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I was asked by an aspiring 3d artist who was about a year from actually attending college, for some advice about the gaming industry and this is what I had to say to her.  She was specifically thinking about going to Digipen, which is the same college I went to.  But the advice applies to just about any school that offers a program in "video game' 3d art.

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Well, there are a few things I'd suggest you do, if you have the goal of being a 3D Artist in the gaming industry.

First off, you need to really decide if you want to aim for the gaming industry or production film 3d.

Most schools that offer degrees in 3D Animation could go either way. The big animation projects that they all have you do are big prerendered, storyboarded 3d animated sequencees - which is obviously much more along the lines of film production. The limitations and techniques used in a planed out, storyboarded 30sec/1-2min animation are entirely different from the limitations and techniques used in real-time game art.

While these sort of assignments can still be valuable in teaching you different, important, techniques, they do literally nothing to prepare you for actual game industry work flow.

This means that you will need to do a little self-imposed focusing.

In the actual game industry, most people are fairly specialized into at least a couple smaller niches. There are overall generalists, as well, and they're still valuable, but being specialized in a specific area, and then a generalist in several others, is usually more valuable.

From my time in school, I remember it seemed like everyone wanted to make characters. I think that's just a big thing for school-aged kids. The idea of making the characters seems cool.

Problem is that there are very few character positions, and it's very hard to get good enough at it to be competitive - especially when you're first trying to break into the industry.

At our studio, we have 8 level artists, and 1 character artist. I'm the studio's character rigger, and terrain/prop generalist.

So if you want to go into characters, realize that you'll have to get really effing good at it, to compete.

Terrain/Environment/Level artist positions are way more plentiful. But again - making environment art for a video game, and making it for a production animation are VASTLY DIFFERENT. When I was in digipen, it was back before they offered the BFA program, so I was in a 2-year associates program. We only had TWO assignments, my entire time there, that specifically involved video game terrain art.  The rest were much more like production-animation type projects.

If you really want to get good and be really competitve when you start job hunting, you'd probably be best served to self-impose some additional work on yourself, or bend some of the class assignments to allow you an opportunity to practice your desired specialty.

My husband Justin, went to Digipen too, and he currently works in the industry as an effects/particle artist. Obviously there were no effects or particle assignments the entire time we were at digipen. But he knew that's what he wanted to do.

Every assignment we had, he would find some way to squeeze in all these extra crazy effects, or reactor/havoc objects, or he'd have burning torches, or simulated water or SOMETHING, going on, in the background. He didn't need to do it to get the assignment done. But he wanted to get better at that specific thing, so he always squeezed it in.

It's made him really valuable too, because no one really focuses on things like that when they teach 3d classes, so no one focuses on learning it while in school. There aren't a lot of 3d artists who know how to use reactor, or havoc, or particle flow, or voxels, when they come out of school. Even 5+ year industry veterans usually don't know shit about those things. So he's really valuable to a studio.

I learned complex rigging things and it's made me valuable. Rigging, in most studios, is not a full-time job. There isn't usually enough work to keep a rigger busy full-time, so it's important that I can also generalize in other fields. But no one else here, knows how to do, what I do, with the rigging. Even our lead character artist really sucks at skinning (Although he's a fucking god with zbrush). So I'd say, my best advice, is to spend some time trying out a lot of different things, early on, and try to pinpoint one specialized thing that will set you apart from the other hordes of experience-less grads, and spend your time at school intentionally getting really good at that one or two things.


Specialize in terrain. Specialize in character modeling. Specialize in character animation. Specialize in effects. Specialize in object-animation. Pick something and get really good at it, and learn the basics of as much of the rest as you can manage.


As a final bit of advice - learn either 3dstudio max, or maya, or both. Digipen will cover both, in separate years. It's really REALLY good, to actually be able to use both apps, because you never know which the studio you go to will be using.

If you aim for character animation, you might want to learn SoftImage XSI, or Motion Builder.

Do Not bother with blender. Yes it's free. Yes, it's actually a really decent 3D app, especially considering it's free. But it is not used by anyone in the industry.

Learning that specific package will not prepare you for working in an actual studio. Get the student versions of 3dsmax and Maya.  You can get both of them, fully-functional and legally for THREE WHOLE YEARS under the student learning license.  IT'S FREE FOR THREE YEARS.  There is NO REASON not to get them.


Also, if you want to aim for characters, start to really study anatomy. Like REALLY study.
Get one of those books, like Anatomy for Artists (Good book, will probably be required for one of your classes anyways - it was when I went there) and try drawing a human and animals from the inside-out.

Draw some basic forms of the bones. Don't waste your time and effort trying to draw every rib or metatarsal bone, but get the general shape and mass of all of the big solid bits, and then draw the muscles over top.

Focus on specific areas. Like, just draw the upper-torso and the arm and focus on the muscles of the upper-arm and shoulder as it connects to the chest. Learning this stuff will seriously improve your drawings and understanding of real living creatures.


Also, if you're aiming for characters and creatures, Zbrush is an important tool to learn, but don't try to just jump straight into the surper high poly mesh.  Get a very solid, well-proportioned base mesh first and work up gradually.  I see so many n00b lumpy red deform-o heads where the person tried to jump into the high detail stuff without getting a solid base structure in first.


For normal map creation on environment art, I recommend you get and try out a program called Crazybump.  It's really becoming a standard in the industry and it is insanely helpful and it's even cheap enough that you might not need to pirate it at first.  lol.

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In response to that I was then asked to go into some more detail on the terrain/level artists job, this was my response:

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Every level will have a lead level artist who is primarily responsible for overseeing the whole thing, maintaining consistency and quality, and working with the designer to make it work for gameplay.

On next-gen titles, the level artist will usually have several junior artists working under him/her to help with specific pieces, sections of the level, and props.

In smaller teams, it may just be a level artist who is solely responsible for the whole level, and then pass it off to a junior artist who will do a collision pass.


As a level artist, you literally model and texture the whole darn level.   The floors/ground, walls, buildings, fenses, trees, furniture, light fixtures, plants, fountains, cars, whatever, etc. etc.  

Most studios will have a repository of objects and props, and often times have dedicated prop artists who will make key objects, and more complicated-reusable objects like cars, and you'll be able to draw from that repository for items so you don't always have to make absolutely everything though.

Also, it's often very very encouraged to reuse assets that have already been created by other people on the team, for the sake of consistency, and saving time.  And saving on resources - why make five different brick textures when you can easily get away with two?


The lead level artist will also be responsible for lighting the level and the atmosphere settings.  Lighting is done in two passes in next-gen games.  The first pass is a baked-in lighting simulation where the lights placed in the level are used to calculate what value the vertexes should be and then those values are 'baked' into the geometry data.

The second pass are the realtime lights that can cast shadows (If your engine and hardware support it) and can be animated if need be (ex. if you have a lamp, hanging on a chain and it's getting blown by the wind - the light is attached to the animated object and moves with it, so that you can get dynamic lighting.)


Now, any objects in the environment that move, react to the player, explode, whatever - are handed off to one of the environment animators once they've been modeled and textured.  So you generally don't have to worry about doing that stuff, as a level artist.  You still usually have to make it for them, and they may have requests like having you set up multiple states of something if it can get damaged or get destroyed.  Make a clean state and then a broken state and they'll transition between the two.


Weather effects, fires, explosions, sparks on electrical wires, etc. - those tasks will go to the effects artist

Water will depend on a few things.  If it's just a 'faked' animated-texture water, then the level artist will still probably be responsible for it.  Say you're in some jungle setting and there's a water fall.  The level artist will probably have to do *some* work on it.  But they'll be working closely with the effects artist since they'll still have to add a lot on top of everything.  The effects artist may just be assigned the whole darn thing too.  

If it's "real" simulated water, especially if it's water that the player can swim in, or interact with, then it will be engine specific.  In our games, we have a gameobject called a 'water box' that we place.  It's just a reference box and in the software, it looks like an untextured box.  But it has custom attributes that we have to edit that get exported.  We can set the under water fog color and density.  Distance, etc.  And we can assign a custom-made ref map for the surface.  The engine takes that information and creates the water in game real-time.

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These are responses to additional questions I've received:

Q-- presentation to senior high school students a lot of them thought they would spend a lot of their time playing/testing games...

A-- Well, I'll definitely say that in the later stages of making the game, you will still do plenty of playing and testing it.  lol.  You make an adjustment/bug fix/lighting change, and you have to run the level, run around to wherever the change/fix was made, and make sure it's actually fixed.

When you're working on one specific level for weeks, the background music to that level is like, embedded in your brain.  Especially since it'll remain paused, on the dev station in your office for hours and when you're going back and forth over and over you can't really shut it off...

But this is usually just the level geometry without the actual NPC population.  So it's not like you're 'playing' the level.  Just running around in it to check stuff.

Now if they actually want to be testers, there are still plenty of those jobs, but its far from glamorous.  The pay is fairly low, and the hours SUCK.  I'm talking about some serious overtime, and working weekends and holidays if a big deadline is coming up.

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Q-- I'm fond of thinking about plots, gameplay, how to do this..

A-- Plots and gameplay are things that designers deal with.  Designers arethe ones who figure out how the actual game play is going to go, and the lead designer might be partially responsible for helping to come up with the story and possibly some actual writing.  It'll depend on the studio.  Some studios hire actual writers, like, legitimate authors.  In some places, the head of the studio may be primarily responsible for coming up with the story.

Designers have to deal with a lot of technical scripting, but not actual programming.  Again, their duties will depend a lot on what studio they're working at.  A lot of studios have complex, fancy, level editors and the Designers will work in that, setting up nodes and scripting events.

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Q-- How much do you interact with your programmers? Who writes shaders: artists, programmers, or a mix of both?


A-- In our studio we have a technical artist who is primarily responsible for writing the shaders, but he works closely with one of our coders. He and the programmers do a lot of work together. He sort of acts as the bridge between the art and code department.

There are two programmers at our studio who are both assigned to working out the character system - One is working mostly on the character animation and traversal system, and the other one is working a lot on the combat system, and they've both had to come to me fairly frequently so I can set up files for them to test with. For the combat guy, I'm always having to work on the 'hardpoints' (the dummy objects that are exported with the character that define where the weapons and accessories appear on the character).

So it really depends on what that programmer is working on, as to who they interact with in the art team.

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Q-- I'm going to tell you point-blank that I love Blender.

A-- I never claimed that it's not a perfectly good enough 3d application, and you can certainly make some great stuff in it. However you will never get a job at a real game studio and use it. No one in the industry, unless they're indie, uses blender. Coming to a studio that uses Maya when all you know is Max is challenging. Same as vice versa. That's why it's best to learn both. At least, get really good at one, and know the general use of the other. At least if you learn one of those two applications, you've got basically a 50/50 chance of knowing how to use the software that your employer will need you to know. If all you know is blender there's like a 2% chance you might get a job that uses that package.

No one uses it. If you're going to spend months learning to use a package, its a much better use of your time and effort to learn a package that will be used in your future job.

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Q-- any idea on an average pay? i mean i'd love to model stuff but i still gotta feed myself. i am guessing its pretty crap for first starters...right?


A-- My first job in the industry was as a contract artist.  I was paid hourly and I got $12/hr.  After 3 months I got a raise to $15/hr.  At 9 months I got hired on salary.  I started around $32k/yr.  Every year I've gotten a raise.  I'm now sitting at 5 years experience and I make $45k/yr.
The pay is also representative of where you live, though.  I'm in central Oregon and the cost of living is lower here than in Cali or the Seattle area.  If I was working at a studio in Seattle, I'd probably be getting a fair bit more than that.

But it costs a lot more to live there too.  So it's variable.

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Q -- What about breaking into Video Game Concept art?


A -- The concept artist has to be really really effing good. They have to be fast. They have to be diverse. They have to be good at drawing and painting from scratch, and be good at paint overs. They need to be able to do environment art as well as characters. In fact, the environment art is going to get a lot more use. Our concept artist does almost all level paint-over and level concept stuff.

His stuff is for lighting and atmosphere reference too. He helps set the color and mood that we use for a level.

He does paint-overs of the layout stage art to give us direction.

I think to get a job as a concept artist you just have to have an epically baddass portfolio and be able to demonstrate that you can be really fast when needed.

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Q -- What is the industry like in other countries?

A -- I'm afraid that I have no idea.  I've only ever lived and worked in the United States, and that's as far as my experience goes.

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Q -- How best to break into the industry?

A -- This is probably the hardest part for a new grad.  Actually getting that first job.
The biggest reason its so hard is because most studios won't even look at someone who has no previous experience.

It's like they've got someone in human resources who sifts through the initial applications and on their first pass they just go through each and everyone and so "Any experience?  No?  Trash can."  The second question they ask is "A degree?  No.  Trash can."  And this is before they even look at your portfolio.  The HR person might not actually look at your portfolio at all - they're just there to narrow down the list before it gets sent to someone who actually WILL look at your portfolio.

So how do you get around this?

Well, you just apply to every freaking job you can stumble across, and send your portfolio and resume to every studio's jobs@studio.com address you can find.  Chances are that this won't get you very far, but do it anyway.

Honestly, the best way to get a job is to know someone who is already on the inside.

Networking is a HUGE part of getting a job in this industry.

Whenever we have had an open position, long before any notice is actually posted online, the art manager will ask us all in some art meeting if we know anyone who would fit the job.  We throw out some names, send the people we know a line and see if they're looking for work, and anyone who is, will send back their samples.

We usually hire someone without ever even posting the job listing anywhere on the net.

So... that sucks for you.
But all the more reason to send your stuff -again and again- to every studio you find, even if their site doesn't list that they're hiring.  Just because it doesn't say it, doesn't mean that they really aren't.

And just because you already sent your work to Naughty Dog doesn't mean that you cant send it again in another month.  I'm not telling you to spam the living shit out of every studio - try to space it a month between your emails, but keep at it.  You have to be really persistent, and while you're job hunting, keep working on improving your portfolio.

It took me 9 months after graduation to get my first job.  Some people take way longer than that.  Just don't give up, and realize that you will probably have to be willing to move.  There is no guarantee that you'll find a job in your ideal city.  You have to go where the job is when you're still a n00b and desperate for experience.



Q-- what would you recommend someone to focus on who is wanting to do animation for videogames and currently pursuing a degree in animation?


A-- We have our character animators who deal with the mocap, and deal with creating and managing the animations for the cinematic sequences, as well as preparing and exporting the animations so that the coders can get all of that working for traversal and combat, etc. The character animator is pretty much swamped with what he's got going on.

The object animators deal with all of the environment objects that move and change. Even something as simple as 'the player walks over and rolls a barrel over to get to a hole in the wall behind it'. That barrel's path has to be set up by someone, and that someone is one of the object animators.

Of course it also applies to really complex things like Helicopter flying in the sky getting shot down and crashing to the ground. The effects artist will also play a big role in something like that since there will be fire and explosions and such, but the rotating blades, broken pieces, things flying off, and the actual collision with the ground - all animated by someone.

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Q-- How far does your rigging go? Adding the skeleton and weighting and the face modifiers? or is there more than that?


A-- This is the answer for the studio that I'm working at right now, however this is not how it will work everywhere all the time.  The characters that go directly into the game are simply skinned to a skeleton. The skeleton doesn't even have IK or anything attached to it. It is simply a hiarchy of bones that recieve animation data.

The characters that I hand off to the animators are actually set up for a program called Motion Builder, which is the animation software that we use to create our animations. The animators import in the motion capture data that we've had made, and then they clean it up and make adjustments, or use bits and pieces and then hand-animate what we need in addition to it.

I set the skeletons up with FBIK (Full Body IK) before I export it out of Maya and into motion builder. In there I set up a lot of controllers, and custom drivers to make working with the rig easier for the animators.

When they're done in motion builder, it takes all of the data and keys from the IK and controllers and bakes it into the bones so that when it goes into the engine it drives the skeleton properly.

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Q-- What is zbrush? you've mentioned it a few times and I don't remember seeing anything called specifically zBrush in maya.


A-- Zbrush is a stand-alone package from a company called Pixologic. --> www.deviantart.com/users/outgo…
Zbrush is used for 'sculpting' incredibly detailed, high poly meshes. Most everyone in the industry uses it for character creation. They create the super detailed high poly mesh in zbrush, and they use it to create a normal map that is applied to much simpler, lower poly geometry.

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Q-- A few of my teachers have mentioned art tests. What do they entail exactly?


A-- This will depend a lot on what studio you're applying to, but generally speaking, they will give you a specific task and a time frame to do it.  Depending on the position you're applying to, it could be a specific building, a room, an animation, or a character.  They will probably provide you with some reference or concept art and a list of restrictions that you have to work within.

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Q-- So I've decided to specialize in Prop art and I'm wondering if you can help me out with some inspiration for real "Holy Shit"-quality props I could do for my portfolio?

A-- It's hard to say would would be 'holy shit' quality props. I think that diversity would be key.

Do some science-tech props, some grimy industrial props, some organic props, like trees or moss and lichen covered rocks, and some every-day household stuff. Put together a couple small sets - like a phone pole next to a mailbox and a vending machine on a small slap of brick with some weeds growing out of the cracks - stuff like that.

You could do a small museum set piece. Have your king tut mask, but also make the display case, or pedestal, and have some other artifacts near it.

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If anyone has further questions, throw them my way, and I'll probably add them to this lecture thing.
Updated Dec14th
Add a Comment:
 
:iconiamdemsugar:
iamdemsugar Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Student Digital Artist
For a person who want to learn 2d and 3d do you advice to be good at 2d first?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You don't have to get amazing at 2D - in fact, I've known some really amazing 3D artists who couldn't draw worth a shit - but if you're a character/creature artist, anatomy study is really a must, and generally, that involves a lot of drawing practice.

People able to get your ideas out quickly in a 2D medium is good, but a 3D professional doesn't need to be exceptionally skilled at presentable, finished 2D art.
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:iconiamdemsugar:
iamdemsugar Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for your answer.
Reply
:icon1devilishdude:
1DeViLiShDuDe Featured By Owner Edited Aug 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey, Athey! Some really nice 'Editorial Lecturing'! :D
Next I'll be watching your Maya Unwrapping Video!☺

Awesome info here! :)
Featured here for reference:
preparefordescent.com :+devwatch:

 I've always thought knowing a bit of Mechanical Eng. and understanding how parts move together with limits and tolerances can lend itself to easily grasp the parts of a 2d or 3d animation project like a car body, figure or machine, and there relationship to each other - to know just how a set of parts can and cannot be positioned or used together.

 But when it comes down to the raw creativity and inspiration some artists present, it seems a well rounded talent pool usually brings the most clever and imaginative work(in my experience - which isn't nearly as much as I'd like) - and learning various crafts as a hobby has at least some appeal to it, all of which should support your main course of study in some way, shape or form! :D

Enjoy your thirst for knowledge, it doesn't always last -
but maybe you can prove me wrong! I hope! :alien: :painter:
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:iconjarrettonions:
JarrettOnions Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Student Digital Artist
"it's even cheap enough that you might not need to pirate it at first" lol im afraid i did that when i first read about it.. maybe one day when i get a bit better i can buy it
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:iconczeyha:
Czeyha Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Student
Thank you so much for posting this! I've returned to it several times since discovering it to reinforce it in my memory. I'm currently studying fine art through a distance-learning programme... I've been interested in the games industry for a fair few years now, intending to become a concept artist. In the last year or so I've become increasingly drawn to 3D. Unfortunately, I don't have the money for Autodesk software, and I'm not really sure I qualify for the free student version of 3DsMax/Maya, as the course I'm on has nothing to do with 3D... so I'm kind of stuck with Blender at the moment. Hopefully, I'll be able to afford a better program at some point soon, so I can spend more time on 3D and decide whether I want to pursue it seriously.

I do have a question, on the offchance you're still answering them: How separate are modelling and texturing? I'd like to have a solid foundation in both, but in a studio, would I be responsible for texturing the models I made, or would there be a separate texture artist who took over at some point? I've looked about but not really found an answer for this question, so I'd appreciate any insight you have!
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I've definitely heard of some of the larger studios having dedicated texture artists, but I've never personally experienced that. We always textured our own models where I've worked.
Reply
:iconczeyha:
Czeyha Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Student
Ah, okay. I should make sure I practice that as well then. Thank you for the quick response!
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:iconsketcher-taku:
sketcher-taku Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Would you recommend rigging clothes separately from the mesh and I mean for in-game not pre-rendered cutscenes.
Reply
:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
It really depends on the clothing and what you intend to do with the character. Extra bones are sometimes necessary for specific types of clothes. Sometimes you can even do a real-time simulation on sections of cloth. We've investigated Havok Cloth sim for a scarf here, but ended up deciding it was too expensive for not enough valid gain.

You never want to have mesh that you don't need. More often then not, our characters are fairly solid. The clothes and body are all one mesh - or the separation are in obvious places - arms might be separate geo from the shirt. Pants are separate geo. Head is separate geo. But I'd still rig the head, shirt, arms, etc. at the same time, so that I can make sure that the seams line up and deform together, when necessary.
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:iconsketcher-taku:
sketcher-taku Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you one more question when you say separate geo do you mean separate from the mesh or separate as in the vertices aren't connected?
Reply
:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Separate mesh - like, you could select them and they wouldn't be all one object. Each object could be selected individually. We use a part-swapping system for our NPC enemies, and would reuse some pieces - like boots, or hats, or whatever, on multiple guys, but with different shirts and different pants and a different head. Our swapping system also allows for swapping out just the texture set, so the same geo could be used, but with a different texture, to make a new NPC. So in that case, it's obviously better, to have the different parts as different objects.
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:iconsketcher-taku:
sketcher-taku Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
oh so customizable Npc! Thanks for the info I owe you !:D
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:icondenmarksart:
DenmarksArt Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Great read, really insightful :clap:
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:iconwhit3fir3:
Whit3Fir3 Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Wow a lot of good stuff in this article, though I disagree with what you said about blender. Yes, I haven't worked with any studios that use it, but blender shouldn't be disregarded as an excellent learning tool. It runs great on lower end machines, and it has all the basics so that someone with a passing interest can get experience without having to upgrade their processor or whatnot. I started on blender, but I've also learned countless other autodesk products. Blender is a lot cleaner, and simpler than those other programs so it's really a great "intro" to the complexity of maya, 3ds, etc.
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:iconruchiip:
RuchiiP Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Can you work with both designing and making the graphic? Or you can only work with one thing when you get work?

And do you know a good way to make a lowpoly face look good?
Reply
:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
The smaller the team you work on, the more likely it is that you'll be doing more than one thing. It really depends on how good you are at the things you want to work on, and how much trust they put into you.

You'll always get some level of control over the design of the things you model, no matter what, but the level of input you have on that design will depend on how much they trust you and your ability to make good designs. So the longer you're at a place, and the more experience you have, the more stuff you'll get to design and then make, without having to ask for input from higher ups.

As for how to make a good lowpoly face - my experience is that it's all in the texture map. Try to get the basic shape good in the polys, but get the texture to look really good, since thats where you put all your details. You can put details into the polys, so that's really the only other option.
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:iconruchiip:
RuchiiP Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Thank you so much! Your my idol! I wish we could be friends lol
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:iconyanneyanen:
Yanneyanen Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2011  Student Artist
Students also get student versions of all Autodesk programs for free :)
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:iconyanneyanen:
Yanneyanen Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2011  Student Artist
Found this post just now trough the Polycount wiki, really helpful! I gotta say though, that learning Blender it is definitely not pointless. I'm studying 3D animation and visualisation for the first year now and we're using 3ds Max. Having used Blender for a few years, I already know the basics of modeling, texturing, rigging etc., and it has really helped to learn things in Max a lot faster, as the functions are fundamentally very similar.

I know that apart from some indie studios (which can also be really good, like Wolfire Games), very few professionals use Blender, but saying "Do Not bother with blender." is misleading in my opinion. If one has never used any 3D package, and doesn't want to go pirating, I think Blender is a perfectly good program to learn the basics. Students learn Max and Maya eventually at school, and knowing one more program never hurts (even though it wouldn't be used at your future work place).

Anyway, thanks for the great article! :)
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:icondecadia:
Decadia Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2011  Student General Artist
I'm studying for Game Art & Design-GAD(1.5 years at college now), and this is Exactly what the Gaming teachers told me, it just confirms it more. ;3
Maybe you should [link] this too? xD Hmm...makes me wonder how much time my batteries will last with frequent backpain. :/
Anyhow, loverly advice. ໖_໖
Reply
:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
hehe - yeah, I saw that vid a while back. Both sides are true though - lol. You get to have action figures on your desk and you do get free soda and snacks. Generally, the only people I see occasionally doing 80 hour weeks are coders, and it's not that frequent a thing. That kind of crunch happens right before huge milestones or demo releases. (So like, Alpha, Beta, e3, Tokyo Game Show, and Gold Master). We've had like 4 months of crunch as the longest stretch, and it was closer to 50-60 hour work weeks. But yeah - that video isn't really all that far off. lol.

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:iconxquatrox:
xQUATROx Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
That's is some valuable reading right there!
I am also going to study 3D and film tech this year, so this reading material was really useful to me.
Thanks! :)
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:iconmryoso901:
MrYoSo901 Featured By Owner May 21, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm gonna remember this for as long as my love for 3 dimensional art never diminishes..
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:iconmryoso901:
MrYoSo901 Featured By Owner May 21, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I bow down to your greatness, master.
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:iconcontaku:
Contaku Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2011  Student General Artist
Wow :worship:
Thank you for answering so fast! :D
Now I know what I have to work on :)
:phew: thank god Im just starting school so I have 4+ yrs of parent help :P
Again Thank you for the useful info :D
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:icondeoce:
Deoce Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
AWESOME POST!!! :la: just i think the studio dont care where you did the model... as you said "dont bother in blender" blender is much faster in modeling then any other program i know so.... if you are character designer you can model the character in blender but the texturing and the final project you must finish in the program that studio requires (3dmax or maya...)

again AWESOME POST!!! :D
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:iconhugo2k1:
hugo2k1 Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
an awesome post!
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:iconnananki:
Nananki Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2011  Student General Artist
Shit. it really is a tough industry.
I have a dream about wanting to work with the concept art area. And slowly but surely I'm getting the feeling that maybe I'm not cut out for this job.
Only just recently started to train on my drawingskills so I probably shouldn't sit in a dark corner and cry just yet but....I can definitly feel the pressure!
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:iconlefthandedhero:
Lefthandedhero Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
VERY insightful post. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom and experience. Please continue to do so always! :)
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:iconmike-c-hall:
mike-c-hall Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2011
I really appreciate this. I am currently a senior in High School, getting ready to apply to DigiPen in the BFA program. I actually live in Redmond, and am horrified of the idea of not getting accepted to this perfect school. A couple of the pencil drawings I have in my gallery will be in my portfolio that I will use in my application. I have a 3.4 GPA, and I have been in tons of traditional art, digital art, and programming classes. I have competed in a national game design competition too, What do you think my chances are? Thanks for any reply.
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
I have no clue what their application standards are like now in comparrison to when I applied (in 2002.... so... nearly a decade ago) It certainly sounds like you've got a good chance though. Good luck.
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:iconkawaiicritters:
kawaiiCritters Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2010
Thank you, that was helpful. I just finished a generalized game and simulation degree in about a year and a half, and am now in a fast track for a computer science degree (I'm using the programing degree as a backup job plan in this economy and a chance to study more 3d at night)

I'm actually decent at 3ds max, hopefully I will pick up some Maya skills, it's slightly harder to do as there are less decent tutorials that are free. ( I also do a lot of blender as well, but I am hoping to do some smallish games for the ipod/ ipad and I don't want to get in trouble with licensing.)

I was wondering if winning any competitions or creating your own games for ipod/ipad would be considered "experience" to the people who look through the portfolios first? (We have some people who won national and went international at my community college for a game they made)

and if you have a better shot at a job if your degree comes from somewhere like full sail, or a traditional college (my associates came from a community college, would that hurt my chances?)
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Having a degree from full sail will not help or hinder. Basically, they look to make sure that you've graduated from somewhere and that's usually as far as they care for the whole education thing. College degree? Yes? Okay good. Moving on. Portfolio? So having stuff that looks good will make a bigger difference than which college you went to.

Doing some independent dev for ipad certainly wouldn't hurt at all. I'll probably help, but maybe not a huge amount. They'll pay more attention to how you work with a team. How you work with THEIR team. What your work looks like. That stuff is what they'll look for. Of course, before any interviews, they'll probably have you do a test, so if any studio ever gives you a test to complete, get it done fast and good. Put as much effort into it as you can manage and return a good result. That'll matter a lot to them.
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:icono-rlyization:
o-rlyization Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2010  Student General Artist
*perameters
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:icono-rlyization:
o-rlyization Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2010  Student General Artist
Now I'm curious, but what exactly does a test from a company entail? "Here draw this in 5 minutes" or "Draw us ten varying designs of a character with such-n-such perimeters"? I'm sure it varies depending on the company, but I'd like to know.
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Drawing is rarely involved unless you're testing for a concept artist position.

Most art positions (I'm talking about 3d artist positions) tests would involve them giving you some concept art and some limitations (Polycount, textures, etc.) and a timeframe (usually like 1 week).

One guy I knew had to model the exterior of a fairly low-poly cathedral and the immediate ground around it. It was a stylized sort of thing - not like one of those insanely detailed gothic cathedrals where every little thing is modeled out. This was back in ps2 spec days, although it was for a studio making PC games, if I recall. Anyway, they sent him some concept drawings of what it would look like from a three-quarters view and some renders of the texture style they use and he was supposed to match the same style they use and make a building that matched the drawing.

I've done a test for a character position where they just sent me a couple 3/4 sketches of a character. They told me the max polys, which if I recall, were 2,000 tris (this was years ago), and for textures I was allowed 2 512's, and they wanted it done in a week.

It's basically to see how well you follow their directions, their specs, whether or not you can work on a deadline, and if you can match their desired style.
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:iconkawaiicritters:
kawaiiCritters Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2010
Okay cool, thank you for your advice, very helpful.
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:iconttnt:
ttnt Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
i feel a little less sad to have been rejected of all 3d game and animation school i've tried ^^'
that was interesting :)
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:iconhpurane:
hpurane Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2010
Hello there. The article was largely regarding becoming a game artist.
I, however was interested in the post of game programmer. I will be graduating in a couple of years. I am a good pogrammer [or so i believe atleast] [living in India; the industry is yet to pick up here... ]

I wanted to ask you what are the chance of getting in the industry as a game programmer early on.
What do i have to work upon? [currently trying hands on some XNA....]
Or do i have to enroll into a gaming school?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
I, unfortunately, no very very little about the programming side of things. I only chat with a couple of our coders over lunch, but don't know what sorts of education or job searching things they had to go through, so I'm not a lot of help with that stuff.
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:iconhpurane:
hpurane Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2010
Sad. Nevermind. Life is a mystery!
lolz
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:iconayedail:
Ayedail Featured By Owner May 16, 2010  Student General Artist
This has confirmed some of my ideas about the industry as well as taught me some new insights! :) Yesterday I uploaded my work for the selection to enter the International Game Architecture and Design (IGAD) in Breda here in the Netherlands, and I have a good feeling I'll pass. I'm trying to become as versatile as possible, so I'm drawing and painting all kinds of diffirent things from life, but I'm still aiming to do that without a loss of qualitiy on each seperate discipline. I was wondering if you could tell me how to improve on texturing, I did manage to do a pretty decent job on a leaf texture (on my gallery) but that's very diffirent to textures with patterns, like wood or stone or something like that. How can you learn all these diffirent structures and effects? :)
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner May 18, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
The only advice I can give on texturing is to not be afraid to use photo source. You can still paint over top of it, but good photo source can make a huge difference in good textures.
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:iconfiggs:
Figgs Featured By Owner May 10, 2010
Any tips on how to get in for writing? I am an artist but not the kind likely to get in on art, and personally I think writing is where most games are failing right now. Any idea how you do that, or know where I can get that kind of info?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner May 11, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Unfortunately, I really have no advice in that area. All of the people I know who work on story writing are also designers. Once we outsourced our story to a real published author - a guy who writes a lot of popular action/thriller novels.
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:iconstarfishey:
starfishey Featured By Owner May 9, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
My teachers talk a lot about networking too-- it's not always what you know, it's who you know. What do you think would be the best way to build up your network of people? I guess just what would take you from a point of just talking to a person to getting to know that person enough to the point where they would refer you for a job.

I've been considering going to game developers conference to see what its like.. Would that be a good idea?
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:iconathey:
Athey Featured By Owner May 11, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
One option that works for students is to make sure you stay on good terms with your classmates and say in touch after graduation. I've got most of my graduating class from my college on my facebook.

If that's not an option, networking on some of the bigger message boards - the ones frequented by the pros, like cgtalk.com and the zbrush forums - and make sure that you give real, constructive talks on lots of people's work, as well as post your own. It's a good way to get your name out there among people. They can see that you're a nice person who can work with people, and they can see your work.

Conferences might be a good idea too, but most of the people there aren't really in the position to look at your portfolio or anything like that. When studios do send people to those, it's usually to attend classes/seminars on new software and techniques.
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:iconjunedoggydogg1:
Junedoggydogg1 Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2010
wow... this is so very helpful... I might need this in the long run; I'm an aspiring game developer but have absolutely no experience or nothing to work with ^^; Thanks for doing this! :D
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:iconelmion:
Elmion Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2010
Fukken' saved.
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