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James Brady talked about his experience working in the game business as an environment artist.
Hi, my name is James Brady. An experienced AAA artist, who was featured on gaming press along with 3D Artist’s October magazine rele
My journey started when I was at the very young age of 3. My dad worked at a graphic design company in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 90’s which had Apple Macintosh computers along with Bungie’s ‘marathon‘ and Bullfr
At the later age of 18, I realized transitioning into this industry would not be as smooth as I initially thought. After graduating with a 1-year diploma which had no game related tutoring at all within its curriculum, I felt quite lost and confused and I guess disappointed that getting a job was not as a simple as having a qualification. Like so many others, I decided to then pursue a HND in Game Design in a small town called Derry in Northern Ireland with the hopes that at least I will get some kind of job after. After a couple of months, I stumbled upon a website called ‘Polycount‘ which is a community ranging from industry grizzilies to budding grunts trying to get their first job! I immediately felt at home. After starting a few threads and sending messages back and forward, I decided to drop out of my college studies and move back home to focus on my portfolio, much to my parent’s dismay.
After several years of working on several mods along with building an portfolio whilst working not so nice jobs along with frustration, shed tears and so forth, I managed to land my first every industry gig at a game’s studio in the UK called ‘The Creative Assembly‘ on their latest release ‘Total War: Warhammer’. I was delighted!, I could not believe , that I actually got a job and would be working on a video game. I barely slept with anxiety/excitement leading up to my start date.
Then came the scariest part. Having to embark on an adventure with a suitcase containing my computer/clothes and a monitor!
No matter what your background is or which place you come from, you can make your dreams in this industry become a reality. In saying this, everybody has a different story, let it be indie developers, AAA industry pros or even people who want to go into teaching. We all share the same passion, to make video games.
As a student or budding artist, your biggest challenge will be deciding which aspect of the industry you would like to dive into! Let it be Animation, Character Art, Rigging, Environment Art, Design or even Weapon Art. This will always be the most overwhelming part of your journey! Thankfully most universities offer degree’s in each aspect but it’s very important that you hone and focus your skills on one area. I would always recommend taking a general game design course before taking on a degree, that way you will be able to taste all flavors and find your niche before deciding which road you embark on.
Remember: The cliché of ‘sitting around playing video games all day’ does not exist. A Portfolio demonstrating your ability in one focused area is also ‘key’.
It’s very important that you always try to be visible when developing as a budding artist. This can easily be done by joining websites such as Polycount, ArtStation or even Mapcore. Not only will this allow you to be inspired by other’s work and make friends, it will also allow you to get professional critique w
What software should I be learning?
I’ll start this by saying, time is money and in this industry, studios try to use software they can find to quickly achieve great results in short amount of time. Depending on which course you choose, I would start by learning what they teach. If it’s an animation course, they most likely will use Autodesk Maya for Animation/Rigging/unwrapping and modeling. If it’s a game art related course, they will most likely teach Autodesk 3Ds Max for unwrapping and modeling. All related courses will most likely use Zbrush for any organic art creation such as character art or sculpting rocks and so forth. I would recommend making sure you are joining a university that teaches Autodesk software and does not just teach 3d packages such as Blender.
When it comes to baking your Normal and AO maps, there’s usually isn’t a ‘go to’ piece of software since there are so many options now. Personally I use xNormal for baking but it usually differ’s depending on which studio you join. Some even have in-house tools for this.
When it comes to texturing, studios usually like to keep a solid texturing pipeline which all employee’s even outsourcing artists abide by.
Great I have my degree and a pretty good portfolio. Only one problem. There are no game studios in my country
A lot of people face this problem as a lot of countries like Ireland do not have any highly established studios. There are usually two options which you can avail of. You can either become a freelance artist which many do and be quite successful or you can embark on moving to another country and joining a studio as an in-house employee. Each adventure has their own challenges but this will only help you develop as an individual within this industry.
Starting out in this industry may be overwhelming and you may feel extremely intimidated and small but remember, we all started there. With enough consistency/time/effort and perseverance, you will achieve that dream job. It will be a bumpy road and many tears will be shed but remember, as long as you have that passion and desire, with enough hours of consistent hard work, you will land your first job. It’s an exciting time to join the industry so never feel like you won’t be a good fit, even if you aren’t successful for an animation role, the studio might considering taking you on as a rigger.
Even when you have landed your industry dream job or even just graduated with a degree from a university, your learning should never stop. Always remember to keep up to date with industry standard software or technology. Who knows! You might even find a quick and cheap way to do things!
In not keeping up to date with industry standard, you will find yourself quickly falling behind and becoming harder to hire if you are not current with today’s standard.
A good portfolio is always key!. A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that a good qualification will grant them their first industry job which is not the case, not with game artists. A portfolio full of personal projects shows commitment/dedication/passion and most importantly initiative. No studio wants to open a portfolio site consisting of college assignment work. ¶
When working on your portfolio. Make sure you specialize! It is very important to understand which area you want to work in and focus your portfolio not only on that but also on the art direction of the studio you are joining!. This shows your passion for that studio and its games. It also shows that you know exactly what you want to do along with your strongest skill set. If you want to be an environment artist, don’t fill your portfolio with weapons and characters.¶
Last but not least, Quality over quantity. A portfolio with many pieces of work that are half assed wont impress any art director. Keep it small and showcase your best work. That one environment you made could be the piece that lands you your first gig!.