The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.
The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field – especially in these complex times we are all living through at the minute.
To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the scenes as well as how employees around the world are adapting to the life of remote work, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry in our Jobs in Games: Remote Working series.
Clint Siu: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
PocketGamer.biz: My current role is in game art on 3D and tech. I model or sculpt 3D assets, texture them, make shaders, particle FX, anything that’s visual and implement them in Unity. Sometimes, I also write prototype code if we need it.
It’s best to focus on one single area and become an expert in that niche.
How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?
I actually come from a Hollywood film/TV VFX background, but a lot of the same skills are transferable to games, such as 3D modelling, texturing, and FX, except there are more restrictions on polygon counts, resolution sizes, and the number of particles. Similarly, writing scripts for 3D software is close to writing C# scripts for Unity.
What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?
I studied VFX at Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood, California. It’s a great program for learning the entire film VFX process and pipeline – concept art, previsualisation, modelling, texturing, rigging, animation, lighting/rendering, and compositing.
If someone is looking to become a 3D artist though, definitely build up a solid traditional art foundation. Having a good eye for colour, form, motion, and/or composition is really important, in addition to learning the software tools.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
I think one misconception about having a job as an artist is that the only thing you need to do is create amazing art, yet that’s only part of the job. It’s also about how you communicate with the rest of your team, how you receive feedback and direction, how you organise and plan what needs to be done, as well as how you alter the vision of your art to fit into and enhance gameplay, rather than detract from it.
What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
Advice for someone looking to be a game artist would vary depending on what they are looking for. If they want to work at a huge studio and make triple-A games, it’s best to focus on one single area and become an expert in that niche. That’s how triple-A tend to hire: they are looking to solve a specific problem. For example, if they need next-gen hair, they’ll hire the hair expert.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs launched from Resolution Games in April 2019
But if someone wants to do a bit of everything, then a smaller studio may be a better fit. In that case, it’s helpful to try and make your own game, like during a game jam. Having an idea about how to get code and sound into a game engine makes it easier to understand and work with other disciplines.
How has the shift from office to remote working impacted your role, if at all?
Working remotely from home has been really nice actually. There are much larger blocks of focus time. It’s also forced the team to organise our communication more.
What does your typical day look like when working remotely?
Every day we’ll have a quick stand-up meeting talking about what we did the day before, what we will do that day and if there’s any support from other disciplines that we need help from. Then we’ll work until lunch.
I might be modelling a character or environment, for example.
For people that get distracted at home by social media or other internet stuff, Freedom is a pretty good app for timed blocking of websites.
After lunch, we playtest the game together and talk about things that come up. It could be anything from gameplay to art and code. Then we go back to what we were working on until the end of the day.
What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of remote working?
The biggest advantage for me is zero commute time and being able to focus more because interruptions are far less frequent. However, that also makes communication – especially between different teams – happen much less as well.
Another disadvantage is that it’s really easy to start working and then not take any breaks or work through lunch or much later than usual. I’ll probably need to start setting up a timer to stop and stretch every so often.
Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to remote working?
Slack calls actually let anyone draw on top of its screen sharing function. That is super helpful for pointing things out. Anything that makes team communication better, especially while working remotely, is fantastic.
Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to adjust to remote work?
For people that get distracted at home by social media or other internet stuff, Freedom is a pretty good app for timed blocking of websites. For people that sit down to work and never get up without realising it, I’ve found that using a work break app like Stand Up to remind yourself to take a break is really helpful.
On top of this, talking to co-workers in VR every day definitely helps to not feel isolated. The daily playtests that my team has is great for keeping us connected.
After the pandemic ends and if you were given the choice, would you prefer to continue working remotely or go back to working in an office?
After the pandemic ends and ‘normality’ resumes, ideally, I would like to work some days in the office and some at home. That would be really nice.