DigiPen: How’s it like to Study Art in the Best Gamedev School?
Events
Subscribe:  iCal  |  Google Calendar
Las Vegas US   20, Feb — 23, Feb
Barcelona ES   26, Feb — 2, Mar
Barcelona ES   26, Feb — 2, Mar
Austin US   9, Mar — 19, Mar
San Francisco US   19, Mar — 24, Mar
Latest comments
by Joshua Ryan
19 min ago

This is SO COOL. How you reversed the normals on the mouth is brilliant and works wonders! I would love to animate your characters!

by Vindi Govind
4 hours ago

Amazing work Parag. Though Im from the non gaming field, could still appreciate the beautiful ..perfect work done by him. Kudos to u dear Parag.

by Their COO just told the community to eat shit
5 hours ago

SCAM!

DigiPen: How's it like to Study Art in the Best Gamedev School?
19 October, 2015
Interview

DigiPen Institute of Technology is considered one of the greatest and most popular game development schools in United States and probably in the world (it also has branches in Singapore and Spain). There’s hundreds of games being developers by small teams of dedicated students in DigiPen. Probably one of the most important examples is Narbacular Drop (2005), which later became Portal. Narbacular Drop was actually developed by DigiPen students.

DigiPen, gamejobs, gamedev, game development education, Halo 5, Liz Kirby, art at DigiPen, studying art, 343 Industries, skill development, indiegamedev, indiedev

We were lucky enough to talk with one of the graduates of DigiPen Liz Kirby, who’s currently working on Halo 5. She shared some of her memories of studying art in this school. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but Liz still has no regrets of staying there and getting all that knowledge, which helped her with her work.

Overall, I have great memories of DigiPen, but I will be candid when I say there were times when I was incredibly uncertain. I remember thinking, “I want to drop out, what am I doing here,” more than once while I mulled over certain aspects of the curriculum, particularly wanting to pursue environment art, but being saddled with animation classes. I’m glad I didn’t drop out in the end, very glad, but it was difficult sometimes. Not just mentally, but financially, as well. It didn’t help that working a job during such an intense curriculum was all but impossible, (I certainly tried), but that’s a whole other story.

DigiPen, gamejobs, gamedev, game development education, Halo 5, Liz Kirby, art at DigiPen, studying art, 343 Industries, skill development, indiegamedev, indiedev

The art program at DigiPen still has its kinks to work out, though by now they could have, as I graduated in 2012, so I don’t want to be overly critical. The way they structure the curriculum is to build from the ground up with beginner art, storytelling, film, and art history classes. No one touches Photoshop or 3D software until the second year. The first year is spent in life drawing classes and learning the basics with traditional tools, which is fantastic! Everyone should know the basic foundations of art before touching 3D. If there’s no understanding of composition, color theory, or the basic principals of design, for example, it will show through in the work.
The art program really made sure that we never stopped drawing. I’m not sure if they still do this, but before anyone even starts day one of the art program, there is an assignment that is to be completed over the summer and turned in on the first day of class: The Summer Sketchbook. Take a 200 page sketchbook and complete four drawings per page – front and back of each page. Welcome to day one!
DigiPen, gamejobs, gamedev, game development education, Halo 5, Liz Kirby, art at DigiPen, studying art, 343 Industries, skill development, indiegamedev, indiedev

Studying makes all the difference!

Here’s an image of a self portrait I did before starting DigiPen in 2008, and then another I did a year into the curriculum in 2009. It just shows how often we were drawing, and just how much it really helped.
If the first year is cleared, the second and third years come in swinging with Photoshop, Maya, 3Ds MAX, Flash, Premiere, etc. It was here that I felt there were some kinks to iron out, as everything was very animation-centric, and I felt game art didn’t have as strong of a presence as it could have, but again, this could have changed, and they do offer game engine and environment art courses.
I just felt we should have spent more time in game engines because while animation and games do go together, getting everything to work in an engine, be it an animation or static game asset, is an entirely different story. Game art can’t just look pretty, it has to function and be efficient.
DigiPen, gamejobs, gamedev, game development education, Halo 5, Liz Kirby, art at DigiPen, studying art, 343 Industries, skill development, indiegamedev, indiedev
In senior year, everything learned in the first three years is applied to a senior project by working on a game team with programming students, an animation project with other art students, or the projects can be replaced with internships.
During senior year, there will also be a career fair where DigiPen invites representatives from local game companies and gives students a space to present their work and meet prospective employers. To prepare for this, there’s a portfolio class beforehand that helps with things like business cards, portfolio presentation, and resumes. Throughout the year, DigiPen also regularly invites companies over to give talks and meet students, which makes for great networking opportunities.

DigiPen, gamejobs, gamedev, game development education, Halo 5, Liz Kirby, art at DigiPen, studying art, 343 Industries, skill development, indiegamedev, indiedev

Schools in general really do provide an amazing opportunity to network. No one should expect a college degree to be a magical ticket to a job, it’s a competitive field! The most skilled person in class may not even stand a chance if they have zero visibility. Classmates, and even teachers, may one day be future co-workers – treat them well and help each other out, and hopefully they’ll do the same.
At the end of it all, though, I have no regrets about school and am glad I stuck with it. I could do without the massive student loans, but I went in not knowing a thing about art or the industry, and came out with a job and a portfolio that had enough to get me the job. I also met a lot of really great people that I still happily call my friends.

DigiPen, gamejobs, gamedev, game development education, Halo 5, Liz Kirby, art at DigiPen, studying art, 343 Industries, skill development, indiegamedev, indiedev

The thing to keep in mind with DigiPen, and all schools really, is that no one should expect to learn everything in school. (Which is why though I angst about the curriculum, I won’t outright object to it.) Schools should provide the proper foundations to work off of and an environment conducive to learning. They should teach you the basics of how to use programs like 3Ds MAX, but you should be the one to take up mastering it. DigiPen, in my opinion, does just that. It’s a great school if you make the most of it.

Liz Kirby, 343 Industries

Please return for an upcoming interview with Liz about environment design in games.
Comments

Leave a Reply

1 Comment on "DigiPen: How’s it like to Study Art in the Best Gamedev School?"

avatar
trackback

[…] Liz talks about her studies in DigiPen! […]

wpDiscuz