Vladislav Yakovlev explained how he structures his work when creating purchasable assets for UE4 users.
My name is Vladislav Yakovlev, I am 29. I work as a Technical Artist/CG Generalist.
I started getting into 3D by creating modifications for GTA in 2004. At about the same time, I studied Pascal, and at a younger age, I went to an art school. I got into game development deliberately and studied Unity, but after the release of UE4, I spent 6 months learning Unreal.
The very first commission I received was "VR Roller coaster", a turnkey project with graphics, soundtrack, etc. I never found it interesting to work only on one part of a project, so short VR commissions were an ideal option. At first, I worked for unknown companies for a while, then for such companies as Alphasensgames, VR Features, Hyperverse, Sfera.one, Dreamside interactive. Along with that, I was working on my UE4 Marketplace page, uploading new assets whenever possible. As a result, I completely switched to working with assets there, as it offers flexible work hours and everything depends only on you, not on the whole team. But the most important thing is that you can work on what is interesting to you while retaining the right to use the content. You can plan a project, break it into parts, and make them into separate packs, putting all the content on the market. And then, when you have passive income, you can put the finished pieces of the project together. All of this is why I like this kind of work.
Approach to Creating Content
I try to make everything high-quality, whether it is a demo or a complete pack, as in the future a demo can expand into a fully-fledged project. Many times, I came across such a situation where at the initial stages you save time at the expense of quality, and in the end, it leads to a large amount of work, alterations, etc. In other words, the time you save can play against you, and as a result, you can lose more than you saved.
I believe that before starting work, it is very important to highlight the key tasks and to structure the whole process. This will allow you to work step by step without looking back. Also, I always do thorough research on possible problems that may arise. This often helps you save time: when a problem suddenly arises in the process, you can solve it and immediately continue to work. Also, if you do not look into possible problems, you can end up in a situation where you spend a lot of time developing certain content and in the end discover it does not work. And you'll have to delete everything and start from scratch.
The scaling of each project is defined in advance with the help of references, greyboxing, and the overall picture I have in mind. After that, it becomes possible to estimate the approximate time and scope of work. At this stage, unnecessary things are eliminated, and new content is added so that each object is used as effectively as possible. For example, without some objects, the picture will be complete anyway, so you can either not make them at all or leave them for last. Thus, we think in advance what we can create using this content and how to make it as efficiently as possible.
Dividing Work into Chunks
In my opinion, the method of going from large to small when developing something is very effective. That is, first you set the main basics, then the basics of the basics, and then the smaller forms, details. This workflow allows you to demonstrate your product at almost any stage of development because all important parts will work from the beginning and show the product in a general, although vague, state. If you go backward, you might end up with one part of your product looking a lot more detailed than the rest.
Also, I think it is important to divide work into different parts, blocks, components. And then, like a puzzle, collect and connect everything, so you will have separate working modules, which, should anything happen, can always be changed individually. All this will work if you take time to think your project over and structure everything well in advance. This will help you work confidently and effectively from the very start.
All the content of my assets is organized according to the rules of the documentation provided by Epic Games for sellers. The documentation includes naming, structure, format requirements, and many other things. Even at the stage of creating content outside the UE4 environment, I follow the naming format so that when importing I do not have to do extra work and stay on track in the future. Different types of files are located in different folders, all together, which helps to keep the project correctly structured.
When Working on Stylized Content
For me, when working on stylized content, the hardest thing is to stay within the same style, especially if you work on a model without a clear concept. Alternatively, if you have such a problem, you can create several reference models you are 100% sure about and rely on their style when creating new content. Over time, you will get the hang of it and you won't need them anymore.
Always keep source files from all stages of the production, so that you can quickly improve them, brush up the style, etc. at any time. Experiment with different parameters, textures, new approaches – this sometimes can lead to very interesting and unusual results.
Advice for Asset Developers
From my point of view, the most difficult and most important thing is to be able to focus on work and avoid distractions, especially if you work at home. It's good if you can completely isolate yourself so that nothing distracts you. It can also be helpful to think of what you will do next, imagine the next production stage outside working hours. All this can significantly reduce the time required for creating the content you need. Everyone achieves this in different ways, someone cannot do it at all, and others have completely different approaches. It is very difficult not to get distracted, but by working on yourself, you can learn how to do it.
In fact, I highly recommend working the way that’s fun for you, not to rush, not to chase volumes. Then it really turns out to be something worthwhile, done with care and not at breakneck speed. That's why for me, work is rather an interesting hobby that you do for your own pleasure, which is the reason I’ve chosen this kind of job.