View Full Version : Noob getting into industry type question
11-29-2006, 04:14 AM
I m new to this board and am looking into a career in the games industry. I just wanted some advice from any of you seasons pro's out there /images/graemlins/smile.gif
Im looking at doing the Maya comprehensive for Games course at Escape studios: http://www.escapestudios.co.uk/course_outlines.php which looks pretty good. Ive heard some people say that theres alot of demand for 3D artists and also on the other hand, that the industry is overrun with wannabees and that its incredibly difficult to get your first job without experience. Which is true?
Also im most interested in modelling and texturing, ive been a web designer for 6 years and am pretty creative but am not what I would call a fine artist. I used to draw all the time when I was a kid and was pretty good at it but havent drawn nearly as much for years. Do I really need great traditional art skills to be a good modeller/texture artist? (I have 6 months until the course starts so could get lots of practise in before hand!) Also im not a 'programmer' so I dont know how well I would pick up 'mel' would this be an issue given the areas that im interested in?
What makes a good 3D artist? fine art skills? being a techy? somewhere in between?
How long does it take roughly to get good enough at modelling to apply for junior positions?
Lastly if I do the course, what kind of prep should I do in the meantime? lifedrawing? learning the basics of maya?
Sorry for the waffling questions! but any advice would be great!
11-29-2006, 06:11 AM
Welcome its good to have you here I hope you stick around and show off some art and become a valuable part of the community =)
Be prepared as I am about to sand blast you. It's not to be mean but it is to prepare you and make sure your head is in the right place.
8 months ago I landed my first job with no shipped titles under my belt and not a degree to my name. It wasn't easy but it can be done. We have an opening for a lead character artist, if the person can show they can do the job degree or no degree, shipped titles or no shipped titles, the job is theirs.
There has been much debate on the subject and for the most part I think we (polycount) agrees that having a degree only gets you access to programs and time with people who know more about them than you. It's a chance to learn and show off the talent you already have, it is not a guaranteed in. What gets you in is artistic skill and the ability to apply that to games.
I personally think that you don't need to blow an ass load of cash on a structured program when there are so few that actually give you a chance to learn the skills you need. Being able to teach yourself is a valuable skill in an industry that changes pretty often and shouldn't be over looked. Being self taught doesn't come with official credentials but you have a skill to keep yourself up to date and when your neighbor artists are playing WoW in there down time you might be coming up with better ways to improve your companies pipeline.
When you start applying your portfolio needs to be a beacon that shines two things, artistic skill and knowledge of how the industry works. Without showing them those two things you're screwed and it doesn't matter how many degrees you have if you don't have talent and don't know at least the over all principles of making games.
The industry is in need of well qualified Artists who already know it is demanding work. Everyone that pissed their high school career away playing games who don't have any actual skills to land a 'real job' first, go for an industry job thinking "dood I can still be a dead beat slacker if I just get a game industry job. Playing games is just like making them right!? I want to be an artist, sure I have zero artistic talent and don't want to learn but that shouldn't stop me should it? I wantzor the grud job where I do nothign and thems give me sports cars and a phat pad!"
The most used marker is skill, you could have zero titles shipped and still be better than 50% of the artists out there. Companies are looking for someone who is a good artist and can hit the ground running with very little to no training. Having shipped titles is a good marker of this but so is a great portfolio, knowing what you are in for and knowing how most companies build games is a must when you walk into the interview. When a company is looking for people with shipped titles under their belt, what they are really saying is 'we don't want pie in the sky noobs who think working in games is going to be like a trip to a candy factory.'
Knowing what they are going to teach you will give you a chance to practice those skills and make your class work stand out. I don't know anyone that got a job off the first model they make, and practice has a way of making people better. Artistic talent, the artist eye has the ability to translate to whatever medium you are working in. I would say start drawing again, look over online painting tutorials, read books like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (http://www.drawright.com/) and dust off your talent because it is what will get you thru the courses and into the industry. Good luck feel free to post your art here for crits! Don't take offense to them, most people here post crits to make you a better artist. There are plenty of other boards that like to blow smoke and make people feel warm and fuzzy about whatever you make. If someone rips your art apart its because they think you have potential and are showing you ways to improve. It is what any good teacher should do, and what most Art Directors will do.
11-29-2006, 06:40 AM
The job is definitely not for the computer illiterate. Some tech skills are definitely required. Even if you never learn to write a script in Mel (or Maxscript either), you will likely have to learn some sort of scripting (like xml) to handle the process of getting your art into the game.
Traditional skills are not mandatory, but artists who possess them have a leg up on those who don't. I'm a big fan of would-be professional game artists mastering traditional art skills before moving onto game art skills.
Example: Figure drawing from life, in addition to developing art skills, also teaches an understanding of human anatomy and how the figure moves -- two essential skills for a character modeler and/or animator. 101 level design courses and the 200 level painting courses teach design and color theory skillsets that are usually missed by self-trained artists rushing to teach themselves modeling.
I'm also a proponent of the school path to employment. There are schools that claim to be able to teach you to be a game developer. But there are only a few that can. And, unfortunately for those on tight budgets (or poor credit histories), the ones that can teach you what you need to know are not cheap.
The self-taught route is viable ... otherwise I and most of my peers would not have our current jobs. However, boot-strapping yourself into a career takes a special type of self-motivation.
Finally, I think I can sum up Vig's comment about attitude as "Plays well with others." The industry has rapidly gone from small teams of generalists to large teams of specialists. Those specialists have to work well with others in group settings. Good attitude may be the factor that gets you a job ahead of an even more talented artist whose attitude sucks.
11-29-2006, 07:06 AM
Since I forgot to do it and Paul didn't do it, GuildHall (http://guildhall.smu.edu/) in my opinion is the one school that does it right. From what I hear/read its hard, expensive but it is exactly what you need. I'm not saying run off to the states and try to get into GuildHall but check them out if the place you are thinking about is structured close to GuildHall then there is a good chance it will help you succeed. I strongly believe in their mission statement and what they are doing.
What I gleam from Escape Studios website is that they seem to be pretty focused and its a good chance to learn. Be careful not to jump into something that might not have as many hands on teachers as you would like, if you feel like you need more one on one training. They are kind of vague about placement and actual course work loads so I would do some more digging and try to talk to people who have been there.
One thing that caught my eye that worried me was an image from the Sony bouncing ball commercial (http://www.bravia-advert.com/commercial/braviamakingofhighqt.html) which was shot using actual bouncy balls. Why have this as a promo shot at the top of a web page for a 3D Game Art VFX training center? I'm not sure why they are showing that image since it takes very little VFX or 3D app skill to film balls bouncing down San Fransisco? Did someone from the school work on that commercial? Did they know it was just film work or do they think it was 3D and something they felt they could teach people how to do? I don't get it and it worries me...
Vig and Paul make some excellent points.
With your background as a web designer, I see this as a technical advantage, which could be a good niche focus as you try to get a job in games. If you are good at HTML, it isn't a huge leap to learn most scripting languages. A good script writer/more technically inclined artist can be a huge asset to a game development team. This is just something to be aware of as you try to pick a focus.
This brings me to my second suggestion. Find a focus. It can be very challenging to get good at everything. It will take years or decades. But if you have a good base skillset, and a few outstanding strengths, you will be a very attractive candidate.
So, rather than try to master everything, work on establishing a base skillset. You absolutely must know how to do polygon modeling, and use Photoshop. But extending this base skillset with a few trickier skills, you can really make yourself more marketable.
When choosing which skills to focus on, consider first what aspects of production that you actually enjoy. Second, think of what skills are the most marketable and in-demand. As an art lead, I tend to find some skills especially difficult to find, and would definitely be more impressed by someone who demonstrated them. For me, a few of these would be:
1. Photoshop photosource skills. This one amazes me, but very few people have a good eye for color correction, pixel resolution, tiling textures, knowledge of mip bleed, or many absolutely necessary Photoshop photo skills such as Levels, Masking, Alpha selections, sharpening tools, etc.
2. Photoshop painting skills. Purely hand-painted textures. Also, having enough skill to paint elements that will be used in conjunction with photo textures. Many times textures can end up looking Frankenstein-esque if you aren't able to combine the two.
2. Excellent UV layout skills, which is a surprisingly hard skill to find in candidates.
3. Scripting skills, as mentioned before.
4. Excellent character rigging skills. Tough to find.
5. Advanced modeling skills. Edge flow, polygon smoothing, proper triangulation, baking high rez models to low rez normal mapped models, etc.
6. Special effects. Not many jobs here, but few good specialists to do them too.
7. True software expertise, in whatever package the team is using. The artist who really knows the tool well, often becomes the go-to guy/mentor in the production pipeline.
8. Top-notch art skill. Understanding of hue, contrast, lighting, specularity, proportions, angles, and a whole boatload of other fine art/general art skills.
Also, consder that there are certain glamour positions in the game industry that there is a hell of a lot more competition for. These tend to be the more character oriented jobs, but may extend to other specialty sub-fields.
11-29-2006, 10:03 AM
I know Photoshop to a pretty advanced level so thats pretty helpful. I know the general principles behind fine art but would definately need to brush up on my drawing, as it seems that being able to draw is an essential skill.
Escape is actually kinda the UK equivalent of Gnomon here in the uk, very highly regarded and they have alot of contacts.
11-29-2006, 10:59 AM
Yes, I agree with most of the posts here. Formal training isn't nearly as important as hands-on experience. And a school setting is not necessary for hands-on experience in this particular field. The most likely method for getting a job in games is to dive in and get your hands dirty. Practice, practice, and more practice.
Knowing HTML and CSS is actually a big plus. You already know how to structure graphical elements through coding. That makes you a prime candidate for GUI development. Having advanced Photoshop skills helps that much more. It does help to have a focus, as game development is becoming more and more specialized. I've been attempting to learn everything I need to know to make my own game. It's taken me years, and will likely take several more. Focusing on one area of expertise will polish you enough to appeal to a development studio. My suggestion for you would be to grab a commercial title with mod tools, and work on putting together some custom GUIs. With your present skills, its an area that you would be able to jump into immediately, and get quality results quickly.
Also, these Polycount boards are probably more useful than any formal schools that you could go to. Take advantage of the pimping and previews section. Post your works-in-progress, and ask for critical feedback. A lot of the members here love to go over each other's work, and they usually have some VERY good suggestions for improving all aspects of your efforts. Reading over some of the other boards will help you considerably with technical issues and give you an idea as to the technical standards present in the industry. There is a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and feedback to be found here.
Good point. GUI might be a nice area of expertise to get your foot in the door.
11-29-2006, 12:00 PM
It's not the most glamorous job in games, but it is definitely one of the more essential. Pretty much every game needs a GUI. And almost any game will appear that much more clean and polished with a high-quality GUI. The GUI is the frame that outlines the rest of the game's graphics, never underestimate its importance. And anyone experienced in web-layout and scripting stands a good chance of having what it takes to make some kick-ass GUI elements. It's basically what they do anyway.
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