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I'm a games industry art director, ask me anything.

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Stuart Campbell polycounter lvl 7
Hi,

I'm an Art Director in the games industry and I'd like to open up a reddit style AMA thread where students can ask me any questions they have about learning game art and getting into the games industry.

My main strengths are in environment and UI art, but I direct all aspects of game art in my current role and have created assets for pretty much every art discipline over the years.

So, fire away! I'll do my best to answer whatever you have for me

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  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi high dynamic range
    Thank you so much in advance, Stuart!

    What steps can I take, aside from focusing on being my best in my given responsibilities, to aim to becoming an agile art director in the future, as a junior character artist?

    How does one practice, outside of real life situations, logistical skills like production schedule planning, budgeting, etc. in the same way people sketch ideas in their free time to stretch their visual library and thinking?

    What specific questions are the most effective to ask during one on ones to an AD?
  • KevincgLee
    Stuart, Thank you for doing this kind of thing!

    My Question is : how do one get out of the endless cycle of how one need experience to apply for a desire job but to get experience
    one need a job in the field to get experience? 

    Also as an inspiring environment / assets modeler, Do you have any tips that you could give me regarding of how i can get into a gaming industry?
  • Shrike
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    Shrike interpolator
    Nice to see some people that like doing UI. Do you have some interfaces pics that you made?
  • Finalhart
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    Finalhart polycounter lvl 6
    I have been thinking about this in the last couple of days so here i go: how to you keep your team motivated? Like having concepts or anything like that, in a production environment when things starts to get repetitive having the time to boost the morale of your team is huge.
  • BrendtheCow
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    BrendtheCow polycounter lvl 8
    When interviewing art applicants, how is military simulation experience viewed when stacked up against game studio experience. Is a production environment a production environment, or (like I've heard) does military sim experience as a 3D artist or tech artist 'not count'?

    Also, thanks for doing the AMA!
  • Beestonian
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    Beestonian polycounter lvl 9
    I have a tendency to seek out information first, and practice later, and I think this is a bad habit. Let's say I'm an Illustrator wanting to add UI to the horizontal portion of my T-shaped skillset for the sake of earning money. Could you learn how to do good UI design just by analysing existing UI in games and practising building your own, or is there a specific body of information beyond the foundations of design that a UI artist needs to learn? Essentially, is it possible to learn UI in a vacuum?
  • tekkoontan
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    tekkoontan polycounter lvl 4
    Hi my questions are:
    (1) what are the mistakes you often see artists made? 

    (2) what kinds of artwork are overly saturated on the internet and should be avoided  by artists trying to break into the industry? Also, what kinds of artworks do you think should be done more?

    (3) what kind of artists are most demanded in the industry now and what kind of artists are the least demanded?


  • Laffman
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    Laffman null
    1. How varied should a portfolio be ideally? Is it ok to have a portfolio of only realistic stuff. Or only cartoony. Or should i always try to mix it up and show as many different styles as possible?

    2. If the position i'm applying for is enviromental artist, should i still include weapons, characters etc in my portfolio?

    3. Can you make it in the industry without ever learning how to draw properly? I'm terrible :D

  • adrxzero
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    adrxzero Polycount Sponsor
    Thank you Stuart for this AMA!
  • skycity02
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    skycity02 polycounter lvl 4
    hi Stuart Campbell,  I am a new comer artist trying to land an entry level job in the industry. So far I send out 4 resumes get no response. My portfolio and demo reel primary consisted props and characters (robot).  Can you take a look of my portfolio or reel and tell me if I still behind too much of the industry standard?  Should I keep trying send more resumes or focus on making better work? Also base on my works,  is creating couple good environments projects greatly increase my chances? Please help me, I am really frustrated. 

    portfolio: http://skycity02.com/gaming
    demoreel: 


  • Sheers
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    Sheers Polycount Sponsor
    Thanks for taking the time do this!  You're a good lad.

    What insight can you give to people who are looking for work in California/Austin/Seattle that reside in the MidWest?  What could increase the chances of getting an email response without blindly moving with the risk of losing money?

    When applying for an Environment Artist position, would studios prefer an artist who knows Python/MEL?  

    Cheers!
  • Anitlunia
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    Anitlunia polycounter lvl 6
    Hi! first of all , thank you Stuart for making this, here goes my questions:

    As an art director, do you prefer to stick on a company? Have you had chances on working as a freelance? What do you prefer ( company or freelance)?

  • BrendtheCow
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    BrendtheCow polycounter lvl 8
    In my limited experience, leadership on a project basically means delegating art tasks to all of the other artists while the art lead gets death by paperwork and meetings. Is that typical of the places you've worked? How much art do leads and art directors actually get to do?
  • defragger
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    defragger sublime tool
    how do you deal with management going full retard? If that has ever happened to you.

    For example when important decisions are not made but the CEO gets involved in the tiniest design details:



  • BrendtheCow
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    BrendtheCow polycounter lvl 8
    Layoffs have become an inherent part of working in the game industry it seems. When a team is hit with layoffs, how would you 'rally the troops' to keep working on a project with the same enthusiasm they had before a bunch of their friends were let go? Do you have any good ways to get morale back up?
  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi polycounter
    Do you feel that understanding technical limitations enhances or inhibits artistic creativity?

  • Darth Tomi
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    Darth Tomi polycounter lvl 12
    Why did the chicken cross the road?

  • AGoodFella
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    AGoodFella polycounter lvl 5
    Thanks for doing this. How would someone with no industry experience get into games. Start off with a runner or job or work at a small studio as a junior perhaps?

    I'm trying to make it as an animator in games any advice would be appreciated.

    My in-progress reel if it helps:



    Cheers.
  • stickadtroja
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    stickadtroja polycounter lvl 11
    2 days later and no answers, why?
  • Stuart Campbell
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    Stuart Campbell polycounter lvl 7
    Loads of questions here so it’s taken a while to get through them, but I’ve finally caught up.

    Brace yourselves, this is a big post - not sure if all the formatting will work but we'll see.


    Here goes...


    Brian "Panda" Choi
    What steps can I take, aside from focusing on being my best in my given responsibilities, to aim to becoming an agile art director in the future, as a junior character artist?

    If your goal is to work towards an Art Director position then it’s all about gaining as broad an experience of development as you can.


    As an Art Director you need to wear a lot of hats and you need to be able to effectively work with artists from all disciplines. You don’t need to be the expert in all of those disciplines, but you do need a good understanding of how the work is created. You need to be able to speak in their terms and understand the complexity of the tasks.


    You also need good people skills to be able to get the best out of your team. Everybody is different and they often need a different approach when giving feedback, etc. You need to ensure the art style is consistent and the quality is high but you also need to keep the team working well together.


    I’d get yourself out there and make sure you’re speaking to people from all the other art and development disciplines. A huge part of the job is communication. You will represent the art team in meetings and you need a good understanding of the nuts and bolts of game art creation to be effective in those meetings, as well as being able to clearly communicate your vision for the game.


    Have a read of this article…

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132250/effective_art_directors_gamings_.php

    It’s pretty old now, but still relevant and useful.


    How does one practice, outside of real life situations, logistical skills like production schedule planning, budgeting, etc. in the same way people sketch ideas in their free time to stretch their visual library and thinking?

    The best practice for this is to learn on the job really. You could speak to other artists (or producers) that have this responsibility to see how they handle these tasks. They probably have a setup that they prefer in Excel or Project, etc. I have my own Excel setup that I use and adapt for each project.

    Yes Excel! It’s not all fun and games I’m afraid :)


    This also goes back to my point about getting a broad knowledge of art production. You need to understand what is required when making environments, characters, vfx, UI, concept, animation, etc. to be able to give good estimates on the work. Yes, you can and should speak to the artists doing the work, but if you have that wider knowledge, then you will find this part of the job easier.


    As an exercise you could make yourself a tracking sheet for a work project or a personal project. Put down all the work that needs doing and allocate time estimates against them. Run it like we would in the industry, marking up in-progress, complete, etc and burning down the times as you work through it. You’ll be amazed how much more accurate this makes your time estimates with practice. At first you would likely massively underestimate the overall time if someone were to ask how long the project would take. By assigning times against each asset, the overall duration will often look much longer, but it will be more accurate.


    Great quote by Benjamin Franklin…

    “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”


    So starting practicing the planning now and you’ll get better every time.


    What specific questions are the most effective to ask during one on ones to an AD?

    I don’t think there are specific questions for this. It depends on what you’re doing at the time I guess. In one to ones we generally talk about the current project and the artist’s role within that. Sometimes the conversation will move on to cover their aspirations for the future and how we can help them to work towards that.



    KevincgLee

    How do one get out of the endless cycle of how one need experience to apply for a desire job but to get experience one need a job in the field to get experience?


    I sympathise with those starting out today. It’s a much bigger and more competitive industry now but I think the experience issue stops a lot of people in their tracks. Don’t let that happen to you.


    All companies ask for this but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply, but first you need to make sure your folio does the right things.


    When you are applying for entry level jobs, employers want to see a mix of artistic ability and competency in the fundamentals of game art creation. More specifically, they want to see this as it relates to the role you are applying for.


    Experience will help with this, but it is possible to build a folio of work that clearly answers these questions, even if you’re starting out.


    Basically employers want to have confidence that in hiring you, they will have someone that can come in and be immediately effective on their team. They use ‘experience’ as a means of reducing this risk. Give them that confidence in you by ticking the right boxes with your folio and application and you’ll break this cycle.


    Also as an inspiring environment / assets modeler, Do you have any tips that you could give me regarding of how i can get into a gaming industry?


    It’s always about the folio...

    • Keep it specific to the role you want.
    • About 10 images should be enough.
    • Only show your best work.
    • Answer the ‘questions’ by showing you clearly understand how to make good game res art - efficient modelling, good understanding of texture creation and map types. Show this by including wireframes, UV layouts and texture breakdowns.
    • Present all work in-engine.

    As for the assets themselves. Some of this can depend on the art style you are working to but in general, ask yourself these questions:


    Assets:

    • How can you give them character and history?
    • Think about the environment they would exist in? How would that affect them and where would wear and dirt naturally build up?
    • Are there opportunities to add interest through changes in surface texture, colour, details, etc?

    Scenes:

    • What is the story you are trying to tell? If you can think of a narrative behind the image it will help you with the content and composition.
    • Where do you want the viewer to look. Think about the hierarchy of the image and make sure you lead the eye through scene intentionally, using composition, lighting, contrast, etc.
    • What assets would best fit the scene? How would these be placed or grouped together?
    • What mood would best compliment the image and narrative?
    • What lighting would you expect to see in that location and how will this help the story and mood?

    Savannakhet

    Do you ever get mistaken for the journalist of the same name?


    Heh! Not for a long time now.

    He did work on the amazing Sensible World of Soccer though. So, happy to take credit for that if you want!


    Shrike

    Nice to see some people that like doing UI. Do you have some interfaces pics that you made?


    I don’t have any pics to hand but I’ve been involved in UI work on the following titles:

    Crackdown 2, F1 Race Stars, F1 Race Stars iOS, Toybox Turbos, Micro Machines iOS.


    Finalhart

    How do you keep your team motivated? Like having concepts or anything like that, in a production environment when things starts to get repetitive having the time to boost the morale of your team is huge.


    I think this comes down to people skills really. You need to know how to get the best out of your team but also show that you value each of their contributions. If people feel valued for the work they are doing then they will naturally have higher morale.


    I also think there is a responsibility to keep the wider team motivated. One thing I do personally is to mail out art updates to the full dev team as often as possible.


    Everybody loves seeing some pretties. Its nice to take bit of time out, grab a coffee and look through all the work that’s going on. It can help motivate them with their part of the project and also gives the artists a real boost to see the great reactions they get to their work and the buzz it creates.


    BrendtheCow

    When interviewing art applicants, how is military simulation experience viewed when stacked up against game studio experience. Is a production environment a production environment, or (like I've heard) does military sim experience as a 3D artist or tech artist 'not count'?


    Maybe rephrase the question as I’m not 100% sure how to answer you here.


    Beestonian

    Could you learn how to do good UI design just by analysing existing UI in games and practising building your own, or is there a specific body of information beyond the foundations of design that a UI artist needs to learn? Essentially, is it possible to learn UI in a vacuum?


    UI design is an underserved discipline when it comes to learning materials online. There’s a ton of stuff out there on modelling, etc but so little on UI and UX.


    Its starting to shift a bit now and gain more focus. We’re even seeing bespoke software to help in UI/UX design processes, largely due to the growth of mobile and the influence good UI design has had there, but there’s still a huge gap in learning materials.


    For me, the best UI designers have a solid foundation in Graphic Design principles as well as an appreciation for the user experience itself. They understand how to layout screens with a focus on information hierarchy as well as thinking about the overall aesthetics.


    I think a good exercise to try would be to take an example of a UI that you think could be improved and do a before and after on it. If you can do this well and describe your reasoning behind the changes then this will really help your folio and applications.


    Make it easy on yourself though. Don’t take on some AAA title’s UI design unless you really know that your version is a genuine improvement and not just an alternate take on it.


    tekkoontanb

    What are the mistakes you often see artists made?


    The most common mistakes in online folios and job applications are:



    • Lack of focus on one area
    • Lack of content generally
    • Lack of game res assets
    • Unfinished pieces or low quality pieces
    • Poor composition, lighting and general presentation

    What kinds of artwork are overly saturated on the internet and should be avoided by artists trying to break into the industry?


    Over saturated. That’s an easy one! High poly weapons for sure.


    I don’t know why there is such a huge fascination with making high poly weapons right now, especially just straight up models of real guns. Don’t get me wrong, some of these are really nicely done but for me they fail for a number of reasons:



    1. This is a very specific thing to be doing. If you’re filling your folio with high poly weapon models, then you’re really narrowing down the number of studios you’d be suitable for.
    2. Just making a high poly copy of a real gun doesn’t show any creativity. With all the others doing similar, how does yours stand out from the crowd?
    3. Its high poly. The focus should be on game art not high poly. High poly is a means to an end and there are other techniques for adding details that can be more efficient in terms of creating game ready assets in a tight production schedule.

    Also, what kinds of artworks do you think should be done more?


    I think those trying to break into the industry should focus more on game res assets, and really get specific about the discipline they want to work in when they build their folios.


    As I said above on a previous question, when you are applying for jobs employers want to see a mix of artistic ability and competency in the fundamentals of game art creation. More specifically, they want to see this as it relates to the role you are applying for.


    They want to have confidence that in hiring you, they will have someone that can come in and be immediately effective on their team.


    With all the competition for places out there, if you can’t show that, you simply won’t get hired as there’s others who can and will.


    What kind of artists are most demanded in the industry now and what kind of artists are the least demanded?


    Depends on what sort of work the studio is doing really and also where in the world they are based.


    Environment artists will always outnumber character artists as making game world is usually a much bigger task.


    As the complexity of games increases, so outsourcing is becoming a bigger and bigger part of what we do, at least for studios in the US, UK and parts of Europe. It’s the only cost effective way to work and that often means the core teams do a mix of benchmark models and managing outsource teams through prep sheets and feedback.


    This is another reason why studios often ask for experience or seek more senior artists. They need people who can effectively handle the outsource art by providing good briefs and feedback.


    Laffman

    How varied should a portfolio be ideally? Is it ok to have a portfolio of only realistic stuff. Or only cartoony. Or should i always try to mix it up and show as many different styles as possible?


    Depends who you want to apply to. Your folio should show you are a good fit for the studio.

    Having a mix is never a bad thing, but I’d always skew it in favour of the studio’s current games.


    If the position i'm applying for is enviromental artist, should i still include weapons, characters etc in my portfolio?


    I would say no. At least for entry level roles. Focus your efforts on the discipline you want most and do that really well.


    Can you make it in the industry without ever learning how to draw properly? I'm terrible


    Maybe this is controversial but I would say yes to this.


    It does depend on the role you are after - obviously concept artists need to be able to draw :)


    I have worked with many artists who are good at 3D modelling and texture work but can’t really draw well traditionally. Obviously it will help and make you more versatile but I don’t see it as essential. As long as you can tick the right boxes with your work then fine.


    skycity02

    Can you take a look of my portfolio or reel and tell me if I still behind too much of the industry standard?  Should I keep trying send more resumes or focus on making better work? Also base on my works, is creating couple good environments projects greatly increase my chances? Please help me, I am really frustrated.


    Your work is pretty good, some of the modelling could be more efficient but the main issue here is the classic problem of lack of focus in the folio.


    I don’t know who you are from this. What discipline do you want to apply for?


    There’s not enough examples of any one type of asset in here for an employer to have enough confidence to make that hire.


    I would pick the discipline you want the most, and do more of that.


    PM me if you want me to go into more detail on any of your models.


    Sheers

    What insight can you give to people who are looking for work in California/Austin/Seattle that reside in the MidWest?  What could increase the chances of getting an email response without blindly moving with the risk of losing money?


    I would follow the advice above on your folio and submission. I’ve never worked in the US but the same principles would apply. Get your folio right and send off speculative applications, or apply to specific openings that you find.


    When applying for an Environment Artist position, would studios prefer an artist who knows Python/MEL?  


    This could be useful but it’s not essential. If you were up against other artists with a similarly strong folio then maybe this could make a difference, depending on what they’re looking for. Studios often have tech artists for this kind of thing. It’s certainly not going to hurt you by knowing it but I wouldn’t learn it at the expense of the work in your folio.


    Anitlunia

    As an art director, do you prefer to stick on a company? Have you had chances on working as a freelance? What do you prefer ( company or freelance)?


    I’ve worked at several studios over the years but have never done freelance. I’ve always gone for the studio work. I never fancied chasing projects and work all the time.


    BrendtheCow

    In my limited experience, leadership on a project basically means delegating art tasks to all of the other artists while the art lead gets death by paperwork and meetings. Is that typical of the places you've worked? How much art do leads and art directors actually get to do?


    Depends on the project and team size.


    I’ve worked on projects with large teams where I got to do very little hands on. I’ve also worked with smaller teams where there were more opportunities to do some art.


    I have learned that it’s best to delegate when you can though, even if you REALLY want to work on a particular asset. Being able to distance yourself like this allows you to see the bigger picture more easily and give better feedback.


    defragger

    How do you deal with management going full retard? If that has ever happened to you.

    For example when important decisions are not made but the CEO gets involved in the tiniest design details.


    I love that clip!


    To be honest, I’ve never experienced something quite as extreme as that. However, when you work on projects there will always be someone up the chain that will make changes to stuff you’ve worked on that you might not agree with.


    I read an article about this when I was starting out. I think it was on Gamasutra or something. It said ‘you need to learn to love it and leave it’.


    Basically, put your best efforts into the work while it’s yours but accept that when you pass it over, changes may happen. Getting used to this is a big part of working in the industry, whether those changes come from a more senior artist, management, publisher, etc. There’s always someone else, no matter what level you get to.


    BrendtheCow

    Layoffs have become an inherent part of working in the game industry it seems. When a team is hit with layoffs, how would you 'rally the troops' to keep working on a project with the same enthusiasm they had before a bunch of their friends were let go? Do you have any good ways to get morale back up?


    I don’t think there’s any secret sauce to fix that situation to be honest. If you’ve worked in the industry long enough then you’ve likely experienced it many times. Its people skills again really. You need to be sympathetic to those involved and help them any way you can.


    For those that survive the cuts be conscious that many of their friends may have had to move on and they’ll still be feeling the stress of it all as many people can’t afford to be out of work for even the smallest amount of time. You need to reassure them that their positions are safe and they are still really valued in their roles.


    JacqueChoi

    Do you feel that understanding technical limitations enhances or inhibits artistic creativity?


    Enhances for sure!


    A good understanding of this will mean you set yourself up for success by designing visuals that you are confident can actually be achieved. Obviously you’ll want to set the bar high but you don’t want to be unrealistic. Nothing worse than shooting too high and having to tear it apart right at the end for optimisations.


    Also, knowing and working round these limits brings out some really creative ideas. Look at how consoles end their cycles. Most of the really great work happens right at the end when devs truly understand how to squeeze everything out of them.


    Darth Tomi

    Why did the chicken cross the road?


    Hmm...ask the chicken?


    AGoodFella

    How would someone with no industry experience get into games. Start off with a runner or job or work at a small studio as a junior perhaps?


    Same process as other disciplines really but here you need a strong reel showing a range of animation types.


    I know it all falls under art but I’m less able to give solid feedback on this one. I can tell when it doesn’t look right, but it’s harder to pinpoint a fix as it’s not my thing. First impressions, your work looks good, especially for a junior.


    I know a really good animator from a previous studio that should be able to help here - best I’ve worked with. He’ll pick up on stuff that I won’t and give you suggestions for how to improve it. I’ll send him a link to your reel and see what he says.



    Got there eventually! Keep em coming though and I'll do a part 2.


  • adrxzero
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    adrxzero Polycount Sponsor
    @Stuart Campbell This is an exceptional response! Lots of great wisdom to learn from.
  • maximumsproductions
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    maximumsproductions polycounter lvl 8
    Curious about your thoughts on someone who relies on equipment to work at their full efficiency when it comes to on site work.
    Is this person less hire-able especially as a just starting professional. Do studios expect people to be able to come onto any machine and work as they would anywhere else, or do they understand people have preferences and are preferences ever discussed and met?

    Ex: Person uses peripherals, like a many multi button mouse or extra keyboard (like these razor nostromo devices) which require installing drivers to function.

    My school blocks installing drivers so it makes me wonder if with all this extra equipment is actually just a crutch and a person should just stick to hotkeying their standard keyboard and 2 button mouse for programs. 


  • shubham kumar
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    shubham kumar polycounter lvl 8
    Do  you yell at freshers or juniors when they make some mistakes? 
  • AGoodFella
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    AGoodFella polycounter lvl 5
    Thanks for replies, I appreciate it.
  • praetus
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    praetus interpolator
    @Stuart Campbell  Since you weren't sure about the military sim experience from @BrendtheCow I'll tack on to his question with my own.  I am constantly worried about how people in the game industry look at those that work within military simulation or serious games.  I've been working on these for the past 6+ years and am currently trying to switch it up and move into the "proper" game industry.  Some of the issues I feel I run into are that most serious games are not visible to the general public, use outdated engines, and are often add-ons to existing game engines and may not be seen as proper releases.  To combat this, I made sure to create a standalone portfolio of personal work.  When it comes to game credits, I have none despite creating and releasing content for the past 6 years and currently being the lead artist at my job.

    So, I guess the big question is, how is this looked at by HR and other art leads?  I model using the same software, deal with deadlines, clients, and engine optimization just the same, but I worry that my work experience is not held in the same regard that other applicant's may be.  What is your (or anyone's) opinion on this?
  • sidx30
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    sidx30 polycounter lvl 4
    You are awesome!

    A few questions.

    For Environment Artists, how important is it for them to have entire environments in there portfolio? Can small environmental pieces or singular props be just as powerful as a full blown environment? Is it OK to show off singular tilable materials/textures, or is that more for a shader artist/ texture artist portfolio?

    Also, I would love to know what you would look for in a Level Designer portfolio. Is there any importance in asset creation here? Can modding games and creating playable mods count as experience? It's kind of hard picture exactly where a level designer starts in comparison to asset creation jobs.

    Final question, is it ok to apply for other jobs with a portfolio focusing in one area? For example, could an Environment Artist apply for a Lighting Artist job if they have a bunch of beautifully lit environments in there folio? or possibly a Level Designer job if they have built levels in there folio?

    Thank you so much! Sorry if its long!
  • RashedAlmetrami
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    RashedAlmetrami polycounter lvl 9
    @Stuart Campbell - Thank you for taking the time to respond to all these questions.

    Hope it's alright but my question is similar to skycity02. Would you be able to look at my online portfolio and tell me if I should work on a few more environments, improving my current pieces,  before sending out resumes and applying for jobs? I have currently only applied for a handful of jobs since graduating from University all of which I haven't heard back from. Also, do you have any tips to help improve my portfolio? 

  • Rafael_Vieira
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    Rafael_Vieira polycounter lvl 3
    Hi, Stuart, it's great to see you around here taking your time to answer our questions! So, seeing your answers tending towards specificity in portfolios I can only wonder, is there any space in the studios for generalists these days? 
  • krraej
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    krraej triangle
    Thank you for taking the time to answer all these questions! Your input has been very interesting and insightful. :)
    I'd like to ask how you go about looking for artists to hire. Do you browse the "artists looking for work" section here on polycount or similar sections on other forums? Do you look through sites like artstation or do you rely on a pool of bookmarks of portfolio sites that have caught your eye before? Or do you only post job openings and then wait for the artists to come to you?
  • tadpole3159
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    tadpole3159 polycounter lvl 12
    Do  you yell at freshers or juniors when they make some mistakes? 
    oh no, don't be silly.

    The only way you learn is with a few lashes of the whip. Some studios prefer a "the game of thrones" style walk of shame but honestly who has the time.
  • Stuart Campbell
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    Stuart Campbell polycounter lvl 7
    OK, here we go with round two...


    Maximumsproductions

    Curious about your thoughts on someone who relies on equipment to work at their full efficiency when it comes to on site work.

    Is this person less hire-able especially as a just starting professional. Do studios expect people to be able to come onto any machine and work as they would anywhere else, or do they understand people have preferences and are preferences ever discussed and met?


    I wonder if with all this extra equipment is actually just a crutch and a person should just stick to hotkeying their standard keyboard and 2 button mouse for programs.


    You’ve pretty much answered this one yourself. You should be able to work with standard tools. Some places may get you the extra equipment, but if they won’t, where does that leave you?


    I would say the same for software. I firmly believe that artists should be able to do all their work with core tools. So if you’re reliant on something like Substance for all your texturing, but the company doesn’t use that in their pipeline, can you still work effectively with just Photoshop? If not, you have a problem.


    Not all studios will be using the latest and greatest tools. Its risky to implement new software midway through production so many studios end up sticking to tried and tested techniques.


    For example, it’s pretty common for companies to be several years behind on stuff like Max/Maya as updating could require changes throughout their tools pipeline and that can be too risky, time-consuming and expensive when they have dates to hit.


    shubham kumar

    Do  you yell at freshers or juniors when they make some mistakes?


    No, I take them outside and smack them around a bit! :)


    But seriously, no. There is absolutely no benefit in putting people down, and yelling at someone in a work environment is not a professional way to go about your work.


    People generally don’t respond well to that sort of criticism. Instead you should encourage them and work with them to fix their mistakes and to improve.


    praetus

    I am constantly worried about how people in the game industry look at those that work within military simulation or serious games.  


    So, I guess the big question is, how is this looked at by HR and other art leads?  I model using the same software, deal with deadlines, clients, and engine optimization just the same, but I worry that my work experience is not held in the same regard that other applicant's may be.  What is your (or anyone's) opinion on this?


    Honestly, I’ve never personally encountered someone coming from this background but here’s my ten cents based on what you’ve said…


    You’re using the same software and have been doing this for a number of years now. So while the games are different, I think the experience is relevant. It sounds like you will have a good understanding of how to create games from pre-production to final release and this is valuable as it takes time to acquire that knowledge.


    You say that you are working with outdated engines, etc so it sounds like your big concern here is down to visual quality not being where you’d like it. You are addressing this by doing your own personal work and I think that’s a smart move. Get your folio the way you want it, and then in interviews you can talk about all the work you’ve done to demonstrate your knowledge and experience gained over several project cycles.


    Obviously having a more high profile title on your folio is going to be a bigger win but you still have experience that should work in your favour.


    The problem you have here is that you may need to spend more time to work on building up that personal folio, where other artists with the same experience can simply take screens from the projects they’ve worked on and use those.


    sidx30

    For Environment Artists, how important is it for them to have entire environments in there portfolio? Can small environmental pieces or singular props be just as powerful as a full blown environment?


    When we start a project, we'll do a visual target to figure out how we want the game to look. We won't go off and build everything, we just pick a small section and work on that. Some people call it a 'pretty corner'. This is much quicker and we can spend more time experimenting with different visuals and really getting the assets right.


    We simply wouldn't be allowed the time to go off and build a whole environment like this. Plus, if it didn't work, or we needed to make changes, that whole process would take way longer.


    The visual target is a means to an end. It helps communicate to exec how the game will look to give them confidence in the project. The same can apply to a folio. A small contained scene can show an employer everything they need to know about you and your ability.


    So a locked camera, or small section is all you need. Having a couple of clips with simple, short camera moves does help as it brings the materials to life as the light plays over the surface, but good static images can still be effective.


    Remember, this is about the art. It’s not a level design task.


    You can also take some of the props used in the scene and show them in more detail with breakdowns of polycount, wireframe, UVs and texture sheets.


    Is it OK to show off singular tilable materials/textures, or is that more for a shader artist/ texture artist portfolio?


    Personally I’m not a big fan of this stuff. I would much rather see the materials and textures used as part of an asset or scene.


    Also, I would love to know what you would look for in a Level Designer portfolio. Is there any importance in asset creation here? Can modding games and creating playable mods count as experience? It's kind of hard picture exactly where a level designer starts in comparison to asset creation jobs.


    This isn’t really my area but when we look for level designers we’d typically ask for 2D layouts of levels that they’ve designed or, better still, some demos of the levels for us to navigate around. It’s not about assets at all. It’s about the layout and the thinking behind the design of the space.


    Final question, is it ok to apply for other jobs with a portfolio focusing in one area? For example, could an Environment Artist apply for a Lighting Artist job if they have a bunch of beautifully lit environments in there folio? or possibly a Level Designer job if they have built levels in there folio?


    Not entirely. But you could maybe tweak the folio to show the skills required.


    Just ask yourself what the company is likely to be looking for in each instance and make sure your folio clearly demonstrates why you would be a good fit for that role. Don’t simply put it out there because you have a scene with some lighting and video showing a ‘level’. These parts need to have strong emphasis.


    Lighting:

    • Think about the mood are you trying to create?
    • Think about the palette of colours and how that influences the mood?
    • Think about light, shadow and contrast. How can you use this for effect?
    • Think about the viewer. How can you use lighting to better influence the flow of the image or to highlight key parts of the scene?

    Level Design:

    • What is the purpose of the level?
    • Why have you created the layout the way you have? Have you actually ‘designed’ it?
    • What are the key features in terms of how it plays?

    RashedAlmetrami

    Hope it's alright but my question is similar to skycity02. Would you be able to look at my online portfolio and tell me if I should work on a few more environments, improving my current pieces,  before sending out resumes and applying for jobs? I have currently only applied for a handful of jobs since graduating from University all of which I haven't heard back from. Also, do you have any tips to help improve my portfolio?


    Sure.

    First up, I would lose the carbonmade site and just stick to your Artstation one. It has too many issues with formatting and the horizontal scroll is just fiddly to view the work. People won’t have patience for that and will simply close it. I found the carbonmade one first and thought this was your folio until I stumbled on the Artstation link.


    As for the folio itself, some high level feedback as you're showing some common problems right now:


    • Don’t include unfinished work and titles that say WIP. Only show final pieces, and only your very best work. More than half of your current folio appears to be unfinished or WIP.  If you are using the site to host WIP for feedback then I would find another location for this. In terms of a folio though, I would remove everything that’s not final and get working on more content.

    • You have too many images showing essentially the same thing. Pick the strongest one, remove the rest. Take the Thomson gun for example. You have presented the right information here, but there’s too many shots that are not needed and it becomes a ‘spot the difference’ exercise. Keep one key shot of the asset, you can have forward ¾ and rear ¾ views on the same sheet. Also include wireframe, UV and texture breakdowns.

    • Don’t include hi poly models unless they are to support a final game res asset. Showing hi poly only will not answer the questions an employer has about your suitability for a game art role.

    • What position are you aiming for as it’s not clear from this folio?


    You asked should you do more environment pieces. If this is the discipline that interests you most then yes. Clean up the folio and work to fill it with finished environment art.


    If you want me to go into details on any one piece, send me a PM and we can discuss.



    Rafael_Vieira

    Seeing your answers tending towards specificity in portfolios I can only wonder, is there any space in the studios for generalists these days?


    Absolutely!


    I just don’t believe people should be trying to get into that kind of role when starting out as I don’t see it as realistic. It means learning so much more and trying to get your skills to employable levels across each discipline. It’s a competitive enough industry without trying to compete in all areas right from the start. The smart move would be to focus on one thing and do it well.


    In smaller teams, artists still get the chance to do a mix of work. These artists are generally more senior though, and have enough experience to draw on to allow them to perform well in multiple disciplines.


    There’s also mobile, which is huge now and getting bigger all the time. The smaller teams here mean people have to pitch in wherever is needed. It used to be that people just wanted to be doing AAA, but successful mobile projects can have many millions of players and can pull in a much higher return as the development costs are lower.


    When starting out, I’d always recommend just doing one thing well. Spend all your efforts on that. Once you land your first position you will gain loads more experience on the job, and then you can start to add other things to your skillset.


    krraej

    I'd like to ask how you go about looking for artists to hire. Do you browse the "artists looking for work" section here on polycount or similar sections on other forums? Do you look through sites like artstation or do you rely on a pool of bookmarks of portfolio sites that have caught your eye before? Or do you only post job openings and then wait for the artists to come to you?


    Generally, it would be posting an opening and waiting for applicants. Sometimes a recruiter would be involved in finding suitable people. I’m actually not sure if the recruiters go looking through folio sites or not. Maybe someone in this role could pitch in here?


    From my view of it, I simply get sent applications to review and then we interview any that look promising.


    Are you asking the question because you’re wondering if you should be actively applying versus putting up a folio and waiting for responses?


    I would always recommend the active approach. Simply putting your stuff up there and hoping people will come is rarely a successful move in any business.


  • Stuart Campbell
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    Stuart Campbell polycounter lvl 7
    Happy to take more questions on this thread but I'm heading off on holiday shortly so any replies may need to wait until September.
  • adrxzero
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    adrxzero Polycount Sponsor
    @Stuart Campbell and @krraej

    "Generally, it would be posting an opening and waiting for applicants. Sometimes a recruiter would be involved in finding suitable people. I’m actually not sure if the recruiters go looking through folio sites or not. Maybe someone in this role could pitch in here?"

    We recruiters certainly need to make it a priority to review portfolios, this is so we can ensure that the candidate is a great fit for the studio.
  • skyline5gtr
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    skyline5gtr polycounter lvl 8
    I recently had an interview with a company who I did not hear back from initially. A week later a got a response asking me a question which I answered but again I have still heard nothing in return to the follow up question i sent. I tried sending a basic email asking what the status of my application is and what is going on but still nothing. Is it best to move on or send another email till I get some form of answer. This feels very unprofessional to me ,or am I overreacting ?

    I would have at least expected a response to my email
  • goodguyace

    hey I am an enthusiast trying to learn character design and i recently picked up zbrush (less then a month ago) and would appreciate any kind of critic on my work.   

    https://ace0master.artstation.com/ 


  • krraej
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    krraej triangle

    Thank you, Stuart Campbell and adrxzero for answering my question!

  • BrendtheCow
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    BrendtheCow polycounter lvl 8
    Thanks for the responses @Stuart Campbell! I'd rephrase my first question, but it looks like @praetus had it covered. :chuffed:
  • praetus
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    praetus interpolator
    Thanks for your input and taking the time to answer these questions Stuart.  It's very much appreciated.
  • Aveon
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    Aveon polycounter lvl 3
    @Stuart Campbell Hey man. Firstly thanks for this and everything else you've done to help other artists!  I'm excited to see the Character podcast this weekend!

    I've learned a lot here to help my portfolio, now going in with the knowledge to tailor my portfolio to the studio and excel at the 1 thing you want to aim for (regardless of whether that's a specific or generalist goal). My concern though is that many times resumes are lost, or forgotten, or written off with no response or without having ever gotten to the eyes of an artist at the company in question,. This makes it seem to me like knowing people where you're applying is just as important as the portfolio you're submitting? As someone who isn't concerned at the moment with what company they're working for, but is rather out to prove that he belongs in this industry, making connections at 10's to 100's of companies is daunting. Should I network more? Should I focus on letting my portfolio speak for itself? Should I just make a decision and choose a studio to go for? Am I just not turning up the heat enough? Any advice is appreciated. In the character art podcast I know you guys talked about giving everything your all and really going for it, and I'm afraid I'm not going hard enough :/

    If you're OK with me asking I'd love and appreciate a critique on my work/portfolio. I think, in light of your AMA, that it's not focused enough, but I'd be grateful to hear your thoughts on it: aveon.artstation.com

    Thanks again for this :)
  • Ethan_stubbs_
    hey thanks in advanced for everything

    I graduated uni in game design about 5 years ago and shortly after things started to go bad for me (depression), long story short I have to re-learn almost everything from scratch, I'm pushing 30 now, so all I need to know is, is it too late for me to try and get in to the industry? or am I just being paranoid?

    Thanks :)

  • gfelton
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    gfelton polycounter lvl 6
    How much of an impact does having a degree in x from a university y affect your interest in hiring potential employees?
  • punchface
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    punchface polycounter lvl 6
    I really appreciate the time your taking to do this extended QnA, Mr. Campbell, it really is great of you!
  • Rockley Bonner
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    Rockley Bonner polycounter lvl 10
    Could I get a portfolio review please? :3
  • littleclaude
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    littleclaude quad damage
    Great thread, thank you for taking the time to answer every ones questions, very interesting to read.
  • pixels
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    pixels polycounter lvl 2

    Hi there :) ,

    How flexible are studios generally in letting juniors or recent graduates try different roles outside the key role they get in with (e.g. a character artist who also enjoys doing digital painting and is curious about concept art/promo/illustration work).

    What would be the best way to approach asking for this experience or mentoring.

    thanks ! ^^


  • Amaury
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    Amaury polycounter lvl 7
    pixels said:

    Hi there :) ,

    How flexible are studios generally in letting juniors or recent graduates try different roles outside the key role they get in with (e.g. a character artist who also enjoys doing digital painting and is curious about concept art/promo/illustration work).

    What would be the best way to approach asking for this experience or mentoring.

    thanks ! ^^


    Stuart will probably answer this better than me but last year I was an environment/props art intern even though my portfolio only consisted in characters. It was during summer and the 2 guys who were making characters took their weeks off so I asked the director during our little smoking break "hey by the way I see there are still stuff to do on the planning regarding characters and I love that, is there anything I could help for ?" and I got to do some skin texture and haircut variation. A small step but I was glad I could do it and so was the guy who didn't have to place tons of hair cards for hours himself !

    Don't be afraid to ask, it can only show positivity and eagerness but also know that as a junior outside of his role you probably won't be assigned on the most important tasks. Replacing someone who took his vacations helps too.
  • skyline5gtr
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    skyline5gtr polycounter lvl 8
    Stuart - Thanks. took your advice and followed up and now I have an interview. The team was out of the country at the time at gamecon, so good thing I kept going with it. Thanks !
  • gfelton
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    gfelton polycounter lvl 6
    Thanks for stopping by to do this thread, have a good one! :)
  • Stuart Campbell
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    Stuart Campbell polycounter lvl 7
    Stuart - Thanks. took your advice and followed up and now I have an interview. The team was out of the country at the time at gamecon, so good thing I kept going with it. Thanks !
    Good stuff! Best of luck!
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