What has the games industry been like for you?

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polycounter lvl 11
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Hazardous polycounter lvl 11
I also made a facebook post about this but would like to drop it here also to gather thoughts from the various industry folks who frequent - It is a little bloggy but I would hope it doesn't get pulled because I do think it's quite important.

I think a lot of 'yet to be artists in the games industry' don't realize what it takes to reach that point of seeing art in an art dump.

They see the art and they fantasize about how awesome it must be to be that person, or to be part of that awesomeness. The part that they never fantasize about is actually what it takes to reach that point, but rightly so, as they have no idea.

Actually mastering the technicalities of producing the art is just one (and probably most obvious) of *many* facets that go in to reaching that point, and we have many resources now available to help the individual conquer this, check the polycount wiki for example!

But there is often a whole swag of nonsensical / political, social, hierarchical and power struggles along with many other difficulties (depending on the studio and situation) that must be overcome both personally and as a team to get there.

I think this is one of those areas that no one likes to discuss for fear of saying the wrong things about any given studio or person, and likely hurting their career long term.
But I know for a fact its these kind of non art related issues that are a common venting topic amongst friends over drinks, ie 'the goss'

It's always an enlightening and sometimes surprising conversation, as no matter how farfetched the story there is generally always a common underlying truth and consistency to them.

From my experience, I am easily able to stand back and tip my hat with the power of an exploding sun towards those companies who manage to consistently produce top quality games and keep most of their employees happy in the process.

This is absolutely not easy to accomplish, for both the individual and for the company as a whole.
So to *any* studio that succeeds on that level, I would encourage the leads or managers to be more open about how they accomplished the HR side of things from both a personal perspective, and from the teams perspective.

What problems did you face as individuals, how were they overcome? If they weren't, why not? What problems did you face as a team? Did you conquer them or put them aside for long enough to ship the game and deal with them later?

I guess ultimately what I'm asking is, what is the true cost of the individual to reach the finish line. If it was too great, why? If the cost was well worth it, why?

The goal isn't to start a negative debate or too poo-poo any given studio, its to share information about what worked and what didn't and hopefully why. And I hope some of the big hitters will come out and summarize what their experience has been like so far, positive and negative.

I think most brand new and eager recruits have no idea what they are actually getting into here. It's so much more than your individual specialty, they assume they will join a company, and get to work on the next big thing, and are both clueless and ill-equipped to deal with 'what it's really like'.

Thoughts?

I'll write my experience down shortly.

Replies

  • rogelio
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    rogelio greentooth
    A small background I have worked in the industry for a while first real gig was Epic Games. After Epic I went to School of Visual Arts I did not think I was completely ready for where I wanted to be as artist so I took some time with school and did a four yr college thing. I worked in other game companies and vfx places such as FrameStore, 4mm Games, Crystal Dynamics, and now Naughtydog.

    What got me through these companies all being varied and with different hierarchical levels…

    Coping with stress.

    and

    Adjusting to different situations quickly.

    I have also never been laid off… been kind of lucky, but I did see things coming and some of the companies went through some hard times right after I left, I think I just saw it coming and I adjusted.

    -What problems did you face as individuals, how were they overcome?


    Biggest issues I dealt with every company is the too much documentation or too little documentation for art related tasks. At times you are left to fend for your own and if you do not happen to be the go getter type person this becomes a quick line to fail. Too much documentation can lead to production fail. I rather have a lead letting me know directly what needs to be done and how than have to read page after page of stuff.

    Another thing is bad decisions that could have been avoided if the person making those decisions actually cared enough to share information to other people and get some thoughts before taking the decision. This has happen on all levels from Jr to leads. Being transparent about things being done is better than it being a total surprise.

    People complaining about work related issues when the real issue is that the people that complain do not talk to superiors about it. Leads are human too and it is ok to be wrong. In most cases leads are willing to talk things over and deal with the situation in a timely way. I see a lot of complaints and little action. Complaining is good as long as you act on it, sometimes complaining can be a workflow that a lead has not even thought about… You may actually know the answer instead of a complaint to your lead, you work on the workflow issue and show it to your lead, so that complaint becomes an answer.

    With that said above I have seen times that even with proper dialogue things do not turn out well. The Moby Dick syndrome. I have been lucky not to be in too many situations like this, but I have seen others go through this many times. It is either a person who may think they have good intentions or have an inflated ego go and take a whole team into a string of bad decisions after another without taking advice from the team or comments just because that person is of higher rank. This mostly leads to team relations difficulty and a divide of authority. This Moby Dick mentality can cause a studio to have very deep down disgruntled people that eventually just leave. I saw this in one place first hand and I cannot say that the ones that left were right, but those people were not wrong either.

    -If they weren't, why not?

    Because of miscommunication and egos in the wrong spots in the food chain. Even though workers talked to HR and higher ups about it, very little was done to alleviate the problems. I still remember seeing a lead sitting next to a worker not talking to him just looking at his monitor when the person is working for like an hour of time. I know for a fact that worker was not happy about that it was really completely odd pressure for no apparent reason.

    -What problems did you face as a team?


    A number of disgruntled individuals who eventually left. As a person who stayed around after that it was hard. All the work from those people were moved to people who already had a boat load of tasks and were already in crunch. I guess you can say I was not too happy, I even tried to stop those workers from leaving, but at the end those workers made the right choice and are in respectable positions afterwards… those workers were being abused and pick up and left.

    The aftermath of that, was people being sad and more disgruntled behavior came up. How did we cope? We coped the best possible way we could. A number of workers were thinking the same thing and some others and I had to do an intervention on them… others and I were doing the work of HR. At the end I think what kept them in the studio seat was that they saw we needed to get through this together not caring about the upper management that had kind of failed us, so we as a team the real team made it through and made a fantastic game that I think we are proud of. This was not taken to upper management or HR we were in the last few months of ship and we all agreed to keep cool and finish. I do not even think HR and upper management even knew this was about to happen. It would have been really destructive.
    Last I heard from my friends things are changing for the positive so here is hoping. That studio is a great studio and I have no issue with recommending people to it. I learned a lot as an artist and I think the studio learned a lot also from making that game title. The leads somewhat mentioned are actually good people. People just act odd when in pressure of others. I am sure that lead that was sitting next to the employee had an equal amount of pressure from higher ups. It still does not justify such an action.

    -Did you conquer them or put them aside for long enough to ship the game and deal with them later?


    A bit of a mixed bag like said above some were conquered between the small groups we hang around with and some were actually done from upper management.

    A lot were left for later though…

    -I guess ultimately what I'm asking is, what is the true cost of the individual to reach the finish line. If it was too great, why? If the cost was well worth it, why?

    I have yet to make a game I am not proud to be a part of. I know this is not the same for others, but I think so far I have picked my battles well. But the crap that we as game developers go through to make a title work and be complete is hard and different every single time. This chaotic nature is not too bad I kind of like it at times, but I also get annoyed. I am at a stage in my experience with the industry that if I really do not like something I just say it. Usually when I say something it is heard and appreciated. Do I win every time… no. It is not about winning it is about being a team and learning, the more I let people know my thoughts on general studio stuff, the more people will think about those concerns and try to solve them even if my suggestion to solve those issues are not the right ones. Having a dialogue is always better and it can be daunting to talk to leads or even executive level people… but it is better than not saying a word and just keeping it all inside. That leads to being disgruntled and I rather let that crap out and do my job and if things do not change on your individual and studio end than it might be time to move on.

    Was it worth it. So far my answer is yes. The people I worked next to will forever be part of my life. I never did military service or went to war, but I think it can be compared to that in a way, the people next to you is what drives you to finish the game. I do not want to let down my team and and most cases those team members think the same. I guess a good comparision is a sports team also.

    With all the above said… NaughtyDog is legit. I dig it. I like how things work here. I have been in ND for 2 years now and I am still awed and surprised how things work. I mean all this in the most positive way. ND is really just an odd speck in the universe of game industry places. So far I had very little of the above examples here. Sure we crunch damn hard and complain and stuff like that, but we handle it… In other words it works, we all make it work. ND devs are really a varied and interesting professional bunch of individuals. All studios have issues but so far ND seems like we can at least try to solve our issues by sitting down and talking about it. It is like wow!!! what a concept! we actually talk to people on all levels.

    To end it all... studios have issues, but it is everyone's responsibility to try to fix it also.

    (sorry for long read I also tried hard to not name names or specific situations but more general stuff)
  • Hazardous
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    Hazardous polycounter lvl 11
    Background: I have been working in the industry since 2004. I've spent about 6 years inhouse and nearly 5 years now as a freelance character artist. I've worked on a few failed AAA projects, and contributed to and shipped a couple of AAA titles, the most recent was the MMO Rift.

    When I Left the team at Trion I was the Lead Character Artist. I've since branched off to not only producing game character art, but working on sculpting for boardgame production and collectible figurines.

    Much like Rogelio, the ultimate skill that got me through the varied environments with some sanity in check was being able to know when to take a breather and let things be, and when to speak up. Stress management has been a huge factor in this.

    What problems did I face as and individual, how were they overcome?

    For whatever reason, i felt when i first got into this industry that it was going to be some mystical land where everything made sense and ran smoothly, extremely fun 100% of the time. Kind of like garage cowboys back in the doom days without any of the high-school drama. So the first problem was complete and utter naievity. How did I get through it? By making a complete ass of myself, acting like I could change the world and how everything was being done. Like the typical stars in their eyes n00bster :poly136: It didn't take long to realize how futile that approach was. As a n00b I needed to keep my head down, and gain some cred from my peers, by working and getting the tasks my lead set me done and then some.

    I was very frustrated at how roundabout and hierarchical everything was. I needed the approval of too many management figures to get done what I needed to get done, it seems so nonsensical and I was always left thinking on my way home from work 'how the fuck is anything getting done here? EVER?'
    It would also be extremely frustrating to have strict orders from my boss, and a completely different set of orders from a producer or management type person higher up the food chain than my boss. Not knowing who to follow, or who I should turn to for feedback without upsetting one or the other was always a frustrating scenario.

    Coming from a small indy studio moving to a large well funded company like Trion came with its own subset of problems, but again, for some reason I believed all the woes of a smaller Indy company would disappear, when in fact that couldn't be further from the truth. A more accurate descriptor would be that the same issues where present, just more diluted amongst more people making some of the issues more bearable and some even worse.

    More fans, meant more eyes on the project. I've been told my art looks like a child with a crayon could do better, or that I should be lined up against a wall and shot that it was so bad. But at the same time, I've been told that my art makes people happy - they couldn't wait to choose the hairstyle I made, or equip some armor I created. This was quite a humbling experience in Rift's case. Gotta love that MMO fanbase!!

    I've also been in a situation where I was asked to go through Skype history's and collect information on individuals that could be used to help fire them. I objected, and my failure to cooperate meant that my computer would be seized. As a lead I stood my ground on this and thankfully it never happened, but it was still a 'situation' to manage and something I *had* to deal with. Something a simple dude that wants to make character art for a project just doesn't want to deal with. Ever.

    There are more such scenarios, but listing them would just seem like a giant long bitch-fest which is not what this is for.

    -What problems did you face as a team?

    I think the biggest problem I've experienced as a team was trying to extract a solid art direction for the project to head in. My job as a lead is to take that direction and get some characters built conforming to that in a timely and efficient manner.

    This also plugs directly into the issue mentioned above as I have worked with art directors who where really only art directors in title only. They didn't really control how the game and game art was looking at all. The further down the food chain, the more frustrating this problem becomes, ultimately making the guy at the end very disgruntled. Trying to be as transparent as possible only really works for so long and can only go up so far on the ladder.

    Not being able to accept that schedules change and projects grow organically is also worth a mention here. Its just what happens. When I was a noob - this was ridiculous to me, it should have been planned, cut and dry. But experience has taught me this is not the case at all, and probably never will be in a chaotic, creative environment. Big decisions are made, work is cut, deadlines are sliced. It happens, just be like water and push through. (thanks bruce)

    Did you conquer them or put them aside for long enough to ship the game and deal with them later?


    Most problems that I've come across and mentioned here were simply stamped 'deal with it'. Will fix it on our next go-around once the game ships. A few of the smaller problems we tackled as they come up - in the best way that we could.

    Ultimately it was a 'man up' type scenario in nearly every case, as 'rocking the boat' was generally frowned upon. It took a few years for me to realize that in order to achieve anything when there's a problem it has to be done with tact and a sprinkling of guile, as being blunt and to the point would lead to a butt-hurt factor that was too great for most to bear and not get anything solved.

    What is the true cost of the individual to reach the finish line. If it was too great, why? If the cost was well worth it, why?

    Despite what I wrote above being negative, it will probably be alarming to hear that I feel like it has all been absolutely worth it. Are there problems? Absolutely. But as an individual I can't help but objectively stand back and examine my experience and growth as an artist and as a human being and say that I'm happy to be where I am at and I believe I owe that to these experiences. I am proud to have worked on the projects that I worked on, and with the people I worked with, some of the best friends I have today have been born in the late night trenches doing unmentionable things to meet the most anus puckering deadlines imaginable.

    This isn't supposed to be easy, moreso when you are employed at a company the world is focused on like the fucking eye of sauron.

    But man I can think of a thousand jobs that are a hell of a lot worse. At the end of the day knowing what i went through personally working on any given project, has made a shit tonne of fans happy and ravenous for more is such a massive and rewarding thing it somehow makes the problems fade away into nothingness, like they don't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

    If there are any bits of info contained within that people are reading and thinking 'dude yes' then take a moment and share it positive or negative. I'd love to hear more stories from industry peeps n00b to veteran, artists, programmers, audio engineers, animators, managers, hr the lot. :thumbup:
  • rogelio
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    rogelio greentooth
    A lot of what was said above rings very true on my end also, I just kind of forgot some of those things :)

    And yes to add to the fan base. I remember releasing UT2004 and having the fan base go wild. Basically people mostly thought we got it right compared to UT2003. It is fun to have the fan base enjoy the work you have done and really get into it. It is not fun on the flip side though, and seeing fans really bash your work. It really hurts since we put so many hours on end for it be bashed. I quickly learned how the forum threads can be vile. See before UT2004 I made user maps so I was a fan for the UT franchise before I even landed the job, I made tons of levels for free on the user base. Since I had a prior online presence in the UT community I saw a change in how I was being treated online from good to bad.

    The good - people loved my stuff too much almost creepy.

    The bad - was just vile comments on stuff in general on levels I designed.

    Though in the core community everyone liked me pretty much the same as before and after Epic and I still released maps afterwards UT2004 for free. The issue was also I was younger back than so if I saw a negative comment on stuff I would sort of go all “Phil Fish” on people… not to that extreme, but I would be a bit defensive. Thank god twitter was not hot back than lol.

    Edit:/ I think I remember what I did I changed my online tag to my real name Rogelio instead of Desperado#2 that helped the crazies also... So the only people that really knew me would know my actual name and it became easier to post in the UT forums again.

    Releasing Tomb Raider and The Last of US is the two games I am currently super proud of.

    I have checked out the fan base of the Tomb Raider forums often enough but never post of course I learned my lessons… but the TR forums are pretty awesome bunch of posters. Most loved TR and it was a relief to see a forum poll of which level was the best and mine was picked.

    TLOU was also amazing. We occasionally get some e-mails from fans at ND and one of them touched me like no other. A young teen girl played our game and was so touched by the characters in the DLC single player that it literally affected her life. She decided it was time to have a talk with her parents and loved ones. After a few weeks later I believe we got information that the talk went well and family and loved ones are supportive.

    Sometimes we do not realize how much it affects people.

    Experiencing all this makes it worth it.
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 9
    I'm not a featured artist in the Recaps or an artist that has been in a project art dump, but I'm in the industry (to one degree or another) and I want to share my experiences. I've worked contracts at Sony Bend and WB Games Turbine, and freelance for Human Head and a host of small iOS and non game studios.

    I'm just going to be honest. No spin and no bullshit.

    -What problems did you face as individuals, how were they overcome?

    I've faced numerous problems, but a few stand out. My first job at Sony Bend was a fantastic experience and I am super proud of the work I did on Uncharted: Golden Abyss. However, I was being thrown into the fire. I was a noob beyond noobs. My portfolio was good enough to get me that job-but I didn't know how to tile textures. I thought everything had to be in the 0-1 UV space. So-that's how noobish I was. I pretty much blew the Tech Artists' mind at how inexperienced I actually was in my first week or two. There was no training, no documentation, nothing for someone with my lack of experience. Not saying that's anyone's fault-it's just the way it was.

    I went to college for this but the curriculum wasn't structured for art as much as it was for technology. Plus a number of the professors were terrible. I don't know how active vacortis (buddy of mine who's now at Carbine) is on the forums these days but I imagine he'd tell you the same.

    Turbine was a different beast. While Sony Bend had it's management issues, it was small and you always knew who to talk to for everything. Turbine had a very strange structure for management with an art director for the creative studio (really just a manager), a director above him, and project art directors who were actually art directors in a traditional sense. There was always the sense that there were power struggles between some of the directors and it was very hard to figure out who to talk to. The other problem was me. I came into Turbine with a bit of an ego after shipping Uncharted. I thought I knew better (and only in rare cases did I know anything). I should have checked that at the door-I was still too young and too green and didn't realize it.

    -If they weren't, why not?

    Working a lot and reading a lot of Polycount. Sort of. I still think that I'm suffering from coming behind, if you will. And I didn't solve it-I was not hired after Uncharted shipped. Everyone at the studio liked me quite a lot as a co-worker and person but they didn't have the requisition spots and I was the odd contractor out because I was too green.

    Overall Turbine wasn't a great experience for me-and it had it's problems but I was more the problem than the studio was. Once it was clear that cuts were coming to Turbine, I was one of the first art contractors who were not re-upped for another 3-6 months. I told my manager I wasn't happy and I was looking to move on and he understood, so I was the first contractor let go. I would have been let go 2-3 months later anyway so the head start on job hunting was nice...except that it didn't do me any good.

    Naturally, that happened 2 months after meeting my girlfriend lol. Life is just nothing but confusing.

    -What problems did you face as a team?

    As a team, I think the problems at Bend were mostly just production stuff and minor communication issues. Like there are at any studio there were a few ego issues here or there. Most of this never affected me and the team shipped on time and the game did fairly well (I think).

    The crazy management structure at Turbine didn't affect the creative studio team much either as it had always been that way. Turbine did a good job of scheduling and such so production ran smooth. Ego's were there too but that didn't affect me too much either.

    It's fun being low on the totem pole sometimes.

    Did you conquer them or put them aside for long enough to ship the game and deal with them later?

    I personally just put my head down and worked. Being lower on a totem pole, I'm away from having a direct influence on ego battles or major production issues. The teams I've worked with always shipped-there was one pre-production game I was working on at Turbine that didn't get greenlit but there were a lot of reasons for that.

    What is the true cost of the individual to reach the finish line. If it was too great, why? If the cost was well worth it, why?

    I haven't hit the finish line yet. Maybe I never will. I recently wrote a blog that I'm a worker and not an artist and it's true-I've only just been grinding away and not truly being artistic because that's the positions I've been in (going all the way back to first year of college, I was last 'pure' artist as a senior in high school). Even my personal work is more about working to show I can do the work that show that I'm an artist. It's very strange. I think that with some time I'll put together my ability to work my ass off with my artistic side but I'm definitely not there yet. Some dude from a party 2 years ago said my life would really become something once I hit 30 (had to do with being a Sagittarius) so maybe that'll help. Or the refocusing I'll be doing on ART over work. That'll help too.

    Here are the costs that I've had or could have:
    -Moved across the country twice
    -Not really setting down roots
    -Making friends, then leaving those friends
    -I've been home for Christmas once since 2010 and have seen some old friends not since a friends wedding in 2011.
    -Lower wage as a low end contractor
    -Incredibly rough job hunting experiences
    -When I was in talks with a studio out west AFTER my freelance plan was started, I almost lost my relationship with possibly the girl I'll be with till I die.

    But I've Gained:
    -Awesome experience and worked with some really amazing people
    -Lived in Bend OR (really do miss the Pacific North West)
    -SNOWBOARDING
    -Currently living in Boston and I really enjoy Boston
    -Met my girl thanks to the second cross country move
    -Had a lot of fun and memorable times in Bend with friends
    -I worked on an Uncharted Game for Sony! I was a big fan of the games and the company and Sony really is great to work for.
    -Turbine I credit with helping me grow up and be more introspective with myself.
    -Some free swag
    -I truly love working on games as an artist and when it's good, it's the best job in the world.

    Pros n Cons.
  • Swizzle
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    Swizzle polycounter lvl 11
    Preamble: I am ABSOLUTELY NOT talking about every person I've ever worked with. The people I've had problems with have consisted of a very small group, probably no larger than half a dozen. I do not harbor ill will towards most of the people I've worked with, and I actually still have regular chats and meetups with former coworkers. I actually consider some of the people I've worked with to be my closest friends.

    What problems did you face as individuals, how were they overcome?

    I've faced a bunch of really terrible issues working in this industry, but they aren't actually things that would be specific to the game industry at all. They were people problems. Among the things I've seen or experienced in my fairly short stint working at game studios:
    • Sexism
    • Racism
    • Misogyny
    • All-around bigotry
    • Blatant lies, especially concerning things like expectations of employee duties
    • Favoritism, cronyism, and a policy of sweeping misconduct under the rug if the offending person has been at the job long enough
    • Regular screaming matches between various people, including between managers and employees
    • Willful ignorance of team needs, including deliberately ignoring technology and equipment needs
    • Project heads humiliating team leads in front of their teams
    • Managers being condescending of their employees
    • Political theater (more or less)
    • Absurdly inappropriate drunken behavior by managers and studio heads at company events
    I could probably keep going with the list, but you get the idea. In addition to those things, I've also had to deal with other problems that weren't specifically issues that came up at work. They mostly relate to side effects of intense stress, including depression and months-long sleeping problems with insomnia and nightmares.

    As for how to solve those problems, the answer lies in simply leaving the offending environment one way or another. I left my first job for greener pastures, and I was fired from my second.

    I count both, especially the second, as positives.

    Leaving my first job got me away from an environment where I was using my headphones and Netflix as coping mechanisms.

    Getting fired from my second job led to a period of unparalleled productivity, renewed interest in my work, greater appreciation for people who helped me through my time there, and overall massive success including higher income and far more job satisfaction.

    If they weren't, why not?

    A lot of the issues I was facing at previous jobs were not the kind of things you can fix with a new development strategy or better software. They were problems that could only be fixed by working with different people who could understand when there were problems, and then guided the team and company to solutions.

    What problems did you face as a team?

    Most of the issues I've seen teams I was on face had to do with tech constraints and very political reasons for not fixing those issues. Specifically, most of the problems revolved around a lack of sufficient (not even GOOD, just sufficient) tools to get our jobs done. People in management positions didn't want programmers working on tools when they could be implementing things like player-facing monetization schemes and technology, or systems that let designers track player behavior to target specific groups for in-game rewards.

    Things like these come up a lot, and there's certainly a case to be made for actually making money. The problems crop up when the tools start breaking after hardware and software updates and there are no programmers available to fix the issues.

    Did you conquer them or put them aside for long enough to ship the game and deal with them later?

    In my personal experience, most issues were pushed back as far as possible to make time for shipping features.

    I guess ultimately what I'm asking is, what is the true cost of the individual to reach the finish line. If it was too great, why? If the cost was well worth it, why?

    My personal experience is nowhere near representative of the typical game artist experience, but I would say that the cost is high. Personally, I faced numerous issues that were taking a toll on my mental health, even if I wasn't working unusually long hours or any of the other typical problems you would associate with working in a stressful environment.

    To me personally, the cost was too high. I ended up in situations where I was set up to fail, where my coworkers were set up to fail, and where I couldn't effectively do my job or operate like a normal person in my non-work life.

    As I mentioned above, I started to develop problems with depression and sleep disturbances. I also managed to cultivate a really unhealthy general anxiety problem that, while it's slowly going away, still proves to be a problem in a lot of situations.





    Now, all of that said, I don't blame the game industry for my past experiences. None of the problems I've run into were specific to this industry, and I'm sure I'm going to run into more problems in the future that are difficult to deal with.

    Even with the problems I've run into, including all the bullshit personal stuff that's happened, I can actually say I've gained a huge amount:
    • Through my first job, I made some friends who've been extremely supportive for the past few years
    • I met my fiancee through the above friends and we're getting married in October
    • I've gained intimate knowledge of aspects of game production that are still serving me to this day
    • I'm completely debt free
    • I have a radically different and much greater appreciation for good management and swift design decisions
    • I have an incredible support base in the form of tons of industry friends and colleagues
    Even with some really nasty experiences in the past, I'm not ready to leave this industry. I've considered it. I've looked into other career paths. I've faced months-long unemployment and crumbling self esteem issues. I've been put through the ringer.

    But fuck leaving. I'm making this into my dream job instead of waiting for the dream job to come to me.
  • Gav
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    Gav ngon master
    Just going to repost this here, from the same Facebook thread...it doesn't have as nice of a format as above:

    I've got a few pet peeves about the industry, and I think a few are relevant to what you're talking about.

    I hate it when people blame "production" as if it's a floating entity not related to the project. When someone says that, it's a sign of professional immaturity to me (side note, I think the show Carnivale depicted what lots of people call Management very well....this invisible man behind the curtain that calls all of the shots.) The idealistic view that everything can be planned for and not acknowledging the reality of organic growth and changes through development - that the project is this organism thats just constantly evolving until it can't anymore. Which, leads into another peeve of mine, the Bitching. You grab a few pints and just shit talk - it's toxic, man. There's a difference between blowing off steam and just encouraging bad behavior...

    Personally, for every big project, I've practically cut myself off and devoted myself to "work." You know this I know it's not healthy, and I never ever ask anyone to do it...BUT...in my life, this is what I have. I've given up a lot, taken a shit ton of chances, and devoted everything to being the artist / game developer I dreamed of being as a kid. Im not going to cheat myself out of that success and walk away from a project feeling like I didn't do everything I could.

    One of my driving theories, I guess, as a Lead is that I can protect my team. That I can play support to their success, and basically do everything in my power to produce work under the art directors vision, in a way that doesn't kill the team, and gives them notority within the company - and, hopefully, the industry.

    I'm not really an "art direction" guy, I don't think, I'm more of a process person. Taking what the art director set down and enforcing it throughout the project. For both major projects where I've been in the position to do so, I've shielded a huge chunk of time just to polish - accounting for the organic changes that happen over time...assets that strayed too far, got rushed, or fall out of the guidelines.

    In terms of giving up things as far as an artist goes, every project I've been on I've seen things go away that I thought were cool...but that's just personal preferences at the end of the day...and you sort of need to "man up" and respect whatever decision gets made.

    Anyway...I think every artist will see work they loved get cut, will need to go through some form of rough patch to "get it done." After the years of doing this, I'd recommend "keeping your head on straight." I can't remember what talk it was, I think it might have been Mike Capps, but he basically said "After an employee loses passion they should leave." I think thats true, I've seen it happen before, people come in all bright eyes and bushy tailed, start listening to the shit talkers, and totally lose sight of the big picture.

    Reply to that:
    "thanks for sharing your experience Gavin. insightful.

    I do think that regarding "After an employee loses passion they should leave." we do need to consider that all people lose sight of their passions. It happens. as people pass through different stages of life, things can pose "speed wobbles" along the way, and they might go off track. IMO what defines the employee when that happens, is how well they can recover from it."

    Answer to that Reply:

    That's true, like I said - I think we've all had our rough patches. Probably all had some days where we wanted to not go into work, or wishing that the weekend was longer. But. I've worked with, and have been a person, where there was no coming back and the best solution for everyone - keeping the health of the company in tact, having the employee leave with mutual respect, etc. - is to move on.

    Personal example:

    My first studio job was brutal. I was a pixel artist and painted sprites for tiny mobile games, and browser based games. I worked there every day for, like, 16 hours a day, I was the only artist on a team of 40 and juggled 8 projects at a time...it was killing me, really, I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do and all of my time that could have been spent developing as the artist I "wanted" to be was being crushed by painting Scrabble tiles and dancing vegetables. I hated it. I thought about giving up and becoming a farmer. Literally, buying a bunch of hounds, some land, and moving the fuck away. Obviously, I didn't, I stuck with it for a few more months and exited gracefully (after which, my boss told me that I should go back to school and would never "make it.") I took about 3 months to pick up some contract work and developed a portfolio focused on my passion - character art. It landed me my second studio job. This job had me working at a split company that had "the dream project" on one team, and budget title son the other. Basically, I was on the Dream Project but would be tapped every now and then to finish off other projects for the other company...anyway...after about 2 years of doing this, the big project never really got traction and slowly faded away only to be replaced by porting projects for EA Canada. I went from working on a fps game in Source, to working on Casino games and children's games on the Nintendo DS. I stayed for a few months, had a few long talks with my boses, and decided to leave to go freelance for a year....which lead to working with Bioware, Monolith, the military, Harmonix, etc...

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, yes, over coming obstacles is part of the job. There will be highs and lows, but, at the end of the day, you need to do what's best for you. If you find yourself dreading work, or just doing it because "it's a job", that's a very uninspired outlook that most likely will fester before it recovers. Employee retention, keeping morale up, and working with the individual is important - but - you need to want to change...you know? You can lead a horse to water, and all that shit...

    For me, I knew what I wanted, I respected what the company was doing and totally got the business decisions made to keep their own dreams alive. I thought it was better to leave on a high note versus just getting worse...and, eventually, not burning those bridges got me endorsements for my work visa in the states...so, it's good that I didn't turn into a total asshole
  • rogelio
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    rogelio greentooth
    I find it interesting how a lot of people are not posting here. I think in general this is a really healthy information and I would say do not be scared to post your experience. The only way to improve on it is really to talk about it and expose it.

    A lot of great points...

    I agree with a lot of stuff said above. The most important part in Gav's post if you do leave try to leave with a high note, do not burn bridges. Some companies I worked with still call me to check up if I available for work, This is a good sign and the way I keep contact with past game studios is to recommend people to them... it is almost like I help them out in the recruitment standpoint so I never really left just changed positions...

    I have yet to be in a situation where I lose passion for this art form. Of course some days are tough but everyday I am excited to see the day through and see what else will happen with co workers and friends.

    Swizzle does bring in some other good points especially on the list. I have seen sexism being an issue, though I have not seen racism much but the studios I have been are mostly in city areas.
  • Eric Chadwick
    This is a really great thread.

    I think people might not be sharing experiences here because it's simply daunting to read through so much, and it takes time to write what you need to say too. I haven't finished reading everything. Life intrudes! Working on my own wall-o-text to add, later.

    Thanks for sharing your insights! Added to the wiki.
    http://wiki.polycount.net/CategoryGameIndustry#Being_a_Developer
  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    I haven't yet worked yet professionally as a 3D artist (I just graduated last week in 3D modeling and need to finish my portfolio), but I've spent over 4 years at Gameloft Montreal as a technical game designer and a couple of months at Eidos Montreal as well as level designer on Thief 4.

    First of all, the employees at Gameloft MTL are pretty nice. I had a great time there. However, I've seen a lot of bullshit there and felt the need to leave at some point. People getting fired for no reason whatsoever, the company was too slow at improving the level design workflows (in result level designers and artists had to do a shitload of overtime), etc. At some point, I had lost all my trust and respect for the company and my creativity went from 110% to a flat zero. For some reason, I could only be creative at home on my personal projects, but I couldn't get it to work on the job. It took me a while to understand what was actually happening. But when I did, I left and joined Eidos MTL.

    I had a blast at Eidos, wonderful people, great studio. But I got told there that employees coming from mobile studios somehow had less value (sort of like comparing high school to university), which didn't make any sense to me whatsoever. Still, it meant that if I had spent like 6 years at Gameloft and got a lead position, I would still start as a junior at Eidos. And I knew that some people at Gameloft were planning to spend a couple of years there to climb the hierarchical ladder, get a Sr or lead position to then move to a AAA studio, etc. So, I sent an email to a few ex-colleagues in order to educate them on the subject or at least... on such possibility. Guess what, someone badly received the email, would have shared it and apparently some people at Gameloft felt like I was trying to solicit them (WTF). I was having a blast at Eidos, everyone was super happy with my work, they wanted to use my work as a template for the next maps and out of nowhere I got fired and the reasons they gave me were a load of bullshit. It took me a few weeks to fully understand what actually happened. Couldn't find a job after that. Bottom line, trying to do the right thing got me out of job and before that I didn't think it could actually happen.

    But it was no big deal, since my main goal from the very beginning was just to get my foot in the video games industry just to know how to make games, my own games. So, it gave me a pretty good opportunity to work on my own stuff and trying to do so, I felt that my 3D skills weren't good enough. So, I decided to go back to school and learn 3D modeling. Fortunately, we have Campus ADN here which is really good. But my goal was to become functional. I didn't expect that I would actually fall in love with 3D modeling and now I'm building my own game universe! That's crazy.

    But 3D modeling is also very different now. I must admit that without Modo, Substance Designer, Substance Painter and Unreal Engine 4, I wouldn't like it as much as I do now. I understand why some people love let's say Modo or Substance or UE4 so much or why those softwares made 3D fun again. Now, I recognize that the love we have for the tools we use can greatly step up both our happiness and productivity.

    All this made me also realize that the design department in the video games industry isn't just years behind all the others, but it's just inappropriate. Designers can't get better at their job by just working on cheap-ripoffs or dumbed down/mainstream games. That's why 3D modeling is so appealing to me right now, so much things to learn and master, I love it.
  • glottis8
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    glottis8 polycounter lvl 9
    Background:
    I have been working in the industry since 2006, so i have been working for almost 9 years now, and i have worked both in the game industry and movie industry. I have interned at Cartoon Network where i worked in the Star Wars cartoon and some new pilots. I did work at a 3rd party vfx and 3d compositing studio working on movies like Day After Tomorrow and TV series like 24, Chuck and some other commercial work. From there i did some Nickelodeon work and then transitioned into the game industry. With some freelance work in between. I have worked mostly on low key titles and a lot of budget games.

    With that out of the way i can say that i am not a big profile artist so far, or worked on big games. I have been trying to change that but also, i think i have been able to impact the places i have worked at in a positive and big ways.

    I used to work at Frozen Codebase. Small independent studio in WI where i had fun. Hours and work where pretty crazy, but i enjoyed it, and with little commitment to anything else but work i was able to put the crazy 60-80 hr weeks in art. I met some really great artists, and some lasting friendships that i still keep up with, and some consider mentors. But its a harsh reality out there, when you work hard and sometimes production don't go your way. Company ended up in lots of layoffs, and then went under.

    Right now i work as lead artist at 1st Playable. A company that focuses on kids games and creates all kinds of handheld, mobile and smaller titles. Lots of brands and very aggressive time frames for games. Which unfortunately don't allow for art as a whole to be substantial. Its preferred to play it safe instead of creating solutions to help with the process. Whats nice about this place is that it cares about community outreach and impacting the community in a positive way. So we are encouraged to do mentoring and teach, to give and to impact our games in big ways.

    What problems did I face as and individual, how were they overcome?

    There are a lot of things that i can think back that have influenced me and molded me to what i am today. Like some have said before we come into the bubble of the game industry with glasses, and we either don't want to see it for what it is. Or more likely, at the time the information was not as transparent and it was not common knowledge. At least not in my case. I wish that i had the kind of information and in cases mentorships that i see available for kids now a days.

    First thing, work is not easy to come by. Opportunities do present themselves and its good practice to just take them all seriously. You never know what will come out of them. Jobs are not easy to come by, and specially the big profile gigs, there is big competition with amazing artists out there trying to get the same job you are. I used to work in the movies like i said. I did contract work until the 2008 writers strike. To be honest, i was happy working in the movies. Its a different environment, but its a little bit more lonely. But you make 3d all day in a fast work environment, you get a good paycheck and you see iteration and progress every single day. With no more contract work because of the strike, i guess i decided not to stay in a contract position and look for more stable work. So its not easy... the decision to get a full time position where you are overworked vs contract where you work the hours, any over time is payed full time and a half. Its hard to say really. But i am grateful for the opportunities that i have, and the ones that i made for myself, and looking forward i want to focus more on art with stability in a good and encouraging environment.

    How companies work and are structured. Some want profit, some are obsessed in making a big hit game to make them rich, some just want to play it safe. I don't think there will be a single place that will be all good for you, and i think this is something not everyone realizes. Companies and studios are certainly run by people who have to adapt to circumstances. We might not agree with some of their decisions, but i don't think we can agree with people 100% of the time. Some decisions are bad and end up taking the studio under... but i have realized to not be as attached. I do certainly try to speak up and give input always with solutions instead of just complaining. Some places are more open, some will not hear about it. But as an artist i know i can do my job and i can impact people around me, and hopefully steer some decisions to help production and the game in general.

    Growing as an artist. A good friend of mine told me the other day that you can ask for a place that tries to nurture your creativity and a place that is full of great artists. But at the end of the day its up to no one but yourself to grow and to learn and become a better artist. Before i would complain and say, "hey.. its the studio. It doesn't allow enough time to do good art." Or "we lack an art director to guide us." But now looking back i realize that its up to me, and i am trying to change that. Be more consistent with high polished work, get a better job and create art that has thought and purpose instead of just art for the budget title. This is a work in progress, and i think this will be the case for the rest of my career. I just want to keep striving to do better and better for my own satisfaction. But also, when you get kids telling you this looks awesome, and they have fun. Or inspiring a kid to pursue a career in games. Its great.

    Time management is huge here. When at work, you really do have to be at work. Make art, discuss art, pipeline and process. Keep up with the fast changing environment that is game development or it will leave you behind. That is one big thing that i am looking back at now. Working where i am leaves little room to end up with a good portfolio. But that is my own fault and i have to work hard to keep up and maintain a level of quality if i want to make sure that i can get the next job no problem. Like it has been said before. The portfolio can be your greatest asset or your downfall. So looking back at work you have done, and really taking that lump of sawdust and consider what your portfolio is worth. Being in a studio can make artists complacent and that attitude can rub off on you. Thinking that because you are in you have it made, and that just working you'll get off easy when you get to move to the next stage of your life. You have to work hard for it, and always strive to do better. It might sound cliche or corny, but its something i see a lot of.

    What problems did you face as a team?

    Complacency is a huge thing here. Not everyone will give it their 100% or care as much as sometimes you do. I have looked into motivation, and how to be a good example. Encouragement and mentoring, but its not up to you, and i am still looking to options on how to handle this. I would love to hear more about this.

    For example. With an aggressive schedule and very picky brands and delays it is very important that as a lead i can count with every single person in the team to carry their own weight and work hard. Each one of us will have a big impact on the game, and as a result we all need to take responsibility. But not everyone does. I have worked on some projects that it was high energy for most of the project, and it came together and it was fun. But i think the reality of the situation is that game development is not always a walk in the park, and that when you feel down you have to make an extra effort to keep showing you care and maybe people will pick up and feed from your example.

    Being a lead has not been easy. But i would like to think that i have made it better for the people working with me. Learning to be not only a better artist but a good leader doesn't just come to you. Along with managing people and how to handle a project. I think a lot of people will come to a smaller studio and will be put on the spotlight by asking them to be a lead. No previous experience, and just a wiki page with a description of what you are supposed to do. So i try to think about it, list things i would like to accomplish and set myself goals. I feel like things have changed little by little, and there is a lot of room for my as a lead to improve.

    Working with brands and tough licencors can be a pain. Delays, not enough input until the end of the project, curve balls of work. Little transparency in communication and sometimes just overloads of work that are not consulted with people before hand.

    I have encountered situations where people think its ok to double book an artist because "they can take it". No consulting, no thinking that this artist has been double booked already for 2 months straight. I believe we are not working with pawns here. People need to be involved. People need to know and give their opinion and ultimately, understand situations and come to terms with the solutions given if there are non other. I rather be transparent and say.. "hey.. its about to get tough, they are requesting this changes, we tried to persuade them to compromise but that didn't work. So here is the bottom line, this is the work that is expected, what do you think?" I don't think i ever leave a schedule or task without asking for the people working them for their opinion. I guess i like to think that since they are doing the work they should have a say in it, and usually things can get adjusted. But its important to have the trust of your team, and know that as a lead you do impact their work and direction. It has not been easy.

    Did you conquer them or put them aside for long enough to ship the game and deal with them later?

    Some i have put aside. Some i still pursue. Some issues there is little we can do but keep moving forward to ship the game.

    What is the true cost of the individual to reach the finish line. If it was too great, why? If the cost was well worth it, why?

    Dedication and commitment. There is no place for second guessing or being complacent. I think successful artists are the ones that are committed to their work, and motivate you by just looking at the work they create. Successful teams feed from each other and you get a rush when you see things come together in a game. Its a great feeling.

    Keeping up with tech, and pushing for new pipeline and features. If this is not backed up by the company or people in general. Then pair up with someone that shares your interests and do it on your own. A lot of the cool tech pipeline that has been implemented in our games come from ideas and work done outside of the project and time here and there to get them working. I have learned that sometimes i can't expect things to get just done. If you need it, then pursue it. Just don't write a request and pass it along and wait. Plus.. you get to learn all kinds of new things that is exciting. At least to me. Learning is the best part.

    Game development is not easy, and it can be overwhelming at times. Lots of politics at times. But you have to adapt. I've had instances when production will come to me and ask things that are pretty crazy. Big changes in no time. When i ask when where they aware of this they said they have been talking about it for a few weeks. So why have i not heard anything from this before? So now i am used to always asking lots of questions and getting involved.

    Things to keep in mind. Travelling is a big part haha I am from Mexico City, moved to San Diego and worked there, then LA, then moved to Wisconsin, and now i live in the East Coast in upstate New York, and i am currently looking for a new job and i know i will have to move. I do appreciate every single place i have been at. I have learned from the different cultures and people and it has been an eye opener and has help me grow in many ways.

    Has this been great? Sure. Even tho i have been going through a rough patch lately. I still love my job. I still believe in the game industry, and even tho i know there will be tons of changes in the future, and there will be a lot of learning and adapting i think its nice to be in a workplace where you can feed of each others work and just do art.


    It is really nice to be able to share experiences like this. I tend to talk to kids that come shadow, or at talks that i have given. But having access to information like this in a forum, and specially from so many great artists is great.
  • dzibarik
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    dzibarik polycounter lvl 6
    hermit wrote: »
    I was having a blast at Eidos, everyone was super happy with my work, they wanted to use my work as a template for the next maps and out of nowhere I got fired and the reasons they gave me were a load of bullshit. It took me a few weeks to fully understand what actually happened. Couldn't find a job after that. Bottom line, trying to do the right thing got me out of job and before that I didn't think it could actually happen.

    Did they fire you because your design philosophy was on the opposite end of what they thought a player could chew through? I mean if you tried to do levels in old-school Thief style... But it sounds strange anyway. Are you sure they were happy with your work? I've heard that it's sometimes hard to get honest feedback in western companies because of the specific culture.

    I'm glad that you don't care much about this. Something ends, something begins. And yes, usually the best thing about modern AAA games is art.
  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    dzibarik wrote: »
    Did they fire you because your design philosophy was on the opposite end of what they thought a player could chew through? I mean if you tried to do levels in old-school Thief style... But it sounds strange anyway. Are you sure they were happy with your work? I've heard that it's sometimes hard to get honest feedback in western companies because of the specific culture.

    I'm glad that you don't care much about this. Something ends, something begins. And yes, usually the best thing about modern AAA games is art.
    No. As I said, it's more like the lawyer of Gameloft MTL contacted Eidos MTL and managed to get me fired in disguise. Bottom line, don't write emails in this business :) . And if they thought it was going to end my career, it did quite the complete opposite.
  • ErichWK
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    ErichWK polycounter lvl 10
    It's a lot of information to go through but this is a good thread. The only thing that ever really bothered me when working in a game studio, is feeling like just another Cog in the art wheel. Luckily I am in a smaller indie studio where I have a lot more on my plate, but feel important to the process. It's stressful at times...but it's nice to feel important.. My only really truly lame experience was when my previous employer wanted me to keep working contract, but didn't want to pay for my health insurance, so they said if I wanted to keep working I would have to quit for a month so they can rehire me. Seriously, this company is richer than God, they could afford it.
  • dzibarik
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    dzibarik polycounter lvl 6
    hermit wrote: »
    No. As I said, it's more like the lawyer of Gameloft MTL contacted Eidos MTL and managed to get me fired in disguise. Bottom line, don't write emails in this business :) . And if they thought it was going to end my career, it did quite the complete opposite.

    scumbags. But yeah, it's better to be discreet. Applies to everything.
  • ExcessiveZero
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    ExcessiveZero polycounter lvl 6
    hermit wrote: »
    No. As I said, it's more like the lawyer of Gameloft MTL contacted Eidos MTL and managed to get me fired in disguise. Bottom line, don't write emails in this business :) . And if they thought it was going to end my career, it did quite the complete opposite.

    I am not sure about legal basis but that sounds pretty fucking illegal to me, and if it isn't, it should be.
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 9
    It sounds very similar to what was revealed lately with the animation studios in the early to mid 2000's with wage fixing and secret no poaching agreements. In America, it's pretty illegal (until a supreme court case pops up in a year about this issue...)

    Anyway, this is quite the thread and I'm glad I could contribute my story. Looking forward to hearing more from people!
  • d1ver
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    d1ver polycounter lvl 11
    I thought I'd repost from facebook too.

    Me and an ilm veteran buddy of mine were joking around not that long ago that we should do a "corporate politics" tutorial dvd 'cause it's the one thing nobody ever tells you.
    And until you get some of that experience you really have no clue how nonsensical things can get in what is supposed to be a professional environment. From racism or favoritism to people just really not caring... the list goes on and on.
    And the one thing I want to point it out is that none of these things are really unique to video games industry. It's just the way people can be unfortunately. Whatever the industry.

    One of the biggest things that I don't think were mentioned before was misunderstanding of the concept of wrong work/bad work.
    A lot of people really try to do what they think is best for the project only that "best" is rarely defined properly if at all. Too many leads/managers/producers still think that the people below them have to obey their every command - because that is what subordination is.
    This could've worked if every single manager/lead/producer/director was better at the actual production then every single artist/programmer/designer, but that's not the case in the modern world anymore. When you have a team of great professionals who know what they are doing they don't really care about management or the company - they care about what they are making - their "baby", the game. And the smart thing for management to do there is to set the core pillars for the product that everyone on the team aspires towards and sticking to them. Allowing the teams to exercise their own expertise within the given constraints. Their expertise is what you hire them for in the first place.
    Otherwise it boils down to arbitrary decisions being made by the people in power that end up pulling things in different directions. The common good is not defined and the best intentions end up backfiring bad.
    A great read on the subject is this:
    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9137708/Opinion_The_unspoken_truth_about_managing_geeks

    Now to be perfectly fair, I also do believe the people themselves can't be "fully happy" for a long time. We always find stuff to complain about. I probably talked to everyone - from small teams in coppenhagen making flash games to most AAA studio's artists and everyone always has things they are unhappy about. So some of that might be intrinsic to people and kind of inevitable unfortunately.
  • MagicSugar
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    MagicSugar polycounter lvl 10
    Hazardous wrote: »
    Thoughts?

    We will ALL turn out to be fat Axl Rose.


    Before Axl got fat http://ilarge.listal.com/image/2398846/968full-w.-axl-rose.jpg

    axl.jpg
  • Tidal Blast
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    Tidal Blast polycounter lvl 5
    d1ver wrote: »
    I thought I'd repost from facebook too.

    Me and an ilm veteran buddy of mine were joking around not that long ago that we should do a "corporate politics" tutorial dvd 'cause it's the one thing nobody ever tells you.
    And until you get some of that experience you really have no clue how nonsensical things can get in what is supposed to be a professional environment. From racism or favoritism to people just really not caring... the list goes on and on.
    And the one thing I want to point it out is that none of these things are really unique to video games industry. It's just the way people can be unfortunately. Whatever the industry.

    One of the biggest things that I don't think were mentioned before was misunderstanding of the concept of wrong work/bad work.
    A lot of people really try to do what they think is best for the project only that "best" is rarely defined properly if at all. Too many leads/managers/producers still think that the people below them have to obey their every command - because that is what subordination is.
    This could've worked if every single manager/lead/producer/director was better at the actual production then every single artist/programmer/designer, but that's not the case in the modern world anymore. When you have a team of great professionals who know what they are doing they don't really care about management or the company - they care about what they are making - their "baby", the game. And the smart thing for management to do there is to set the core pillars for the product that everyone on the team aspires towards and sticking to them. Allowing the teams to exercise their own expertise within the given constraints. Their expertise is what you hire them for in the first place.
    Otherwise it boils down to arbitrary decisions being made by the people in power that end up pulling things in different directions. The common good is not defined and the best intentions end up backfiring bad.
    A great read on the subject is this:
    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9137708/Opinion_The_unspoken_truth_about_managing_geeks

    Now to be perfectly fair, I also do believe the people themselves can't be "fully happy" for a long time. We always find stuff to complain about. I probably talked to everyone - from small teams in coppenhagen making flash games to most AAA studio's artists and everyone always has things they are unhappy about. So some of that might be intrinsic to people and kind of inevitable unfortunately.

    Pretty good points. Sometimes, it's just a matter of perspective.

    If you are very qualified and others really aren't, if others ask you to change X things and in return you gave them a clear list of all the pros and the cons, some people might flag you as being too hard to work with or will say that you care too much about your ideas when in reality, you are just doing your job and are warning them about all the consequences of such potential change just to make sure the whole team is on the same page. That's exactly what happened to me after 3 years, so for a project I decided to just shut my mouth, listen to my lead and say yes! to all of his requests. I made a first pass on a map, my lead hated it and wanted me to do it differently, which I did. The second pass was garbage, but that's how he wanted it. And then over the next weeks, all what he asked just made the map a little bit more like the first pass. In the end, my lead designer, producer and design director met me in a room to tell me how shitty my work was, 3 months wasted. Another dude took over the map and made it very much like my first pass.

    That highlights a couple of things about the industry.

    1. Things can backfire at any moment, stay true to yourself

    2. And if things can backfire at any moment, it might be a good idea to stick at doings things you really love.

    3. In the video games industry, there are a lot of unqualified people (due to poor hiring practices) and in most studios it feels a lot like high school. There are a lot of gangs or circles of friends and usually the ones at the top are pretty much a closed circle. However, that also highlights the fact that to make games is hard or take a lot of time to produce and it's important to find colleagues that are very pleasant to work with. So that's pretty much a double-edge sword.

    4. And the fact that most game studios right now are making mainstream/dumbed down games and have been doing that for the last decade is also creating the dumbest generation of game/ level designers we ever had. It's completely retarded. Those guys have no idea what a good FPS, RPG, fighting or racing game actually is. They don't understand combat and all they know is both WoW and Call of Duty. We are lucky that so many veterans are currently leaving big studios to make indie games, because those guys are literally saving our butt right now, otherwise, I'd clearly expect another giant crash. And to my great surprise, some big studios are starting to realize this. I think Sony recently gave a speech about how game developers should stop making mainstream games and should instead focus on what they do best and love most. Hopefully, we'll get back on track in the next couple of years.

    - -

    But yeah, I think we really need to work on our hiring practices. They suck a lot...
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 14
    Maybe I'm just really lucky but I've yet to see the level bad office politics that exist in a "normal job" corporate office. I'm not a picky person and I seem to just get along with almost everybody so perhaps that's helped out :P

    I'm not going to make a long post, so far it's been pretty good. It's going on 7 years now, I'm on my 4th studio but was only laid off from my first gig.
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm interpolator
    I've been working in games/film since around 2004 when I started freelancing for some smaller companies. Landing my first studio job in 2005. I'm now lead technical artist at Virtuos in Shanghai China, where I lead a team of TAs. We're an art outsourcer for studios like Naughty Dog, EA, Ubi and others.

    -What problems did you face as individuals, how were they overcome?


    Discovering my own strengths was my biggest problem. I always wanted to be a character artist, and while I even worked as that, character art was never my true strength. And all the time you hear advice like "follow your dreams" (and other cheesy cliches). In the end I went back to the roots, back to programming and I'm just as happy doing tech-art (if not happier). Finding your true calling can be a challenge, especially when there's so much distraction around (like idolized super star artists, herd-instinct, etc).

    I keep seeing people, especially new/young ones, who have a dream they pursue, but where you end up thinking "you are so much better at <insert something else>, because I've seen you doing it!". I think happiness and job satisfaction has a lot to do with success. i.e. will you be happy because you are what you wanted to be, or will you be happy because you're good at what you're doing, even if you originally wanted to be something else?

    Breaking into the industry was a major problem. I don't think there's one general rule to make it in, as I've seen incredibly talented people getting passed up. Persistence and a dose of luck and initiative - I paid my own travel expenses to the interview that got me my first studio job! - helped me. Sometimes you just have to break with good advice and take your chances.

    Company politics and gossip - my advice to anyone: stay out. Nobody ever comes out more motivated, more inspired, more happy or with better personal integrity when taking part in these. Especially as someone who just joined a company you lack the insight. You also have so many other things to learn and spend energy on, so taking part in gossip or politics - fighting other people's battles (or vendettas) - should not be on your list! This doesn't however mean you should hide in your turtle shell - keep an open mind, and understand the bigger picture that you yourself, your team, your department, is part of.

    "Games as just another job" - you often hear complaints about people who treat game development as just another job. That they lack passion, and the "true drive" that "us enthusiasts" have. Yet I think those people play an extremely important role in our industry. They show we're maturing. They remind you that there is life outside work - cherishing family and the company of friends. That, even when you are an enthusiast, free time allows you to pursue your own things (even if it's own games, own scripts, own art!). The older you get, the more you will understand them, and the less you will understand young people who seem to embrace crunch and crazy work practices which plague the industry.
    And this is my 2nd advice for newcomers: Don't support studios with these practices! If you have too much energy, go home on time, work on your art (and share it on Polycount!). Or join a competition, or make a game mod, etc.

    Getting hung up on a particular style or type of work: what helped me a lot was that at some point I realized to love the craft of what I'm doing. Some people only want to work on fantasy games. But if you sculpt cloth on an orc or a fashion model, does it matter? Aren't both tasks worth of the same attention, and can't both provide the same artistic/technical challenge? Once I realized that there's no difference, I had a much easier time thinking about my career, as more options opened up. While I would cherish working on games like "The Witcher", I would also be okay to work on a farming simulator, as long as they offer me comparable challenges, and allow for the same professional growth.

    Surround yourself with people "who eat, breathe art" - skip this advice. Surround yourself with diverse people from which you can learn new things. Coders, producers, sound people, game designers and other artists. Don't live in the "art bubble". Game dev is teamwork - understand what all the other people around you are doing!

    As game artist you will spend a lot time at work! i.e. at your desk doing work. I would wish more newbies would worry about ergonomics, proper tools, proper process and proper management that directly relates to how happy or miserable they will be for 8 hours every day.
    Rather than having a gym, a basketball court, a mini opera house or whatever on their "campus" for which they have no time anyway, because their management is so inept, they have to do overtime all the time.
    Also watch our how your future employer spends their money. I assume you'd be more happy if they use the money to hire competent co-workers rather than blowing it on Cintiqs for everyone (receptionist & HR included).



    -If they weren't, why not?

    Another issue is that many new artists think this is an "art" job. It is not. We're making a software product. Art has to conform to technical requirements set by code, or the engine. Just as a product designer is limited by engineering issues of the product they're designing. During my career I met many people who didn't know about technical constraints (that's okay - you can learn), but I also met many who didn't even want to learn ("I'm an artist, I can't deal with these technical "conventions"").
    Art quality makes up 50% of a good asset, technical quality makes up the other 50%. If your asset doesn't work, cannot be animated, crashes the engine, shows sloppiness due to technical problem, has problems delaying the rest of the production, then you're not doing your job! As a new artist, understand why details and technical issues are just as important as the looks!

    We pay you to be "creative" is another misconception. Most entry roles are artisan roles. You get the concept, you translate it into 3D. If you're good at that, we'll give you more freedom later. Quite a few newcomers seem to be disgruntled with this, but that's the way things work. It's the trenches everyone has (should) go through.

    -What problems did you face as a team?

    I think mis-management and mis-communication are some of the biggest problems in the industry. Although I admit that juggling the major parts like code, art and game design in a 100+ people project can be extremely difficult!

    "Motivation", sugar-coating, avoiding the truth is another annoying management practice I encountered. When management things the grunts are "too dumb" to understand there's a problem, so let's just not tell the grunts. Or that talking about risks honestly and openly endangers "morale". That can only work for a short while. The bad effect gets worse when management keeps not communicating problems despite everyone on the floor knowing what's going on.
    Personally I prefer knowing about the dangers ahead, so I can plan and prepare accordingly. I'm not much of a fan of "think positive" management where no problems exist whatsoever (and where everyone is so surprised when things go wrong!)

    Delegation is another problem. Some people who get promoted from the ranks may be kickass artists, but they never learned to delegate work. The guys who want to do everything themselves, make every decision themselves, and worst: grab all the cool assets to work on for themselves. As a lead you eventually have to learn to let go - you're here to support your team, not to be their "star". You're their coach first and foremost.

    If you're suddenly a lead: read up on software production methodologies. Not just Scrum. Read up on project management. Read up on managing risks, communication, etc. Get to understand what your producer is working with and worrying about. And yes, this may make for some dull, but important, reading ;)
    Let's face it: as leader you're part of management - you are managing a team! It's now your responsibility too, to introduce better management practices to this industry!

    -Did you conquer them or put them aside for long enough to ship the game and deal with them later?

    Depends. You have to understand where you are in the hierarchy, which leverage you have and if the battle is worth fighting. Ideally, if you're not a manager, you should have a mentor or someone higher up whom you trust, who will listen to you, and to whom you can pitch ideas and openly address issues.

    Loyalty is important - if you're a job hopper or threaten to leave when the first dark clouds appear - then you'll never advance. Why invest in a person who's not willing to stay?
    On the other hand, weigh your options. If you've given a place a 2nd, 3rd or 4th chance, if you stayed through he bad times but the company is not learning from its mistakes, then you should be prepared to look for a better studio. For me that's important: can a company critically evaluate itself and learn from its own mistakes?

    About issues: Unless it's someone's personal vendetta, or egos at work, bring up problems early. Nobody benefits from delaying issues. They may be harder to fix later, key people may have left, and discontent is just increasing as problems don't get addressed.

    I think shipping is way overrated (ok, I'm in outsourcing ;)). If you really hate a job and just stay for "shipping": don't. I know many people who didn't stay a full production cycle and it didn't hurt their careers.

    -I guess ultimately what I'm asking is, what is the true cost of the individual to reach the finish line. If it was too great, why? If the cost was well worth it, why?

    To sum it up: stay true to yourself. Just because other people do it, just because it's "policy", etc. doesn't mean it's the right thing to do!

    Don't get too attached to an employer or game. This sounds harsh, but you have to understand that you work in commercial venture, and that in many cases, it is not you who is in control of the game. Attachment to a certain degree is good, because it makes you care about work and the product. But if you get sleepless nights, your stress levels go up, then attachment becomes unhealthy, and no product or company is worth endangering your health (your friends, family, etc. will surely agree!). It's good to regularly do a reality check about your own involvement, your boss's expectations and the status of the projects you work on. Otherwise you just risk burning out.

    Overall, the cost was worth it. I would do some minor things different, but overall it all worked out well. One aspect I immensely enjoy is that game development allowed me to live and work all across the world, and which allowed me to really expand my horizon. That's something only very few jobs can offer you :)
    I managed to stay out of politics, gossip and other unhealthy activities, and also keep crunch to a healthy minimum, to get going for at least another 10 years in the industry - I'm still loving it :)
  • Eric Williams
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    Eric Williams polycounter lvl 12
    Thanks for posting all this info. Only glanced through a bit, not a professional myself. Maybe someday unless I get scared after I finish this :P
  • Gav
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    Gav ngon master
    Incoming wall of text. already posted on FB, which is why it's a little more personal...but,...here you go, pretty much my entire history for those interested. In general, it's been positive. Even if I sound negative, I learned from it, and am still on positive terms with everyone i've worked with

    "
    I don't want to hog your post with a second wall of text, but, it's late, I've been thinking more about this, and wanted to give a better response to my history in the industry. Especially after seeing everyone's responses, but also because it's been a long day at work and I feel like rambling.

    I think my entire career, so far, can be broken into a few key decisions that changed my life and I think help explain how I evolved as an artist, the shit I went through, what I've given up for the job, and more importantly - what I get out of the job.

    First, my background: To be blunt, I come from complete garbage. I was poor, came from a town in the middle of nowhere, and never really had encouragement to do art for a living. No real art classes, and definitely no one in my immediate surroundings that even knew how video games worked. As a kid, I dreamed of games. I would draw fan art of Doom and X-Com, would mod games (as best I could) on my 486, and sketched out "designs" for made up games. I eventually got a demo for Max when I was a teenager, but had no clue what was going on. I'm not even sure how I got it, I didn't have the internet until I went to college, but I would basically open it up an struggled with modifying a sphere. When the time came to pick out a career, I excelled in a lot of things in school - somehow - like History, Political Science, Law, but knew my true path was something creative. I got pointed to NSCAD (fine art school) where I had to make a fine art portfolio and apply. I got denied, of course, since I fucking SUCKED and had no idea what to even do. I was young though, and after years of being told I was bad ass - was kind of shocked to not get in. Scrambling, I applied to a digital art school which, being naive, blew my fucking mind. I applied and, since I had money, got accepted. I moved away to college, super excited, and lived in a hostel while going to school. I spent day and night in this place trying to absorb everything. I did well, but after a year had no idea what I was doing (eventually befriended and lived with a guy who I would later work with on Bioshock...thats probably the best thing I got out of it.) The school was all over the place, and, come second year wanted me to pay 15k to produce a reel that showed 2d animation, modeling, texturing, animation, rendering, the whole deal. Basically, their entire curriculum wrapped into a 5 minute video. I knew this was bullshit. There wasn't really any great examples of character artists out there yet other than dudes like Stahlberg, or Bay Raitt, and they were at a god like status. Kolby Jukes had yet to create the mold for what all well trained digital artists could be from VFS ;) But, anyway, I had lots of meetings with my teachers and faculty about what I wanted to do and how to produce a result I thought I needed to show in order to be employed. I had been talking to companies and, at the time, trolling CGTalk and XSIBase to gain an outside perspective...but, at the end of the day, I needed to show these things in my reel in order to pass the course. So, being the stubborn ass that I am, dropped out of school and decided to transfer to AI Vancouver to attend their Game Design course. I packed everything I had into a few bags, hoped onto a train and moved out West (6000km away.) Once I got into the school, it only took about a week to realize that this was a class full of kids who just liked video games and that the courses were set more on "having ideas" than actually building them...so..again, I dropped out for good and worked on my portfolio while doing odd jobs like cooking, and selling computers. Fun stuff.

    Despite the school failure, moving to Vancouver was the first big chance I took that paid off and the first "good" decision I made for my career. About a few months after that I started doing contract work for some online games and doing any odd job that would pay me for game art. Lots of browser based games, working on mods for UT, while working on my own stuff. Eventually, though, I took a full time job as a certification tester at Nokia. I was the guy that helped pass or fail all of those lovely Nokia NGage games. It paid well, and kind of showed me what game development was like on the other side, even if very simple. After a few months of that, a designer that I freelanced for in the past put me in touch with a local studio that then hired me to be their second artist.

    This first "real" job had me making pixel art for mobile games and online games through EA Pogo. Almost immediately after joining the company, the first artist was fired and I became the only one for the entire company. About a team of 40 working on multiple projects at once. It had me working 16 hours a day, every day. My day was broken up into processing and creating art for anything from the NFL to Scrabble tiles. Creating prerendered scenes, to creating UI for a 200 x 200 screen. I hated it. I appreciated the opportunity, but I hated it. The art was objectively bad, and the hours prevented me from doing anything but working and sleeping. Then, on my free time, I was basically too tired and angry to do anything but drink and bitch about work with my coworkers. All of us worked a lot, even to the point where guys would be asked "Where are you going" by the bosses assistant at 8pm on a Friday. I told my boss, a psychiatrist who was acting as Art Director, that I wanted out and we worked out an alternative that would give me more work that I was interested in. This deal faded pretty quick as, about a month later, I was being told how to paint 8x8 Mary Janes for a Bejewelled clone at 10pm. I quit, for real, and spent a few months developing my portfolio geared towards my true passion - character art. Though, even after being told by my boss to go back to school because I would "never make it," I left with a handshake. About this time, it was becoming more clear what the role of a character artist was. I was desperately trying to mimic guys like dur, Bobo, and other big names from Polycount at the time.

    I took a few months to take on any contract work to help by ramen and, admittedly, had support from my (now) ex-wife to build my portfolio which lead into my second job, but this time as a character artist. The company was split into 2 sides, 1 side was the pet project which was a first person shooter in the Source engine, and the other side was creating budget titles to help keep the company profitable. I was on the pet project side and created a bunch of enemies, civilians, and weapons while being pulled onto the budget side to help close out projects when needed. That lead me to be involved with interesting titles such as NRA Gun Club, and Marine Sharpshooter 3. I made a lot of friends here and grew like a motherfucker as far as skills were concerned. Basically, when I started I barely knew what ZBrush was. At the time, most people were just turbosmoothing and using ZB to add surface details. I have no idea how my art test passed, I think I got hired because I had a mohawk. I progressed into what I made for DW2, probably my first decently recognized character (even though I got disqualified because it wasn't futuristic enough...whatever...) After about 2 years, the project just kind of fizzled out. No one really said it was cancelled, we jut stopped working on it bit by bit. After attempts to get it funded, it just never made it. To help keep people employed, we started taking on porting projects, and did pitches for other games. I was heart broken. It's not like I loved the project to death, but I couldn't let myself go back to making mobile games. So, after some great conversations with my bosses, I decided to leave and become a fulltime freelancer. This is the second "Good" decision I made.

    I had a few freelance gigs lined up before I left and basically dove head first into that work. Not much to say there other than: I worked from home for a year and developed a bad habit of not talking to anyone for 16 hours straight and started relating everything to money. It was unhealthy and, if I had to do it again, would manage myself better. I was just hungry and didn't want to say no to anything. This time lead me to working with companies like Bioware, Harmonix, Monolith, the US military, Garage Games, and forged a bunch of new friendships that I still have today (namely, mr. kite.) It helped me build up my portfolio, helped me learn how to deal with a lot of different clients, time management, budgets, working yourself as a brand, and exposure to different titles. But, it was killing me. I was basically at a point where I either needed to incorporate myself and get help, thin out my work load, or go back to a studio. Feeling that one thing I was lacking was actually working with a team and, frankly, being tired of just being alone all day - I accepted a job with Blue Castle Games / Capcom Vancouver.

    Capcom was huge for me. I made a ton of friends, and my lead was amazing. I actually started working on a sports title first (baseball) and, while I knew nothing about it and had virtually no interest in the game, I learned a lot about process, building a character system, the entire "finishing" phase of a project, and working with a bigger team. Eventually, we shipped the game, and my team merged with the character team on the other project. To be honest, the merge didn't go over well. It became a huge character team and the lead of the "opposing" team played favorites with his original members. I was fortunate enough to help head up the character customization system, and create a few major characters - but - the other lead (not my direct boss) actively tried to get me fired. Why, I have no idea. I have theories, but was basically told this through project managers. Obviously, this caused some animosity..but really...I knew it was just a personal thing, stuck with my actual boss, still responded to feedback in a positive way, and just kept my head out of anything remotely political. Though, as the project finished, I had some weird feelings. Warning: I might sound like an asshole now. I really wanted more. I wanted to work on a huge project and be given new challenges. Looking around Vancouver, at the time, it was a "7" city. Nothing major was being worked on, and a lot of the teams were recycled from EA. Radical had shut down, I think a few other places as well, and the opportunities for me to "grow" were becoming rare...especially on a 14 person character team about to start a new project. So, I started talking to my old roommate about moving to Boston and joining the Bioshock team. It was an amazing opportunity, and as much as I love Vancouver, I had to take it and move on to a better role for me.

    I won't bore you with the immigration business, since I've already talked a lot about it...but...to say it was nerve wrecking is an under statement. Regardless, I made it through and started working with Irrational on Bioshock Infinite. I really have nothing bad to say about IG. The entire team encouraged me to grow, and we all worked really well together. There were frustrating moments, like having multiple iterations of multiplayer cut. but in the end it made for a superior product...s there's really no room for argument. After a few years of working there, I was promoted to lead, which was a role I dreamed of having and really respected the title more than just wanting the increase in pay. I knew this wouldn't have me working on main characters, but it allowed me to focus more on being supportive and, in my mind, shaping the future for what the department could be. Making us work faster, more efficient, producing better results - though - that being said, I still was able to make huge number of characters while managing a team of up to 7 + outsourcers. I worked a lot. Self imposed. I worked a lot, like, a year + of what most people would consider "crunch." A big player who came onboard and, a huge non-artist influence of mine, was Rod Fergusson. I learned a TON about how, not only Epic finishes games, but Microsoft as well. A lot about team management, development philosophy, decision making, setting priorities...that I really think I will benefit from until I die on my Cintiq and am sent to character art Valhalla. We shipped Bioshock Infinite, some people played it, it was a kind of a big deal, you might have heard of it not sure. But, anyway, I was going through some rough times. *Apply vasoline to lens* I hated Boston, and still do, it's an awful city that just never clicked with me in the same way the West Coast did (lots of personal stories for those interested.) With no work to distract me, I started really thinking about what I wanted out of life. I fucking LOVED Irrational, but everything else in my life sucked. My marriage, a girl I was with for 14 years) was falling apart, I was depressed with the options around me, and really just wanting change - but had no idea how to get it without doing something drastic. IG gave me a ton of compensation time and a bonus for the work I put in, so I did some traveling and took time to work on personal things and side projects to try light some fires. I even went to Colombia to teach a character art workshop. None of it was working though, I felt like I had to get out, but also felt it could all get better. At the time, we were finishing DLC...and it was a much more relaxed schedule...but, to be honest, the direction the company was going in really just didn't work for me. I can't get into that and, honestly, don't want to out of respect for my team, but the bullet point is that nothing I heard really hit home with what I "wanted." I'll get to that in a bit. With my personal life going to shit, and work dying down as the project ended, I decided to leave...and it was fucking tough. These people were shoulder to shoulder with me for years, and had become great friends, but there was really no other way around it.

    With BSI under my belt, and as a lead on a 90+ game, I had a lot of options. Not to toot my own horn, but recruiters are like vultures and knew when to swoop on me. I was talking to Naughty Dog, Kojima, Capcom Vancouver (the other lead had since been fired and my former, awesome, lead was now running the show on DR3), and Insomniac Games. All of them were great options, full of great people, but Insomniac really spoke to me. The people, the game, the opportunity I would be given to do what I am now...it just felt right. Not sure how else to explain it, but I just knew it was right and knew that moving to LA was the best possible career move for me. Plus, it was a great personal move for me as well that - eventually - balanced me out more and made me less of a miserable fuck (new city, marriage ending badly, new adventures, and other personal stories...) I can't, and wouldn't want to, get much into what Insomniac is like other than it's awesome, I'm super happy, am busy, and feel in my black heart that I made the right call.

    That's my path so far. I've had some ups and downs, but for the most part everything has been positive. This is my dream job, even with the imperfections. I love this industry and, from what you can see, have given up a lot to actually do this for a living. I literally went from eating salsa for dinner while my mother gambled our money away, to becoming a successful artist working on games played by millions, a published author, public speaker, and have travelled internationally to produce art. Not trying to sound cocky, but just to give perspective that, yeah, I take this pretty seriously. This is what my entire life has been, at least the important years. Is it EXACTLY what I thought it would be? No. But I'm just as happy. I've taken a lot of risks, a lot of chances, and have changed my life at least a few times. I took myself from complete shit to what I dreamed of doing. Probably any real job could get me that, but very few things other than games would make me feel good and make me feel like I belong. Not to sound obsessive, but the industry has given me most of the things I have in life. It's built friendships, made me smarter, made me better at my craft, sent me around the world, funded trips, saved me from being a complete degenerate. Again, yeah, lots of just stable work would do that, but I can go to work literally live the dream I had when I was 8. Sure, that also means dealing with people, managing artists, working in Excel, sitting in meetings for hours, and documentation almost as long as this post - but in the end, I'm doing exactly what I said I would do, and that gives me a level of pride no other industry could. If I show up to work half committed, phone it in, or even participate in a political game - I'm shitting on my inner child's face.

    "
  • Fomori
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    Fomori polycounter lvl 8
    Thanks for sharing Gav. I was a bit daunted by that wall, but it was well worth the read. It's really interesting hearing about people's careers in the industry. It's definitely never smooth sailing.
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 15
    I'm posting this quickie reply as a means of cementing my spot in this thread, to which I will elaborate on later when I have the time (tonight I am hoping).

    Right now, I will say this: Working in this industry has been the single most thoughtful, rewarding, creative, challenging, frustrating, and infuriating times of my life.

    First job: 2004, texture artist for PS2 poker game "STACKED".
    Current job: Lead Artist, Ubisoft -- Assassin's Creed Unity
    Age: 31
    Education: College drop-out, Polycount University with honors.
  • Dudestein
    The single biggest surprise to me, as a Character Artist is that I went in to it under the impression that you get handed concept art for a character, and you're tasked with making that character in 3D. Sculpting, modeling, texturing, the whole ball of wax. That may be some people's experience, but it hasn't been mine at all so far. But I honestly feel that that's on me, not the industry. More on that later.

    At THQ, when we worked on UFC 4 (cancelled), we had over a hundred fighters to get through, so spending the time to make each one from scratch and make them really sing was out of the question. All the "interesting" work was outsourced to China for the previous UFC game. A lot of what I did was documentation and small, formulaic updates to the fighter models and textures. BUT...it was a foot in the door, and I am eternally appreciative of that opportunity. Had I not gotten that opportunity I would probably be removing dents in people's cars for a living back in Ohio, where I'm from.

    I'm at my second job in the industry now, at SCEA San Diego. It's an insourcing support studio for Sony's other studios, like Naughty Dog and Santa Monica. The lion's share of the work we do is more technical than artistic in nature. A lot of mocap, animation, head scans, scan cleanup, FACS blend shapes, clothing assets, etc. Basically the stuff other studios either aren't outfitted to do in-house, or don't have time to do in-house. I've learned and grown a lot at Sony.

    If I want to get creative and make characters, I do it at home in my free time. And I do, every day. I wake up earlier than necessary in the mornings so I can spend some time chipping away at personal work before I go to work. Even if it's only 20 minutes making headway on UVs, I do it. When I get home, I make a beeline to my office and make myself spend at least one hour working on personal work. That hour often turns into more once I push the distractions into the background and get in the zone. Tuning out those distractions gets easier and easier with each passing year. It's a lot of conscious fat trimming in one's lifestyle, and surrounding yourself with friends and significant others that understand and genuinely respect the dedication you need to put in.

    All that having been said, I remain very optimistic. I chalk a lot of my not-so-juicy professional experience so far up to three things. First, it's getting more and more rare for one person to make a character, balls to bones. It's more often a group effort, which can make it difficult to have a feeling of ownership over the work. And I think a lot of people understandably equate level of ownership with level of pride for the work. "Well I was only a cog in the process of making that character, so I feel no ownership over it, so I don't feel justified in putting in in my portfolio." Second is that I'm still relatively new to the industry. I've only been at this for three years. Third, my development has been curvy as hell. I went from studying character animation to graphic design to medical animation to character art. It's been a series of introspection and course corrections. I don't necessarily regret them, as I believe they round me out and allow me to bring some unique experiences and knowledge to the table.

    I'm a firm believer that you get back what you put in. You develop and curate the portfolio for yourself that represents the kind of work you want to do professionally. I don't necessarily interpret that to mean limiting your style or subject matter. More specifically it means creating high quality work that genuinely resonates with your "soul." The jobs you get will be predicated on that body of work in you portfolio, so aiming your work in any direction other than your own heart is just going to lead to a lot of sour moments in your life. I've had a long road to figuring out my own heart because I'm such a logical and pragmatic person, but I'm getting there. I'm also not a natural risk taker, but I'm slowly learning to be more comfortable with the idea of shaking things up. I have some really excellent examples to follow when I look at some of the other professionals in this field that are making awesome things happen.

    I've worked extremely hard to get my skills to the level they're at now in a relatively short period of time,and I'll continue doing so. There is still a little floundering in my personal work process that I need to conquer. I think a lot of my problem comes down to lack of confidence in myself. I put a lot of value and emphasis on humility in my own life and I expect it from others. I think I take it too far and it leads to a lack of confidence in my own decisions and abilities. It's a demon I fight every day.

    On the flip side of that coin, and something that bothers the shit out of me is the constant poopoo-ing of ego in this industry. I get that nobody wants to work with a prima donna with a chip on their shoulder the size of a Buick, but all human beings have an ego. It's part of a complete psyche, and we like those egos being stroked from time to time. There's nothing wrong with admitting that.

    I'm a very driven, career-oriented person. The biggest disappointment I've run in to so far is that I've never had the impression that anyone above me has taken much of an interest in my career and my development. That's something that's weighing heavily on me lately.

    Looking forward, I'm trying really fucking hard to up my game right now. My goal isn't to be a character artist anymore. I've reached that goal, so I need to move the bar or risk stagnating. My goal now is to reach a senior character artist skill level. In my short experience, those are the guys that get handed the juicy work. They have the skill level and track record that gives management and clients the confidence in them to get those hero assets done in a way that will make everyone involved happy. Ultimately I've come to the (albeit, in retrospect, somewhat obvious) conclusion that no one is going to hand me the jobs and projects I want. I have to prove that I'm worthy of them. That's something I'm being very proactive with right now.

    As a closing note, I really wish I had a more tight-knit friendship and two-way mentorship with other character artists at or above my skill level. Aside from the occasional interaction here on Polycount, Facebook, and the Polycount G+ Hangouts, I don't really get the opportunity to talk shop with other artists in a way that goes beyond the surface level. I would benefit greatly from having an inner circle of industry friends with whom I wouldn't hesitate to talk to openly about career stuff, or to approach for focused feedback on personal projects. I honestly feel I could contribute value back to that group as well. That's something I've felt like I've needed for a long time now, and I don't know how to go about getting it.
  • slosh
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    slosh ngon master
    Great posts from some great artists. I would post but my story is NO WHERE near as interesting...heh! I've had my share of issues in the industry...going on 10 years now, only worked for 2 studios, laid off once, but loving every minute of it so far. Working at Sony Online in San Diego and making fun characters while growing with my wife and kids. I can't complain one bit but I'm always excited for things to come and hope I can keep doing this forever!

    Perhaps I will elaborate later...
  • poopinmymouth
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    poopinmymouth polycounter lvl 14
    Not sure if I will post more later, but the single best advice I would have for new people not used to office politics:

    If you have a problem, be it design, pipeline, hierarchy, a coworker, whatever, figure out who the correct person to talk to about it is, mention it once in a very professional way as a concern, and afterward, watch to see if it's addressed. If it is not, no amount of repeats will ever fix it, so you have to either learn to live with it and not let it bother you, or if it's a deal breaker, move on (as in, move to another company). Railing against something you have no power to change is the number one way to become labeled as a trouble maker or "not a team player", fair or not.

    I had a blast in this industry, but I'm nearing the end, I can feel it. As a single young guy it was my ticket to a reasonable salary, a challenging work place, and travel. Now in my 30s with a family, it's too wearing. Mostly the job instability and needing to relocate, but also the themes that well funded games tread and re-tread, the long hours, and the more and more corporate the well funded companies seem to be getting.

    The single greatest thing was the non-stop learning. Researching different clothing styles for different games, learning new pipelines and tech, getting to know new teams and cities. This was such a growing period for me as a kid from a very insular conservative town without exposure to the outside world. I'd do the early part all over again if I had the chance.
  • Mark Dygert
    Great thread idea, I love it, thanks for starting it and thanks to everyone who added their story so far. You're all amazing people and I love reading your stories, I wish I had more time to sit and read, I'll have to catch up when I can.

    I'll try to add my answers when I get a chunk of time... It seems like I keep saying that more and more these days and it just flies by, ha.

    I don't think people should be shy about adding their stories, this is how we grow not just as artists but as human beings, its how we build better working environments and lessen the torturous parts of the job.

    I agree with Gav that commiseration, can be poisonous.

    I understand venting can be cathartic but it's only a temporary reprieve. Unless the problem is actually addressed, that pressure and stress will just build up again. But those sessions can be productive if someone tries to direct the energy toward solutions. Just complaining doesn't solve anything and poisons the company water cooler. But asking "yea but what do we do about it?" and asking people to come up with solutions helps make things better.

    It's hard to be the person who confronts that downward spiral, especially when the problems are pretty big but if someone wants to be a serial complainer I'm going to ask them to at least help look for answers and solutions.
  • xvampire
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    xvampire polycounter lvl 12
    hermit wrote: »
    All this made me also realize that the design department in the video games industry isn't just years behind all the others, but it's just inappropriate. Designers can't get better at their job by just working on cheap-ripoffs or dumbed down/mainstream games. That's why 3D modeling is so appealing to me right now, so much things to learn and master, I love it.

    sadly even how good and polished the model is if the game based on rip-off and so-inspired on something2, people still see it as rip off. the key is innovation in game-play and design.... most companies doesn't have guts to do this ....
  • North
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    North polycounter lvl 7
    220879-274650-makegamesjpg-620x.jpg

    I quit the Game Industry. I was tired of seeing my friends lose their jobs and tired of working endless hours for little to no gains. The plus side is now I have a pretty impressive resume for a 24 year old -- I worked at some prestigious studios ( Insomniac Games, Harmonix, Crystal Dynamics ) and now I contract as a Creative Director for a German company that is making a Unity game in SF. I make triple the money, work half the hours, and can focus on my music career which is really taking off right now. Quitting was the best decision I made in my life, maybe ill get back into after a couple years go by and things get a little more stable again.

    For a more detailed post, I wrote a blog on Destructoid right after I quit.
  • mclea1mm
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    mclea1mm polycounter lvl 6
    I've worked as a producer in the industry for about five years. I'm self-taught in 3D and am still learning a lot of the basics, and have not done the work professionally, so I apologize if this is less insightful for those of you pursuing art careers. In addition I work in the Bay Area, which means lots of social game companies, and fewer AAA's. So I'll try not to take up too much space here but I'm sure there are plenty of similarities between different types of game studios.

    I came out of a graduate school doing projects that - while they had tangible results - were more focused on research and development of novel interactive technology. I even got lucky with two internships at awesome companies that tackled a variety of projects. So when I got my first professional job in the industry it was a bit of a rude awakening. This was when games-as-service was hitting its stride, explosive growth with titles such as FarmVille, etc. Really unhealthy game-making philosophies totally disappointed me. It really was all about extracting money from users, and you were expected to panic and scramble when your game didn't pull in quite as much money as expected the previous day. And the culture really was to copy whatever you saw as being successful.

    Being young and idealistic, I hung in there for 6 months and then quit. I had no idea that a workplace environment could tear me down so quickly. So that's my first piece of advice - do plenty of research on potential places to work and try to really imagine yourself there. It's not enough to just do the work.

    As a producer, I'm always amazed how 'normal' crunch seems to be for studios. They treat it as a tool that they hope will fix their problems, when really it's a symptom of planning failures. I always argue against crunch because I want the team to be well-rested, healthy, and thinking clearly. Push back against this stuff if you can. There's really no reason for it, unless a deadline is immovable and the entire team agrees the game will be vastly better if you don't cut anything else. When the team is willing to pull together in that way, it's much more satisfying than a mandated crunch due to some managers deciding to 'pivot' or bite off more than could be chewed.

    One of the things I have observed is short-sightedness. When you're heads down on the current project, it's hard to look to the next one. But layoffs and sometimes closures occur when there's no work secured after the current project. If you're a lead or a senior I hope you can find opportunities to involve yourself in those discussions and make sure your team is going to have work.

    Process and task workflows can be chafing. I've learned to rely on my team members as experts in their fields, and trust them to complete tasks according to their unique knowledge, rather than me mandating how something should be done. And I've learned to listen and be open to changing processes, too. So now my production philosophy is that process should encourage transparency and reveal problems or blockages, it's a tool to gain insight on how the team is completing work, not a set of rules telling them how to do things.

    That all said, the single best thing about working in games, in my opinion, has been the people. I've had the chance to work with all kinds, and most are there because they want to be there, and most are very talented. I think the atmosphere of game-making is not something you'd find in other industries. There are pros and cons to that which others have described in this thread, but overall the love of games is pervasive.
  • ErichWK
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    ErichWK polycounter lvl 10
    North wrote: »
    220879-274650-makegamesjpg-620x.jpg

    I quit the Game Industry. I was tired of seeing my friends lose their jobs and tired of working endless hours for little to no gains. The plus side is now I have a pretty impressive resume for a 24 year old -- I worked at some prestigious studios ( Insomniac Games, Harmonix, Crystal Dynamics ) and now I contract as a Creative Director for a German company that is making a Unity game in SF. I make triple the money, work half the hours, and can focus on my music career which is really taking off right now. Quitting was the best decision I made in my life, maybe ill get back into after a couple years go by and things get a little more stable again.

    For a more detailed post, I wrote a blog on Destructoid right after I quit.

    Clark! You quit Crystal Dynamics?? Crazy! Weren't you commuting like 2 fucking hours a day or something crazy like that? Pursuing your dreams > Having a job. See you at MAGFest. Let's shred, bro
  • Arthaven
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    Arthaven polycounter lvl 8
    There's a lot of interesting information here but at the same time it sounds like a bunch of the same issues that are shared in other professions. I'm getting into games as my second career after an over 10+ career in printing/production and design. I'm curious how many artists here have come from a different profession and the observations they have between the two.

    To me it seems like past professional experience doesn't count with studios UNLESS it is within the current profession you are seeking. Reading all of this though just shows that working in the office is a slice of experience to itself no matter what field you are working in.

    If this is starting to slide the thread off topic then please disregard. Just looking for some more specific info from other peoples perspectives.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 14
    I worked an office job doing IT, when I cam to the game industry it was pretty much like taking all the shitty things from my office experience and turning it down. Not as many bosses to answer to, less cliques, nobody chewing me out for being a minute late, easier to get time off, and no rigid dress code among other things.
  • slosh
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    slosh ngon master
    Seeing the amazing stories, I'm gonna post my boring one.

    I didn't start in games at all...not even close. I went to UCSD first and have a BS in Biochemistry...and I don't mean BullShit:), parents both biochemists, and probably pretty damn good ones as they've been doing it their whole career and created quite a mass of wealth I presume in the process. I sorta figured outta highschool I was just going to follow in their footsteps. I always dabbled in fine art but that just never seemed to be a practical choice of career...my mother would always tell me, "how are you gonna put food on the table selling paintings?" As much as I knew I had a passion for art, I also knew that I could also make a living doing a more technical job in the sciences. I did pretty well in highschool so it wasn't something I dreaded either. Anyways, to summarize this portion of my life, I went to UCSD, graduated, worked at a pharmaceutical company for 2 years and decided it just wasn't working. Didn't hate it but just didn't love it as much as the guys around me. At this point, game art was starting to boom and I saw this as an opportunity to give it a shot. Jumped into AiSD and 3 years later I picked up my first gig at Sony Online working on Untold Legends for the PSP as a temp env artist. I was definitely a noob at this point. My time at Ai was spent learning 3d stuff but not gaming techniques. I learned a lot my first year at Sony Online about painting texures, UVing efficiently, and modeling to conserve poly count. Most of this was after Untold Legends on a kids MMO called Free Realms. My first real industry problem came during this project when about a years worth of env assets was thrown out to reboot the style. I was very disgruntled and voiced this loudly...ahh, what a mistake that was. I offended some people above me and probably would have gotten fired at other studios. Fortunately, I was able to work this stuff out with my coworkers but was basically at a frustrated stage of being unhappy about my work. A character artist buddy suggested I give characters a try and the art director actually thought it might be a better direction for me. I decided “why the hell not?” and to this day, biggest decision of my career for the better. I went on to ship Free Realms and a Clone Wars Online game as well as a character artist. It was a blast creating a bunch of fun outfits, NPCs, and weapons with hand painted textures but I was starting to get burnt. I was seeing all sorts of great art in the games we would play and found myself wanting to learn zbrush, normal mapping, and next gen tech. Only problem was, Sony Online was just not up to par in that aspect of art creation. There was no one around to learn from. I remember there was one project that started during FR that was looking really promising with next gen tech and it was canned to support FR. I understand why it happened but it didn't help since all the developers working on it left the company. Soo, with no one to pull knowledge from, I just bit the bullet and starting learning that stuff on my own. This was a challenge but it's pretty awesome how much people are willing to help online and just the vast amounts of tutorials you can come across. It is a pet peeve of mine when noob artists complain about not knowing how to learn this stuff when all of it is completely free and accessible. I found myself having a blast with zbrush and was honored to be asked to participate in one of their beta tests. Within this, I was humbled by some of the big guns participating and the sheer skills they possessed. It just pushed me to try harder to reach their level. I was able to create several characters that I deemed decent enough for me to try to move onto a new opportunity. Those guys who left Sony Online after their project was canned created a Trion studio in San Diego and actually liked the characters I had created in my free time. So I hopped over to work on Defiance, a shooter MMO working in conjunction with the Scifi network creating a TV series that paralleled the game. Trion was definitely an amazing experience. I learned so much and made some pretty amazing friends and even though the game absolutely bombed, I was very proud of what I was able to accomplish. That being said, this game was RIDDLED with issues. Part of it was the way the project was managed from day 1. Too many people with ideas of how to make the game better yet no one was willing to step up and make a decision to start establishing a direction. Another problem was that we were working with Scifi to create a game world that would parallel a live action one in a TV series, and the TV show didn't start filming til like a year after I started working at Trion. So the game started as a hybrid type game with some style but later became more realistic. In the end, the art was neither stylized no real...oh, and the game was not very fun either. I think it was also an issue that a lot of the designers working on the project had never done a shooter before. We would playtest and things would get a little better but it was too little too late. Unfortunately, when a game bombs, people get laid off. I was one of them and a couple months after, the SD Trion studio shut down. My first unemployment in 7 years. My initial thought after getting laid off was "I should be able to land a new gig no problem." What I found out was that most studios didn't even look twice at me...a theme I heard a few times was exactly what I dreaded,"your art just doesn't fit our game." The 9 months that followed were TOUGH...not necessarily financially, but because I was just not prepared for the difficulty of finding a new job from scratch. I probably applied to 50-60 gigs over that span while working on art tests and personal art to try and make some more industry level realistic art. It was an interesting time for me to say the least. I got lucky as a spot opened up at Sony Online and they gave me an opportunity to come back. I was glad to see that in the time I was gone, a lot had changed on the art side...zbrush had become standard. I'm now working on stylized art again but sculpting every item I work on which is a blast. A small part of me would have enjoyed working on a next gen AAA console game but that probably would have required a lot of sacrifice to my personal life so this may be the best fit for my current situation. I think the biggest thing I focus on to maintain my professionalism in the industry is to do the best I can with what I have. DON'T BURN BRIDGES. the industry is far too small to alienate your peers. I saw a lot of guys get good gigs and most of them were connections. When it comes to dealing with issues in house, keep it professional at work, bitch all you want outside of, but leave it at the door so to speak. I feel that when things start to stagnate and you become unhappy to the point where you rely on personal work to keep you happy, thats a good indicator its time to move on. I realize this is possibly too ideal a scenario since I now have kids and I need to make sure I am earning a paycheck but I try to stick to that mantra nonetheless.

    /rant over
  • PogoP
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    PogoP polycounter lvl 9
    Overall, I gotta say that I don't enjoy working in this industry as much as I used to. Lemme explain a bit!

    I've had 4 jobs since I left uni 3 and a half years ago, leaving each time of my own accord. I've constantly been searching for that dream project, and I've now come to realise that more than likely, you're never going to find that absolutely perfect job that you imagine in your mind.

    I've had some amazing jobs, but with each one there has always been a downside. In my first job, we weren't working on particularly exciting projects and I got fed up of doing nothing all day. In my second job, I got fed up of working from home by myself. In my third job, I get fed up of the hour long commute into work, and I was a bit annoyed at the direction of the project.. And I can't really talk much about my current job!

    Needless to say, I still haven't found that 'dream job', and I'm starting to realise, after working my ass off for the past 7/8 years in games (including mod projects and uni), and thinking that game development is the be all and end all in life, that I need to start making time for other things in life.

    This is a strange industry, full of super passionate people, but quite often that means that people will work for a pittance and do ridiculous overtime, just because 'its their passion'. Fair enough to a certain extent, that's great that people show such dedication, but you really have to balance things out. That's something I've been getting wrong for the past few years. Don't get me wrong, I still love working in this industry, but I've started doing more stuff outside of work, with friends and my girlfriend, because I don't want to let working in this industry be what keeps me going in life.

    Haha sorry that turned into a bit of a blog post!

    One thing I have noticed, is a definite shift in the type of artists that come into this industry (if anyone I work with is reading this, dont worry, it's probably not about you.. probably. And if it is about you, don't worry, its not a criticism :D), is that we get a lot more 'prop artists' coming into the industry these days, as opposed to 'environment artists'. The distinction there being artists that are good at making individual props look incredible, and artists that are good with planning things out properly and staying within budget, focusing more on re-usable, tiling materials etc. I don't know why that is.

    In my first job at Frontier, it was full of people that had been in the industry for a long time, and they were amazing at making modular stuff and creating re-usable tiling materials, but more recently there seems to be a shift towards making non-reusable but great looking props. Maybe it's the shift towards PBR and wanting to make stuff look pretty straight away.
  • Eric Williams
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    Eric Williams polycounter lvl 12
    I'm curious about looking for jobs, hiring aspects. Could you guys talk maybe talk about that a little, too?

    How hard was it to find another studio to work for after you left a job? How many applications did you put out?

    What was the most unusual interview, hiring process you went through? Best, worst?



    K, here's my story. I quit my job at UPS with some spare change, moved down to the Austin (actually, currently in Houston) area from Illinois. I am now working on my reel, portfolio full time.

    My experience in the game industry was with one of those start up companies. The guy that wanted to start it was really serious. We were going to do a mobile rpg game. Had a couple programmers, few artists, and a designer. Started prototyping and creating art to pitch to angel investors. About 1-2 months of spare time work. If I remember we were asking for a million dollars for a year or two of full time work. I'm not sure how the investor meetings went, but apparently they figured while designing they may only need artists, programmers on a small time increment, contract base. They could only pay me for a weeks work every month or something like that. I was kind of uninvited to the design meetings, as was everyone but the main two guys that came up with the idea, and never really heard from them again. I think it fell apart cause they couldn't get the money. I don't know if that even counts as industry experience, but it was definitely an experience, lol.
  • slipsius
    North wrote: »

    I quit the Game Industry.........now I contract as a Creative Director for a German company that is making a Unity game in SF...

    You didn't quit the industry, North. You just switched to a different style. Freelance / Contract. Completely different than quitting the industry.



    My experience overall has been quite positive. There have definitely been negatives, but the positives have taken the front seat.

    I've worked in a small indie studio and a large AAA. Both have had their perks. Both have had their negatives. Negatives usually include poor management, or too many chefs in the kitchen. Just too many people trying to get their opinion/suggestion into the game. Or seeing great suggestions trampled on by upper management even though everyone else loved the idea.

    For the most part, as frustrating as some of those can be, especially on certain days, it really is such a small ripple in an otherwise smooth pond.

    Every day I go to work with a smile on my face. Every day I feel like I`m growing as an animator, and as a person. Every day I feel like I am exactly where I want to be. It's challenging, artistic, creative, and fun.

    The hours can be quite long, and I do work weekends a fair amount right now. End of cycle crunch. But right now, I mostly do it because I have nothing else to do. Going into work is actually being social for me, so I really don't mind it.

    I think the worst part, for me, is all the hate on the internet. Seeing people bitch and complain about the game you worked so hard on. Most the time they have no idea what they are talking about, and havnet the slightest clue what it takes or how it works to make a game. But they think they do, and complain about it. Usually you just ignore it, but there are days where it can really get to you.

    Favourite part, definitely the people. Ya, you have to work with people you might not always like, but for the most part, you are constantly surrounded by hundreds of people with common interests, creativity and passion. Everyone pushes each other to be a better artist, and you make some lasting friendships.

    I don't see myself leaving this industry any time soon. If ever...
  • StephenVyas
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    StephenVyas polycounter lvl 15
    You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy
  • Dethmunk
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    Dethmunk polycounter lvl 4
    Great thread btw, interesting experiences people have had....

    I may be in the minority here, but my career has spanned 12+yrs in this industry, from my beginings in QA at Gremlin Interactive then as an artist for Infogrames (Sheffield) and then 3D Environment Artist at EA(UK), Criterion Games, Ghost Games (all EA Studios) and finally now at NaturalMotion Games (London), and you know what its been really great. I've met great people, talented people and had a great team experience on pretty much every project I've worked on. Out of all the games I've worked on only 3 have ever been canned, which can be achievement in its own right. ha ha.
    The common theme does tend to be Managers and Producers. Some can be great and I've know a few great ones. Most can get in the way of a good game production :) Trouble is a lot get promoted from marketing or finance and I'm sorry to say then know sweet FA about game production, they just don't get it and I've know a few. Like I said a few are good and I've been lucky enough to work with them over my career. But generally the problems have been minimal in terms of my work, the problem they create tends to be with the timescales and scoping of the project, less so with my work directly.
    The teams I've work in have had great people in them, friendship, support, knowledge, talent and I learned so much from them. The projects have been fun mostly and I've pretty much worked in most genres.
    I've seen the so called office politics in action, but never been on the receiving end thankfully. It's more difficult nowadays to find those sweet jobs and projects with great people and no corporate BS to deal with, but there are a lot of start up companies and mobile games has that small team great attitude vibe about them, maybe worth starting there. When EA made me redundant (and I've been through a few of those at EA, but survived each time) it was the best thing really. I went to work on a great project at a mobile games company and I've done more artwork than I have in years at EA. The big corporates do A LOT of outsourcing nowadays, as an artist my skill set was shrinking year on year as all the fun stuff was sent to China to be created. The teams where still fun to work on though, that was always fun times, even if I was only creating whitebox designs :)

    Overall the big companies are more and more getting in the cycle on hire and fire when they get to the end of projects and outsourcing like crazy. Not like the old days when the art team was in house doing everything. I'm still in the industry though and more importantly still enjoying it, it can be stressful and working long hours still happens, but I love it. The commute into London can be a bitch though, the only down side :D but everyone is cool about it if you're running late. They understand :)
    44yrs old and I'm still going. :) Yep still single too, but it does help in this industry LOL :D
  • donofdon
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    donofdon polycounter lvl 2
    PogoP wrote: »

    One thing I have noticed, is a definite shift in the type of artists that come into this industry (if anyone I work with is reading this, dont worry, it's probably not about you.. probably. And if it is about you, don't worry, its not a criticism), is that we get a lot more 'prop artists' coming into the industry these days, as opposed to 'environment artists'. The distinction there being artists that are good at making individual props look incredible, and artists that are good with planning things out properly and staying within budget, focusing more on re-usable, tiling materials etc. I don't know why that is.

    In my first job at Frontier, it was full of people that had been in the industry for a long time, and they were amazing at making modular stuff and creating re-usable tiling materials, but more recently there seems to be a shift towards making non-reusable but great looking props. Maybe it's the shift towards PBR and wanting to make stuff look pretty straight away.

    I've been making thousands of props for 9 years and counting. I like your point about the distinction. I'd really like to see more crafty work where someone has spent the time problem solving an object (usually the larger stuff) and using the budget creatively.
    I appreciate all the fancy marmoset renders of small objects with the 2048s+, but a lot of that stuff to me seems to miss the big picture. You only need to make something fit for purpose and in the process use every trick up your sleeve to get that balance of looking decent and fitting into a sensible budget. We have always regarded our work as doing what it does best when you barely notice it.Its late I can add more to this later.
  • Kwramm
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    Kwramm interpolator
    It's hard to be the person who confronts that downward spiral, especially when the problems are pretty big but if someone wants to be a serial complainer I'm going to ask them to at least help look for answers and solutions.

    If you're a lead, then it could just be that the real message people are trying to give you is "fix it!" even if they don't say so explicitly. What I hate though is if you yourself are also powerless to change things. The typical middle management problem. People below you put the pressure on because they're unhappy, compounding any problems that come from above, like limited resources, bad processes, bad decision making, etc.
    Imho the worst is when you can't talk for one reason or another why upper management did something and you have to somehow talk to your people. When you'd love to be transparent to address their fears, but you can't because you're not allowed to say what's really going on.
  • Jonas Ronnegard
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    Jonas Ronnegard Polycount Sponsor
    some really great posts in here, hope to see more veteran stories.
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 9
    PoGoP-You're right. A lot of artists are just making props. But those props are polished and those polished props land them gigs. I consider my self a bit more of a big picture guy. Budget correctly for tech constraints? Can do. Lay out multiple tiling textures on one sheet? Got it. Reuse-Planning for Reuse? Done. That's easy and second nature to me. Building the world off of a greybox? Bam I'm on it.

    I can make some good individual assets too but they don't look so hot to an environment I may make. I can make some sub par assets look nice in an environment-I know because admittedly I sometimes make some sub par assets for my environments. It's part of what I'm working on. Thing is, that technical side isn't what teams seem to be looking for as much right now. Artist seems to be meaning more and more that we make the asset, and Level Designers or World Builders (depends on the Studio) are the real planners and environment artists.

    I think that's part of why I had so few job hits until later the second time around-My assets on their own aren't great. Good? Sure. But not great.

    new2lw:
    I'm curious about looking for jobs, hiring aspects. Could you guys talk maybe talk about that a little, too?

    Breaking in is tough. You need a great portfolio and you need to just keep applying and emailing and using Linkedin. Something will eventually break through even if it's not perfect.


    How hard was it to find another studio to work for after you left a job? How many applications did you put out?

    More than likely, 100 applications. I will say, I feel like the application process in the industry is standard for any job these days. Maybe even better, HR is always looking to talk to talent.

    It's tough looking for work after you lose a job. What REALLY matters more these days other than portfolio (if you're clearly a top or near top artist you're fine) is location. At GDC this March, it was implied that I'd be working already IF I was in California. Instead I was in Boston and at the time couldn't afford to move unless it was for a job. I'm not top tier, so why pay to move me? Even then, that'd be tough. When in this industry, always think about location when moving. When I moved in 2012, 38 and Irrational were still here, along with Tencent and more of Harmonix. I came to Boston and eventually 3 of those studios closed and one laid off a good number of people.

    What was the most unusual interview, hiring process you went through? Best, worst?

    My interviews have always been great. I do like an interview before a test though, even if it's only 15 mins.


    As I've been freelancing these days, it's been a lot of a change and I love being my own boss. But I'm also working myself harder than I have in a while like Gav mentioned-and I don't believe I'm really learning much just yet as I'm working within in my old pipeline right now. I don't have time to improve and learn new tools because money seems to be at the top of my list. Freelancing brings with it it's own ups and downs as I'm learning. I don't believe I'll do this my entire career-I want to be back in a studio-but for now I AM doing better than I did as a contractor and I'm grateful for it. Plus, it's nice to do some non game work here and there.
  • PogoP
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    PogoP polycounter lvl 9
    Don't want to turn this thread into a big discussion about it, but I think a big part of it is that it is a hell of a lot quicker and less time consuming to make a really nice looking prop when you're working on your portfolio, than making an entire scene which could take months. But I think that it's now easier to make individual props look good because of PBR, so I think the new challenge is in creating environments quickly whilst maintaining that visual quality.

    For example, on here, I miss seeing threads such as Paroxum's castle environment threads, and I remember reading a great thread years ago from Adam, where he created an Evil Genius' base. That was so creative and it was really cool to see it go from greybox to finished. I'd love to see more of those sort of projects on here now that we have such incredible rendering technology.

    It's been awesome reading everyone's views on the industries, thanks everyone for being so open about stuff!
  • JordanN
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    JordanN interpolator
    I just want to throw a quick question for the artists/devs here.

    What were your finances like when you left one job and were waiting to be accepted into another? Was the money you made working enough to cover bills/expenses while unemployed or did you have to take on other work (ex: Mcdonalds)?

    I know when you're out of a job, you're suppose to use that time to update your portfolio. But my big fear is how do you keep the roof over your head with no source of income? Especially if waiting for a job offer takes months.
  • poopinmymouth
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    poopinmymouth polycounter lvl 14
    JordanN wrote: »
    I just want to throw a quick question for the artists/devs here.

    What were your finances like when you left one job and were waiting to be accepted into another? Was the money you made working enough to cover bills/expenses while unemployed or did you have to take on other work (ex: Mcdonalds)?

    I know when you're out of a job, you're suppose to use that time to update your portfolio. But my big fear is how do you keep the roof over your head with no source of income? Especially if waiting for a job offer takes months.

    Well, if you are unfortunate enough to live in a nation without decent unemployment/welfare, it makes an emergency fund super duper important. Even though I do work in a nation with generous welfare and a good unemployment insurance, I aim never ever to have less than 6 months of living expenses in my savings account. The early times when I had to dip below that to move, or purchase a vehicle, I considered myself in a debt emergency until the savings got back up that level.

    That's a whole different kettle of fish though, and applies to nearly every job because even in industries with better job stability, layoffs still happen.

    Do NOT neglect your savings.
  • PogoP
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    PogoP polycounter lvl 9
    Yep, save as much as possible! It's a good thing to do anyway, but in this industry where things can be a little volatile, it's always good to have a decent chunk of money in a cash ISA or something. Just put away a portion of your salary each month; treat it as a bill and not as an extra.
  • Dudestein
    Do NOT neglect your savings.

    Couldn't agree more. An emergency fund with at least six months worth of your regular monthly expenses is crucial, especially if you work in an industry that's turbulent like ours. For some, it can mean the difference between having to take the first job offer that comes along, and waiting for the best opportunity. For others (me) it's the difference between being able to stay in (for example) California, or having to move back home with their family in the Midwest. Once you're displaced from where your industry is, you're immediately at a disadvantage due to location discrimination. Unless, of course, you're top talent. If you're insanely good, then companies will fly you out from Pluto, and all sorts of doors are open for you.
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