Friday, October 19, 2012

Job requirements research

As the lest step of my research, I will be looking at what he big names of this industry require from an Environmental Artist. This includes examining game companies like Blizzard EntertainmentBethesda Softworks, but also Visual Effects (VFX) ones such as Double Negative.

What Blizzard asks

By looking at Blizzard's official Career's page I have come across the following:

"The ideal candidate has experience modeling and texturing assets for a diverse visual range of environments. A solid grasp of form, color, and light for both 2D and 3D art assets is essential. The senior environment artist must have skill in another art task as well -- illustration, modeling, texturing, animation, concept drawing -- and be well-versed in related tools --3DS Max, Photoshop, etc. The ideal candidate works well in an environment of peers who are passionate about making great games.

  • Have shipped AAA PC or console titles as a senior environment artist
  • Strong foundation in the traditional arts, including but not limited to figure drawing and/or environmental and/or architectural illustration.
  • A passion for developing online games
  • Understanding of the visual style of World of Warcraft and a passion to push it to the next level. "

These requirements sound very similar. These are pretty much what the various Enviornment Artists I have researched recommend.

The essential note to take away here is that it is all about a deep understanding of art and have significance experience through practice and work. I continously need to develop my understanding of color, lighting, not only in terms of 3D, but 2D as well. As an Env. artist I am often required to paint textures. Now, texturing is not just taking a photo or downloading one from the internet and then just throwing it on a model. In games, I would often have to hand paint them from scratch. This is because games have their own visual style and the textures have to corespond to that. Often times the texture itself has to contain light and shadow information, to name a few. Games are very limited technology wise and it's crucial to achieve the look you are after through absolutely the minimum hardware calculations as possible.

Artists use various tricks to lighten the burden on the game engine. This is because calculating elements like reflection, shadow, specularity, sub surface scattering etc. are very heavy tasks and can raise the system requirements throught the roof. Games have to run on all sorts of computers, even one's that are not very performant. So, to make the game less hardware demanding, 3D artists often times hand paint various information straight into the texture map, so that the game engine does not have to calculate these. The result looks believable and at the same time frees up resource.
Being able to do this requires thorough studies and practice in color and lighting theories

Blizzard also requires Env. artists to have skills in other fields that are closely related, such as illustration, animation etc. This again shows the necessity to have a good understanding of the work pipeline and have a good collaboration with the different departments involved in the creation of the game. I will be able to better optimize my work if I am concious of what I need to create and know how my work will be used in the later stages of production. This ensures that the development process is less problematic and more fluid. For example: if I am aware of what the animators have to do with my assets (blow them up, animate a certain movement etc.) then I can optimize my topology to better suit that purpose. This way, the animators won't have to tweak my assets, which would lengthen the work process and make it more costly overall. It's all about the look and efficiency.

Being a good team player/collaborator is crucial. This is one of the fundamental building blocks when it comes to working in any field, actually. My ability to take initiative and being able to see how my actions will effect the work in the long run is valuable. It's not about standing out or thriving to succeed on a personal level (that is important in a certain way of course, but should not come as nr. 1 priority), but rather helping the team overall. I need to be able to analyze situations and make short-term decisions so the work does not come to a halt. Luckily, I am in love with what I do. My ambition and eagerness to succeed fuels such situations.

I have been in quite a lot of collaborative situations before and I feel confident about performing well in similar cases in the future.
Actually, one of the best examples I can come up with relates to World of Warcraft. It`s probably my favorite game of all times and I have played it a lot in the past. I remember when I was in a guild, where 30-40 people had to contribute to achieve a specific goal. I was so ambitious to do my part that I was up all night completing the tasks that were asked of me and even doing a bit more to help others. The key point here is that it wasn`t a personal "shof off" thing, rather trying to help the whole group reaching the set goal as fast and easy as possible.

Knowledge regarding the game you would like to work on counts as a plus. If you are familiar with the gameplay, the art, the general feel of what the game is trying to achieve, then you will blend into it's development easier. As I have mentioned earlier, I have played WoW quite a lot in the past and have been up to date with the happenings ever since.

Unreal 4 Engine - model test.
Of course, these big players always ask you to have experience in the field, so kick-starting your work there is not very likely... but could happen. A good way to gain some experience beforehand is to either aim for smaller companies first or you can test out your assets in the modern game engines that are freely available to download nowadays. By doing this I can see how my models, textures etc. react in an actual game environment and can learn a lot from that. It even allows me the possibility to add these tests to my showreel to prove my understanding and experience when it comes to games. Game engines like CryEngineUnreal Engine or Marmoset are more than suitable for this purpose.

I will write about the companies I have mentioned at the beginning of this post at a later point, because the difference in what these top players of the industry ask is not very different to each other.
All of them require the same fundamental skills: excellent skills in color, lighting, modeling, texturing etc. and a Generalist approach as well.
Nowadays, Environment Artists are not just asked to model the assets of the games, but also to achieve excellent lighting, texturing etc. Also, veing able to create concept art really fast (either through 2D methods or even 3D) is mandatory.

I feel that I have made enough research to be able to set out my learning aims and goals for my Specialist Study 1 project.

Reference:   Blizzard Entertainment Career's Page (WoW)
                      - Blizzard Entertainment Career's Page (Diablo 3)
                      - Bethesda Softworks - Environment Artist career page

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