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Talented VFX magician Kevin Leroy told a long story of getting a job in Riot Games. 80.lv was lucky to be at the campus, and we must say this is one of the most fun places in “gamedev LA”.
Sure! Well, my name is Kevin Leroy, 24, I come from Belgium, I speak French and I’m now a VFX Artist at Riot Games. So, I’m not really sure what to start with, so… let’s start with the beginning!
I always wanted to be a baker working in computer graphics stuff, ever since I discovered Photoshop at the age of 13. I wasn’t sure what exactly, but I knew I’d spend most of my days in front of a computer, making pretty stuff. So, when time came to choose a high school, I chose to go to a Graphic Design school. Albert Jacquard (HEAJ), in Namur, Belgium. The first year at that school is all about the basics. You learn a bit everything about all domains of graphics design: how to use Photoshop for about everything, Maya (C4D at the time) for modeling, Lightroom for photography, you learn how to draw, you learn anatomy, how to make a website, how to make a pretty page in InDesign, and a lot of other super cool stuff. Then, once you pass that first year, you have to decide what you want to specialize in: Video Games (separated in three different sections), 3D, 2D Animation/Illustration, Web, and Press (magazines and all that). Initially, I wanted to go to the Press section, because it was heavily focused on Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, which I really loved back then. But most of my friends were going to the Video Games section, and since I did love video games too, I decided to simply follow them.
In Video Games, there are three options (two back then): Tech Art, Art and Animation. Back when I was there, it was Programming and Art. I chose Art because I really didn’t know a single thing about programming. There, I learned the basics about how to make characters, environments, texturing, materials, shaders, rigging, concepting, brainstorming, and some other stuff. The first year of video games, we had to make, by ourselves, alone, a full environment, along with a fully rigged and animated character, on PC and PSP, using an old proprietary engine made by our teachers (for PSP), and UDK (for PC). It was… quite a ride. But I saw it through and made it past that first VG year. The third year’s goal was to make a “complete” demo game, with scenario, environments, characters, gameplay, and all that, using the proprietary engine on PS3. Oh, and also with packaging, website and all that shiny stuff. That was quite a ride too, but we saw it through!
So, at the beginning of that final year, some friends told me about the Riot Games Art Challenge. I was already playing League, so I thought I’d try to give it a shot. I had not yet really touched the VFX side of video games creation, but I was really interested, so I decided to enter that category. After a good 300h of work, I came up with my first two actual VFXs: Polycount Thread. I did not win (I obviously couldn’t compete with the professionals in the industry), but I learned a TON of stuff. This is the one thing that made me decide to become a VFX Artist. Also, this offered me a lot of visibility, and this is how I got my first job: Rimlight Studios, in Italy (Catania).
I moved to Italy right after I finished my third year (didn’t even get the chance to be at the diploma ceremony (not that I cared anyway)). There, I worked with an indie team on a game called Zheros, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. That was my very first shipped game! At Rimlight, I learned how to use Unity (had never used it before). It was super interesting, and honestly, I absolutely loved working there. The team felt like it had become my family, and even though it wasn’t easy everyday (I don’t really speak Italian), it was an amazing experience. Plus, as you can see above, the city was pretty nice. Sadly, the game didn’t get the success we expected, and I had to find another job at some point, after about a year there. I sent my applications to a few companies, but didn’t want to send it to Riot. I knew I didn’t have the ability to work there yet. But, one day, a colleague told me to do it anyway, that I didn’t have anything to lose. And so, I did.
A few weeks later, I received a reply from Gameloft, which had contacted me previously, and offered me an interview. Just a few days before that interview, I received an email from Riot: they were interested! I honestly couldn’t believe it. They asked me to pass an art test, which I did. They apparently really liked it, and told me they could hire me at some point. Sadly, it was a bit late in the year and there was no possibility to acquire a new visa at the moment. We decided to wait until it was possible, and in the meantime, I accepted Gameloft’s offer. And so, I moved to Canada, Montréal.
That’s where I started making my VFX Fan Art videos. I realized how much I enjoyed working on Riot’s art test, and I decided to make League spells, so that I could train myself to their style, and to VFX in general. At first, it was just personal, but some friends told me to post the stuff on YouTube and Reddit, because the community might like them. I’m really glad I did!
I started working for Gameloft Montréal in September 2016. It was my first time in a big company, and I must say it was very intimidating. Fortunately, my team was super nice, and even had a few people who studied at my school. It was almost like home! Plus, people were speaking french, which was a relief after a year spent in a country from which I didn’t speak the language.
So, I worked a few months at Gameloft, and then, I received an email from Riot, asking me if I was still interested in working for them. Now, I was super embarrassed about this (you have no idea): I had just started working for a new company that another one was already soliciting me. Not that it wasn’t planned, but still. Didn’t expect it to be fast. So, I immediately told my managers and colleague about it, to make sure everything is okay. The main reply I received was “We knew it! Sucks for us, but we can’t stop you from following your dream.”. So, I said yes to Riot.
It took a lot of time for things to move forward. I was a Belgian guy living in Canada, with only one year and an half of experience in the industry and a 3-year non-US bachelor. Getting a visa was extremely difficult, and this is why I am still working from Montréal at the moment. Entering the US is actually a super difficult thing (captain obvious, here). I passed a panel of interviews in Los Angeles in January, and a few days later, I knew I was hired. Best day in my life. Just a Belgian kid who was still at school two years earlier, now hired by Riot Games. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I think it took until I actually started doing work for them to realize that yes, it wasn’t a dream anymore.
And so yeah. That took a whole lot longer to explain than I thought.
- League Fan Arts – Unity Package
- Unity VFX Basics Tutorials
- RT VFX Course (Never had the time to finish it, so it’s only just the first chapter for now)