Non-game/cinema 3d jobs -- defense, medical, etc

Alex Javor
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Alex Javor quad damage
I'm looking at jobs and some of these defense contractors boast high employee retention rates and the kind of cushy corporate perks you expect from real jobs. Seems like a nice way to make a living while still having fun in 3d.

I imagine the day-to-day isn't as hectic as entertainment, nor are layoffs as common. Anybody here have experience in these sectors? Is it at it seems? Any horror stories? And how competitive to get in? Seems like a little lower of a hurdle.

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  • Eric Chadwick
    I did some serious games work for the US military. Info here http://ericchadwick.com/img/geocommander.html

    We weren't only doing that kind of work though, we were developing software for digital content delivery and that was a side project.

    The barrier for entry can be lower, the expectations generally are lower in terms of graphical fidelity. But there are different limits, more oversight by people unfamiliar with how graphics are made, and budgets can disappear overnight based on governmental whims.

    You're not making an entertainment product, you're making content with specific educational goals. Which can be really interesting.
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor quad damage
    that looks pretty awesome. Seems like you were involved heavily in the design as well?

    I think I'd like to do stuff like that. Serious games I guess is what it's usually called. Are artist working at studios doing that sort of work more generalized?
  • Eric Chadwick
    It really depends. If you're in a smaller studio, you may often be tasked with side jobs to keep the business afloat. Studios typically have a high burn rate, how much money they churn through in costs from month to month. Sustaining those costs can be difficult. You have to keep the work coming in.

    The most variety I've seen is when working for an outsourcing studio, then you're working for very different clients, a couple months here, half a year there.
  • Eric Chadwick
    Yeah I did a lot of the art look and feel. That project's design was very constrained though, made it very difficult to get something to be decent-looking. The engine was custom, with few/rough tools. Couldn't do dynamic reflections for example, and little control over post effects. UI art was very limited. Etc. Fun to have hard problems though!
  • Neox
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    Neox sublime tool
    How do you cope with the knowledge that your gamification of pretty serious content is in the end still used to kill people? It's a serious question, i know i'd have quite some trouble supporting any military operation, let alone make it look cool or awesome. Granted there is a ton more money in it than in games, is it really worth it?
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor quad damage
    well, i was a soldier for six years. a good part of the motivation to do that was the glorification of soldiery and wars so prevalent in the media. Of course I was just an impressionable kid, but I'm sure you can imagine that in the same way you have been raised to detest war I was raised to believe the ultimate good thing you could do was fight for your country.

    In other words, many AAA games took part in the brainwashing process which ultimately led me to go to Afghanistan to cause chaos for.... some reason or another.

    I don't want to delve into the morality of war, but IMO much of the stuff put out by AAA isn't exactly constructive or innocent. If you look very deeply into most anything you can find a degree of evil. At the end of the day, if there is going to be a fight I want to make sure I'm on the winning team. Picking and choosing the fights is a different matter entirely, but to that I will say god damn every politician or person of power who ever started a war in which they took no part in. there is nothing more stupid than making enemies and starting wars -- except being dead because some other bastard is less enlightened.

    You can justify anything, of course. Nowadays my main focus is on helping animals.

  • Eric Chadwick
    Neox said:
    How do you cope with the knowledge that your gamification of pretty serious content is in the end still used to kill people? It's a serious question, i know i'd have quite some trouble supporting any military operation, let alone make it look cool or awesome. Granted there is a ton more money in it than in games, is it really worth it?


    I think it's like most other moral questions. You need to decide what's comfortable for you, no one else can make the decision.

    I personally found the work rewarding. Partly because it teaches valuable skills, using imagery that the customer responds well to.

    It's not something I personally respond well to. But that's not the point. It's commercial art, made for a particular client, so it's tailored to their needs.

    If you're asking whether it should be made in the first place, I still think, yes. Your armed forces protect your country, population, resources, and allies.

    If you disagree with that, that's ok too, my country supports publicly voicing your opinions. That's a value worth defending, imho.
  • sacboi
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    sacboi interpolator

    I was a beneficiary of these training aids, back during the cold war era. Then as now it's horrendously expensive to live fire exercise field force elements in their particular tools of trade, though obviously pre-digital simulation during my time. Although I do recall whilst on either vehicle or ground designated tasked employment courses, we would as students were exposed too the actual weapons themselves early on once assigned to our specific chosen Corp/Service, made when undertaking the initial four month recruit phase which by the way had to be earned if your choice was a posting to a combat unit.

    In my case as an enlisted Trooper, newly minted after a further four month stint at the Armoured Centre learning our core IET role as Driver/Signallers, whether Leopard 1 (MBT) or M113 (APC) stream however I'd switched to the latter half way through, not solely because of the fact that if ever the balloon had gone up, an armoured Troop MBT hide or Regimental laager for instance was indeed a legitimate nuclear target...but really because it was stressed upon our collective horny young impressionable minds that 'Gentleman Of The Cavalry' always got the best looking girls by a passing Adjutant from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment due in large part I suspect to the fancy dress uniforms, all silver, bandoliers and lanyards 'n shit...whoops sorry I digress.     

    Anyway on topic, as I'd alluded to above when undergoing a gunnery course for vehicle mounted medium calibre 76 mm main guns, simulated via a coaxial mounted 22cal and sand map or another tasking as an 'Assault Trooper' (...just a glorified Grunt/Sapper) the Regt's organic armament, uniquely synonymous to our unit, modelled off the Wehrmacht's WW2 Panzer Grenadier skillset, we'd simulate laser firing the MILAN anti-tank missile system which bearing in mind were in those days $20k a pop, aussie dollars.

    Though cost mitigation was ever foremost in the mindset of those with 'scrambled egg on their hats' for us on the ground it was always about honing our craft whether simulation or live firing range practice because unlike a game, in the real world you've only one life.               

  • Neox
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    Neox sublime tool
    If you disagree with that, that's ok too, my country supports publicly voicing your opinions. That's a value worth defending, imho.
    I'd agree to that sentiment if defensive actions would actually be the thing that happens. But the contrary is usually the case, now one could argue that offense is the best defense, and defending yourself on the other side of the world bombing villagers out of their huts... i dont see how this is defending anyones values
    But its not an american issue per say, it's a military shitfest all over the world. Seing how my country uses simulation to train Saudi Arabian forces (amongst many others) to better use the tanks and weapons we produce and sell them is just a horrible afterthought.
    And that shit has absolutely nothing to do with the values we pretend we defend here...

    but i guess that is a discussion that shouldn't be part of this thread

    so nevermind my ramblings :x 
  • Eric Chadwick
    I also disagree with a lot of the military actions my country undertakes. But the headlines are only the tip of a vast apparatus of functions.

    We do make moral choices when deciding to work on military sims, or edu sims, or gambling games, or even "regular" game dev. None of which rise to the equivalency of humanitarian work.

    Complex tradeoffs, not a very tidy narrative!

    There's certainly work to be had though. Lots of alternate uses for 3d skills these days.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    One might argue that better training should help reduce casualties among soldiers as well as civilians though... 


    Life is usually more complex than good and evil, so oversimplification might be a dangerous path to go when discussing ethics.
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg interpolator
    Hey BIGTIME i currently work in military and avionics as a 3D artist. We do training sims for a range of different military personnel. Day-to-day work isn't really hectic here but can definitely be tiresome, as any job can be at times. At my company we rarely are allowed overtime work and are pretty strict on that from project to project. It's cushy in the sense that I go to work, I enjoy what I do relatively and go home stress free to work on my personal stuff. It provides me a steady income and a uniform work schedule.

    We have a very good benefits package as well as ESOP bonuses due to how the company is structured. We have artists that have been here for 10-15 years as well as a lot of 2-3 years range so retention is decent. However, we are contract based and if there is no contracts or the bidding and proposal team loses a lot of contracts to competitors there can be worry around the offices of artist layoffs. This being said they layoff the least productive, and the newest first.

    The main downside, which I have no idea if it applies to other such companies is there is a substantial bias against artists here. It's quite noticeable within the first month or two. It appears in pay structure, pay is not bad by any means, but it definitely isn't leveled. Artists as a whole here are kind of talked down to and seen as uninformed, floaty, millennials. However, if you have half a spine it won't really bother you. It also helps if all you do is your job and do it well. Don't take this as an overbearing abusive situation either, I personally don't give a rat's ass about that because I don't much care about other people's predetermined notions.

    As far as the moral quandary, I don't concern myself with that. I'm not the one making the military decisions nor would I be able to stop them if I didn't work here. And I think one of the big things, especially when gamifying something like this, Eric touched on. Many of these clients have no idea how games work, how they're made, or why they should care sometimes. It really hones not only your 3D skills working day after day but also your communication skills. When you need to explain at it's core why a certain mechanic in the game is necessary and can provide increased knowledge retention for students you learn a lot more about why games are fun and why the design of certain things exists.
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor quad damage
    Sounds sort of like what I was imagining. I shouldn't judge the game industry before having any experience in it, but a lot of the stuff I hear sounds like crap I'm too old and jaded to put up with. But I love 3d and want to keep doing it, so jobs like this seem like a good fit.

    For portfolio, I assume studios like this would be looking for military related models, right? Weapons, soldier characters, vehicles, etc?


  • Alocer
    Not sure Alex.. Also wondering if they are more strict on a degree since they're usually so engineering-based. Not sure how many of these types of jobs are even out there
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor quad damage
    yeah i wonder as well. I've seen half a dozen or so though just with a quick search online, and that was only in a small geographic area of the US. I was hoping veteran status would count for a lot at places doing contract work for DoD but I haven't heard back after several weeks, so I'm assuming at this point it doesn't (or I'm otherwise just a poor fit.)
  • sacboi
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    sacboi interpolator
    Just thinking out loud here, but maybe try reaching out to a few DoD contractors or the like, might provide to some degree a general overview and/or criteria a DCC role requires.
  • Alocer
    Someone should ask @zachagreg if he is in the US, I sent him a PM but don't think it went thru (new member here)
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor quad damage
    i was hoping he'd respond but didn't want to bug him. Although for myself I am actually not looking for work anymore -- gonna go to college for two years so I can keep grinding on portfolio carefree. But still, I think when it is time to start looking I'll do like @sacboi suggest and just find people who work at these studios and message them directly. Cater my work specifically for that type of thing.
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg interpolator
    Alocer said:
    Someone should ask @zachagreg if he is in the US, I sent him a PM but don't think it went thru (new member here)
    I am in the US, sorry I have not gotten any messages as of late so I don't know what that is about necessarily. @Eric Chadwick
     Any reports of people not getting messages? 

    Anyway yes, I am in the US and whatever you sent in the PM go ahead and post here and I'll gladly answer it for you :)

    i was hoping he'd respond but didn't want to bug him. Although for myself I am actually not looking for work anymore -- gonna go to college for two years so I can keep grinding on portfolio carefree. But still, I think when it is time to start looking I'll do like @sacboi suggest and just find people who work at these studios and message them directly. Cater my work specifically for that type of thing.
    The portfolio I can't really comment on too much but what I have there now is what got me my job. They looked primarily at the radio, radiator and knowledge of game engines since they are pushing away from offline renders for their work so being able to help with that is a consideration, at least in my case. I'm sure military and hard surface items is a desirable and it is generally what a lot of people's portfolio have here. Also feel free to bug, just @ me whenever I don't mind. Idk what's up with the DMs
  • Eric Chadwick
    @Alocer has to post at least three replies before they can send private messages. New members are restricted for a bit, until they've engaged themselves.
  • Alocer
    Ok, got it. @zachagreg what modeling app are you using at work most these days? 
  • zachagreg
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    zachagreg interpolator
    Alocer said:
    Ok, got it. @zachagreg what modeling app are you using at work most these days? 
    We primarily use 3DS Max at work right now. With some people using Zbrush as well depending on the assets we're working on. I also use Blender at home for various things as well.
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