My dad worked at a graphic design company in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 90’s. The company he worked at had Apple Macintosh computers loaded with Bungie’s classic hit “Marathon” and Bullfrog’s legendary title “Syndicate”. After hours, he would sneak me in to play these games along with a quick shop run for orange juice and cookies. This was the start of my pathway into the games industry as an artist.
Many years down the line when the Microsoft Xbox was released, my parents bought me the collector’s edition of Halo 2, the sequel to Bungie’s next generation title ‘Halo’. The collector’s edition came with a ’making of’ DVD which showcased the production of Halo 2. Not only did I watch this on repeat, but it reinforced my longing to become a 3D artist within the video games industry. During secondary school, I started to learn the tools required to becoming a 3D artist. Not owning a computer at this time, I would borrow my Mum’s laptop in the evenings to practice 3D modelling.
After secondary school, I decided to pursue a 1 year Game Design course. I taught myself a lot in the evenings after completing assignments. Once I graduated, I decided to pursue a HND in Game Development at North West Regional College in Derry. During my time in the HND course, I stumbled upon a website called Polycount ‘https://polycount.com/’.
Polycount is an online community solely focused on the design/art spectrum of game development. The community consists of seasoned grizzlies to budding grunts trying to land their first job in the games industry. After contributing to several on-going threads within the community, I felt at home. I decided to drop out of the HND course, much to my parent’s dismay, and focus my time on honing my abilities and creating a game art portfolio. There has been a huge growth of globally accessible online educational content for newcomers wanting to learn their desired craft.
My first project within the games Industry was as a QA tester at Creative Assembly in Horsham, West Sussex in the UK. I worked on ‘Total War: Warhammer’ along with a few DLC releases. My tasks in this role included testing for game bugs and reporting them to the correct development team. Once the art team got a whiff that I knew 3D art, I was then embedded into the environment art team to report back with environment art bugs/problems. The skills required for this position was a passion for video games and general computer knowledge.
Over the last year and half as a freelancer, I have been very lucky to have contributed to more games than I can count on my two hands. I contributed environment art, asset creation, weapon creation for these projects as a seasoned artist.
Several of the games I have worked on to date include:
Advice For Survival
Everybody’s path into the games industry is different, be it indie developers, AAA developers and even some who want to go into teaching. We all share the same passion, to make video games. As a student, or budding self-taught artist like myself, your biggest challenge will be deciding which aspect of the industry you would like to dive into i.e.: Animation, Character Art, Rigging, Weapon Art, Vehicle Art, Environment Art and even Lighting Art. It’s very important that in doing this, you focus your skills in one area and develop them to the best of your ability.
One way of finding your ‘niche’ would be to work on small projects with peers or even join a mod community at ModDB ‘https://www.moddb.com/’. Another great way would be to attend local game-jams. It’s very important to be visible in this industry, this can be easily done by joining websites such as Polycount ‘https://polycount.com/’, Artstation ‘https://www.artstation.com/’ and Mapcore ‘https://www.mapcore.org/’. 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 on your work. By posting your ‘Work In Progress’ shots, you may also become visible to those who are hiring. People will be able to see how passionate you are about your craft and you will also find yourself getting better at a faster pace.
Always be friendly, humble and respectful. The game’s industry is very small especially in the art/animation section and word travels. You certainly don’t want a heat of the moment ‘comment’ to hinder your chances of securing employment in a studio. When it comes to your portfolio, quality is more important than quantity. A portfolio with fewer pieces that really show your strengths would stand out better than a portfolio with a lot of incomplete pieces.
What’s happening in the industry? Where will it be in the next five years?
Many exciting projects were announced at this year’s E3. We certainly live in the most vibrant time of gaming due to graphic fidelity. I really admire what Nintendo have done with the Nintendo Switch and I would love to see more Playstation 4 and Xbox One games being released on it also. There has also been a huge influx of ‘Battle Royale’ games since PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. A lot of game studios are either releasing battle royal games or shipping battle royal game modes for their current projects.
In the next five years, I can see games migrating to a cloud service rather than being released for purchase on PC or console. I feel there will be companies who release software that allows gamers to play PC games like DOOM and Battlefield on their mobile phone for a monthly membership.
Bio: Video game artist from Ireland. Drinks copious amounts of tea.
*Polycount – https://polycount.com/
*Artstation – https://www.artstation.com/
*Mapcore – https://www.mapcore.org/
*ModDB – https://www.moddb.com
*3DMotive – http://3dmotive.com/
*Eat3D – http://eat3d.com/
*Udemy – https://www.udemy.com/game-art/