Games
GAM 690 Game Development Studio I AND GAM 691 Game Development Studio II*
OR ANI 440 Collaborative Short Animated Film
*Students who take GAM 690 to fulfill their Foundation Phase requirement must take GAM 691 as one of their Technical Artist Electives requirements.

Technical Artist Electives
Students must take at least 5 courses out of the following choices. Students may take these courses before completing their Core Requirements courses. It is recommended that students choose their Technical Artist Elective courses in one of the following areas of focus: Rigging, Animation, Modeling, or Effects,
ANI 430 3d Character Animation
ANI 432 3d Rigging
ANI 433 Advanced 3d Rigging
ANI 435 3d Character Modeling
ANI 450 Motion Capture
ANI 450 Motion Capture
ANI 451 Advanced Motion Capture Studio
ANI 430 3d Character Animation
ANI 431 Advanced 3d Character Animation
ANI 432 3d Rigging for Animators
ANI 435 3d Character Modeling
ANI 436 3d Modeling Studio
ANI 437 Environment Modeling
ANI 439 3d Texturing and Lighting
ANI 438 3d Organic Modeling
ANI 478 3d Dynamics
ANI 479 3d Compositing
VFX 478 Digital Compositing II
DC 430 Visual Effects
Other Available Technical Artist Electives
GAM 690 Game Development Studio I
GAM 691 Game Development Studio II

CDM Open Electives
Students must complete any 3 graduate courses from the College of Computing & Digital Media.

So there are a few things to keep in mind, mostly relating to the size and makeup of our niche.

So regarding new content- that is the most labor intensive thing. Creating content is hard. Creating enough for such a small community is almost impossible. I’d love to make an effort for more tutorials, but there aren’t people to make them. I’d love to get more articles, but there aren’t people to write them. If people want to, then by all means, let’s figure out a way to do it and promote it (like we did for the interviews, back in the day). But as a strategy, it isn’t viable to grow the site. We can’t compete with the big boys for general content. More than that, content aggregation leads to browsing and consumption, not participation. We have way too high a ratio of guests to members. If we could get 10% of guests to register, we’d double our activity (right now, there are 4 members and 44 guests online).

That said, we provide a higher ratio of professionals, and a staggering number of tech artists, compared to any other art or programming forum. What I think we can look at providing is:

1- Availability of our professionals. One thing brought up, which I want to start soon, is a G+ Hangout night once a week. An ‘ask the experts’ or just a general programming hangout. Like IRC but live. If you want to lead this, PM me and we can support it. Otherwise, as soon as I feel able to commit to it, we’ll do it.

2- More help and tailored content for new TA’s. We have an incredibly strong educational presence and we can improve it. We need to have tailored introductory content better than what’s available. The stuff available is crap. Let’s give our students something worthwhile, more than a Tech Art pamphlet. We’re still linking to articles from 2004! What is this! We need to start assembling tutorials, presentations, blogs, whatever, and encourage interaction. I think we can get good feedback and participation from students especially. Who’d be interested in TA mentorships?

3- More integration with blogs. This was the very first issue I struggled with when founding TAO. The best TA content is produced on blogs. I fought it but eventually gave in and have produced more content for my blog in the past few year or so for my blog than I have for TAO. Really what I’d like to do is be able to get blog posts cross-posted to TAO so people can read and comment on the forums. Like the Planet aggregate, but more integrated. There are plenty of people who blog or comment more than they post, and there’s no reason they can’t do both.

4- Lower barriers to entry. Hook up Facebook account integration. Post from your IDE. Post with a hashtag on Twitter/Facebook/G+. What else?

5- A beginner’s forum. I am a bit hesitant but we could always move stuff from here into other forums.

6- Developer meetups? We can discuss how we do this- all but a few cities just don’t have the numbers for a meetup (I work with the only TA’s in the country, probably). However we could definitely have a ‘global tech art day’ where we decide to participate in some community activity, at some agreed upon hours. We’d just need to decide what!

Keep the ideas coming and tell me what you think.



1)I really like the idea of Google Hangouts. Most of what I’ve learned has been from hearing people talk and ruminate on ideas rather than tutorials that show the execution. Does hangout spectating allow the ability to post questions? or we could have a freenode on the side if it doesn’t.

2)Totally agree on updated information. I think free information is the greatest strength of any community and especially in a way that brings all the sparse nodes of the internet together so students aren’t lost in a multitude of ways to do the exact same thing.

3)Would it be possible to integrate something like Have a link, and maybe an excerpt from the blog as the threads first post, then the rest of the thread can be for discussion. Beats having to go through comments on a hundred different blogs.

4)Facebook and/or google account integration. How would you go about the PostFromIDE?

5)I’m not a fan of skill-level based segregation. It could lead to pro’s staying in the pro section and beginners dying of in the beginners section. Topic based is probably still best I think.

6)In Vancouver atleast, there is a large enough community in most of the groups that it might be a good idea. Maybe just a section that could advertise events in the city, where people could suggest events too. Same as the old way, just more prominent. I think a Facebook group would be best in that regard because it’s easy opt-in and management of events, and I assume everyone here is on Facebook?

I too like the idea of these Google Hangouts, although I’ve heard that TAO has an IRC channel? I keep meaning to jump in but haven’t had a chance yet… and keep forgetting. :\

As I’m new to TA in general (only known about it for less than a year now, and TAO even less!), I’d be happy to give feedback on anything that you’d like newbies to look at or test? Perhaps also something a little more welcoming on the homepage for someone who’s completely unaware of what tech art is. The website’s home page and the topics discussed on the left can be really daunting - or at least that’s how I felt (and still feel) when I browse the homepage.

Hi there, only been active back and forth on the irc so far, I am a TA Student from sweden.
We will soon start our third and last term and so I thought I should throw in my two cents, since you are considering focusing on TA Students/New TA’s.
My class is the first cohort and on our second year, we are about 20 people, first year students are among 30-40 I think.

For gaining attention and activity I would suggest:

  1. Tutorial/talk/powerpoint sub forum for both new and experienced people.

  2. Open up a dialoge with the few TA programs that exist in the world?(What would you want from future TA’s? What do you think they should or must have?)

  3. From my experience I rather work with C++, HLSL than coding in MEL or PyMel, digging through the nodes is a little bit more fun but still a pain.
    If I had a wishlist on tutorials I would put “How to enjoy coding witth the Maya API’s” ^^.

  4. Helpfull mini criterias for a junior TA position, perhaps a dedicated page in the wiki?

  5. Show that we welcome all (new)people (I will admit I was a bit scared to comment or post at first considering all the big guys are here :wink: so I mostly lurked)

I know some of these have been covered in a lot of good posts in the General forum.
It is however very difficult to find them again and it would be better for all if they were collected and put together somewhere visible.

Good thread. I’m all for everything mentioned besides skill level segregation.

Something I’d like to see is community challenges. I love the concepts of these but the common 3D art challenges, while I can do, doesn’t tickle my fancy enough to get me motivated. How about small scripting, rigging, or shader challenges? Something like this: Its always awesome to see others solutions and creations.

Maybe get the #TechArt twitter feed shown somewhere?

Being able to thank or thumbs up a response in a thread would be nice. Sometimes a verbal thank you isn’t enough, I want the TAO community to know how awesome someone is for taking time out of their day to help solve something.

Also, once a decided action list is created posting it somewhere on what the community can do to help with some of these things would be awesome. I’m not overly active on my blog or twitter, but I’d be more than happy to spew out my knowledge where I can. :slight_smile:

Not sure what the options are with the site software, but you could spend some time tailoring it so guests are enticed to join as members. Sounds like a lot of people already visit anonymously, and converting them to members with names + avatars quickly and easily could go a long way.

On a similar vein, I for one appreciate more and more forums that eschew completely anonymous handles for real names–or at least complement them with real names. It adds a level of professionalism, and as such, hopefully makes people more engaged and connected with one another.

I like a number of the suggestions. Fwiw - I still usually go to cgtalk for technical questions first (at least regarding rigging and maxscript).

-Josh Jones

while on the topic of adding things…I had this idea for a while but it would be pretty cool to have a section that is similar to the python challenge page, but it would be Tech-Art Challenge, where industry vets would submit some tool or task they have had to figure out (not disclosing propitiatory info) while working at various studios but there would be no one specific solution, it’s just up to the person in the challenge to use this site and the people on it to come up with their own working solution, then they could get feedback on how to improve. eh? eh?

Just throwing a wonky thought out there:

Our company is experimenting with new ways of interacting with computers, and we were looking at forums where we could host different types of “developer days” and “hack-a-thons”. End to ending new experiences is more the pervue of (what I think) a TA does than any other game dev. specialization. Would you be interested in helping with those sorts of competitions? It’s close to our circle’s work, but enough outside that it might draw new types of engineering eyes.

A snippet library would be brilliant. I could use some more examples of dotnet UI examples in maxscript.

I’ve been an admin for a forum in the past and I can tell you one thing about having other people other than ourselves working on it: there’s a very short period of interest, after that people start disconnecting with the project. I’m saying this regarding to what you have said about having people creating content, in pure “help me” mode it will never work.

One thing that you might think is to do some kind of paid method, either dvd’s, either online courses, or whatever, this would avoid having users doing only content browsing and it would enable professionals to do it with pleasure because they would be getting paid for that. So it would be a triple win situation, wins, users would have learning material by true professionals and TA’s would earn some extra bucks.

Okay, that would be one step of the whole process and before that I think you could have SOME starting material/learning tips whatever. starts scaring people right away when they read the “Technical”! So begginers forum, I’m totally for it! It’s needed as monkeys like bananas.

Google hangouts seems a nice idea, but be sure you have some theme to discuss so it makes it intersting for people to attend. (I love this idea btw)

I wouldnt go for the “meet-ups”, too early to even think about it. Get more people to participate in the forum, get some learning material.

Having a frontpage like CG Talk/CG Channel with some highlighted content/news helps. The blogs content is very important like you said, so having that perfectly integrated/highlighted on the site would help out too.

Edit: I hate wikis but thats just me.

[QUOTE=Kameleon;16198]I’ve been an admin for a forum in the past and I can tell you one thing about having other people other than ourselves working on it: there’s a very short period of interest, after that people start disconnecting with the project. I’m saying this regarding to what you have said about having people creating content, in pure “help me” mode it will never work.

One thing that you might think is to do some kind of paid method, either dvd’s, either online courses, or whatever, this would avoid having users doing only content browsing and it would enable professionals to do it with pleasure because they would be getting paid for that. So it would be a triple win situation, wins, users would have learning material by true professionals and TA’s would earn some extra bucks.[/QUOTE]

I agree. But there is one loss. Where do we get the money from? rob? I think it’s hard to have one person pay out, while they already run the site. Idea, once we decide what features we want, if we can find people to do it, we make a kickstarter, and we all pledge. that way “we’re” actually building it…just an idea.