Generalist vs. Specialist

Hello guys. I am an aspiring 3D game artist. I have been on several projects, but never had any industry experience. I have read several articles and spoken to several people about "how to get in." I'm confused as to whether or not you need to be a generalist or specialist. For every person that says you need to specialize (focus on characters, environments, vehicles, etc), there are people who say that it's better to be a generalist.

In addition to the focus, many of the people I talked to appear to have diverse opinions on the content of a portfolio. For example, some people says you need to mimic the style, work, and content of the place you want to work for. Others say that you need to make something completely different to stand out from all the portfolios on a desk.

I am an environment artist. If I have to spread my focus, I will. I prefer not to spread myself thin. The way I see it is that I want to make completely awesome environments instead of half awesome environments and half awesome characters. I also want my portfolio to contain a diverse range of content. Does being a specialist with diverse content cut my opportunities for employment, or does it prevent me from spreading myself too thin?

I know that there are a lot of experienced game industry professionals on this forum. What have your experiences been? Have the places you worked at seeked generalist or specialist? Do they want cookie cutter portfolios or diverse content?

Replies

  • TortillaChips
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    TortillaChips greentooth
    Well, one idea would be to look around at the jobs open in your area. When I looked at jobs around the UK there were a fair few character artist jobs going at the time but there were also some generalist 3d modelling jobs about, usually smaller companies. Now a generalist would have a greater chance of getting those 3d modelling jobs but the specialist would take the character art positions. They both have their plusses but if I remember correctly there seemed to be more specialized jobs going than general. Depends what kind of company you want to work for.
  • aajohnny
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    aajohnny polycounter lvl 6
    What TortillaChips said. You should listen to the Game Industry Podcast they talk about that in one episode.
  • ZacD
  • megalmn2000
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    megalmn2000 polycounter lvl 6
    Generalist is more for small companies, since they don't have a lot of employee, people need to know everything to being able to work. Like...if you're 10 employees, and you're the only 3D artist, the more flexible you are, the better is.
    Specialist are more for big companies. If you're 50 modelers on a team, well, it's better to have people REALLY good at something (ex: world, building, cars, weapons, characters, etc...) to have very high quality contents.

    For the questions about the "making something similar to the company", people are asking you to being able to produce something similar to fit their own style. Ex : if your portfolio is 100% cartoonist, don't expect to work at Crytek, they only make photo-realistic games. You won't be really useful for them. But you will have more chance with Blizzard, since they make cartoonist hand paint characters like Warcraft. Make something that people can use in their games.

    The topic about making outstanding contents is to make something creative and not to make the same clich
  • pior
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    pior sublime tool
    Well the first step would be to post a link to your folio!
    And then just be badass at what you are doing - nothing else really matters.
  • Isaiah Sherman
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    Isaiah Sherman polycounter lvl 8
    From all my buddies that got work after school, it seems those that generalized a bit more got hired at smaller companies, and those that specialized more got hired at bigger companies.

    Guess it depends on what you wanna do!

    Don't tailor your portfolio to one company, you're digging yourself a fail hole. What if that company doesn't want to hire you? You could be hurting your chances elsewhere if you don't diversify the content enough. If your portfolio is strong enough, most companies interested in you will throw an art test your way regardless.

    I think what's most important is find 1 or 2 things you enjoy most and just focus. An amazing portfolio is step #1.
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm polycounter lvl 7
    Be a generalist with a special strength ;)

    The more you know the better. At least you don't end up being one of those stupid modelers who can't even spell skinning and who start to cry when they have to do even the smallest thing that's not within their core competency. So annoying to go all the way back thru the bureaucratic hoops of production just for 1 minute fixes.

    Some people really specialize themselves into a corner.
    If you decide to specialze then make sure you have at least a little bit of knowledge of topics related to your core specialization. It will make your life (and that of your coworkers) so much easier.

    Now if you want to break out of the typical env work - go organic! There's still many environment artists who haven't touched ZBrush yet (isn't that just for characters?). This should allow you to enhance your skillset while learning a really cool new app, setting you apart from the crowd. You get both - you're more diverse, yet you stay in your discipline. Win-win!
  • Del
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    Del polycounter lvl 8
    ~ Be earth shatteringly awesome.
  • ambershee
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    ambershee polycounter lvl 11
    Kwramm wrote: »
    Be a generalist with a special strength ;)

    The more you know the better. At least you don't end up being one of those stupid modelers who can't even spell skinning and who start to cry when they have to do even the smallest thing that's not within their core competency. So annoying to go all the way back thru the bureaucratic hoops of production just for 1 minute fixes.

    Some people really specialize themselves into a corner.
    If you decide to specialze then make sure you have at least a little bit of knowledge of topics related to your core specialization. It will make your life (and that of your coworkers) so much easier.

    Now if you want to break out of the typical env work - go organic! There's still many environment artists who haven't touched ZBrush yet (isn't that just for characters?). This should allow you to enhance your skillset while learning a really cool new app, setting you apart from the crowd. You get both - you're more diverse, yet you stay in your discipline. Win-win!

    Sound advice. Personally, I'm already over-specialised - I work exclusively with Unreal which really limits my work options, I'd recommend against it.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD greentooth
    ambershee wrote: »
    Sound advice. Personally, I'm already over-specialised - I work exclusively with Unreal which really limits my work options, I'd recommend against it.

    In most studios its not required to know every single app in their pipeline before getting hired. What other engines are you going to use besides udk? Unity is free but not geared for console games as much. Valve source/hammer is pretty dated and technical, I guess you could mess with the Oblivion or Fallout mods. You could easily get hired as a environment artist with just realtime shaders in the max viewport or marmoset.
  • ambershee
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    ambershee polycounter lvl 11
    My work is all technical - I'm a programmer, but I also often handle materials, shaders, particles and the rendering pipeline ;)

    I don't touch 3d art packages, personally.
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